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18 / 04 / 2013
This month, with a nod to Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival, we feature Tasmanian comedian Hannah Gadsby as our ‘Bonza Sheila’.
1. You have a Bachelor in Art History and Curatorship. At what point did you switch from this career path to comedy?
I didn’t switch because I never worked in the area. It was an arts degree. I did it and then got a job as a cinema projectionist. Comedy came much later at a whim and I didn’t consider it as something I was doing until I realised I had been doing it for about three years.
2. What was your first gig like?
It was really rather wonderful. People listened to me. I have such a soft and slow speaking voice that I had been rarely listened to exclusively. People have always found it helpful to talk over the top of me, you know, to keep the conversation alive. But at my first gig I found I could take as much time as I like. And I did.
3. Comedy is incredibly personal. A lot of your material has centred on your relationships with your family members, in particular, with your mother, as well as your sexuality. How have you balanced this level of personal disclosure?
I hardly ever speak about my relationships. It might be hard to believe but I am an incredibly private person. Pretty much all of my stories are historical and whoever is involved, like my mum, has also had time to process the incidents I speak of.
4. How has your Mum dealt with the fame in being associated with you?
She loves it. I think she is most proud about the fact that I haven’t seemed changed by it. But she doesn’t know about all the drugs and hookers.
5. You’ve won a swag of comedy awards in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. What’s been your experience as a female comedian – is there a cameraderie with other female comedians and do you think comedy is becoming ‘less blokey’?
Australia has the least blokey comedy circuit I have worked in. Most guys that I work with are not bothered and there are quite a few amazing and respected female comedians working in all levels of the industry. The breadth and depth of female talent means that within the industry there is less of an issue than most outside eyes perceive there to be. Sure, there is a discrepancy, but I believe change takes time and I am reaping the benefits of the work of such champs as Judith Lucy, Denise Scott, and Sue-Ann Post. My presence, and that of all my lady peers, is hopefully inspiring more weird girls to do this stupid thing.
6. You have made numerous television appearances and many viewers will know you as Adam Hills’ ‘sidekick’ (for want of a better word) on ‘Gordon Street Tonight’. Are you comfortable working on television and what’s it like working with one of your mates?
I pretend that I am just doing a live gig. I don’t like the thought of people watching me when I’m not literally in the room. It’s ultimately weird and creepy so it doesn’t bear too much thinking about.
But I like being involved in making television because there are so many excellent people involved – especially behind the scenes. Stand up can get really lonely so I like changing it up a bit.
7. Your latest show is called ‘Happiness is a bedside Table’ (we have two free passes for Sheilas subscribers) and examines your history with depression. Is this similar to your approach with using comedy to tackle homophobia – are you hoping this show raises awareness?
My work is never about raising awareness. It’s more like I am just too open and honest. Stuff has happened and I talk about it. It’s just good/bad that my experience in the world has involved homophobia, depression and trauma.
8. Was the process of writing this show – unpacking your own mental health issues – therapeutic in any way?
I tell stories so it’s not about unpacking. It’s more about interior decorating with the limited shit I have available in my brain. So in that sense it is therapeutic.
9. Who would be your ideal dinner party guests, if you could pick anyone from history?
Louis Bourgeois (passionate, eccentric, strong woman) Peter Sellers (Funny Man) and Tony Abbott (we have to laugh at someone).
10. Who inspires you and why?
My Mum. She is funny and eccentric, but is passionate about being an empathetic, well mannered, kind human.
Hannah Gadsby is currently appearing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Reading this on the web? Subscribers to Sheilas have been offered the chance to win a double pass to Hannah’s show. Subscribe to Sheilas and be in the running for future giveaways and prizes (via the homepage, by entering your email address into the Sign-Up field. Do it. It’s free!)
Hannah Gadsby began her stand-up career in 2006 when she was “discovered” at the Hobart Comedy Festival and went on to win the national final of Raw Comedy. Hannah then embarked on her first solo show which won the prize for Best Newcomer at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2007. After touring internationally in 2008, Hannah returned to sold-out Melbourne and Adelaide performances in 2009. Hannah is currently appearing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.