Winner Best Local Act - Perth Comedy Festival & Sydney Comedy Festival 2012 Nominee Most Outstanding Comedy - Melbourne Comedy Festival & Adelaide Fringe 2012 As seen on the ABC's 2014 documentary Felicity Ward's Mental Mission
One of the Australia's rising stars of comedy, Felicity Ward, performs at home for a short time only!
The Iceberg has nothing to do with Leonardo DiCaprio, or lettuce. It's about perspective - what we see, what we think we know, and what is actually going on. You know what's underneath the tip of the iceberg? The rest of the iceberg.
In 2012, Felicity won every Best Comedy award at Australia's four main comedy festivals for her critically acclaimed show, The Hedgehog Dilemma. She is the first comedian to ever achieve this.
Her follow up, The Iceberg, has already sold out in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth Comedy Festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. Here, I chat to Felicity about Icebergs, the decline of good Aussie comedy in the country and what's just below the surface:
Your show is called "The Iceberg", and is about things being not what they seem, and things below the surface, is that the main premise of the show? That's the loose premise of the show, that an iceberg looks different from any angle that you look at it. It's a loose structure just to place a whole bunch of observations. A good chunk of the show is about looking back at Australia from the U.K, looking at who we are, what we are doing and what we are not doing … but in a hilarious fashion.
Would you say your time in the U.K has shaped how you look back on your home & how different it may look?
Yeh of course. When the media, and the people, and the television do not surround you, you can step back and be objective, like, "oooh!" Like we've got convicted drug dealers who are going to be to executed, and I don't believe in the death penalty and I think it's a horrible waste of life. I just find Australia a bit confusing sometimes, where our humanity is limited to whom we feel deserves it. I was at a stage where I could be funny as well as angry about it, so I could write some jokes. Up until that point, I was just angry.
I think it's really beautiful and really humane that we do value life. I feel like sometimes the phrase "rehabilitation rather than punishment" is literally just lip service. It's a real surprise that we've agreed so unanimously to be humane. I'm impressed and I'm lifted by the fact that we are taking humanity's side in this case.
During The Iceberg, are those topics going to come into the performance as well, or will you be speaking from more personal experience?
This is the first time I've include any political material, so there's maybe 10 minutes on asylum seekers and our good mate Tony Abbott.
Do you think our profile overseas has been damaged?
Yeh, but not unless you're a superpower, or you're behaving like George W. Bush & Vladimir Putin. We can be an embarrassment to ourselves but we're not really a threat being embarrassing. But it's getting to the point where we're getting notorious, for just being pretty embarrassing.
In The Iceberg, is there anything different that you're doing this time around compared to last time?
It's always growing and changing. I had to cut some things and add some other things …
What kind of things?
One day I had to do a preview show in the middle of London, and I thought, "I'm just going to explain to them that I usually do a keyboard bit here", coz I can't schlepp a keyboard down to South London when I'm in North London. So I took it out, and went, "Ohhh no, the show flows so much better without it, why didn't I know about this 3 months ago?" But it was fine. I still play the keyboard in the beginning and in the end, but it's not in the middle anymore.
How does it feel to do stand-up compared to TV work?
They're just totally different. With stand-up, you live or die in the moment, and I think that's why comedians love it so much and why we're addicted to it. There is nothing better in the entire world. This sounds very corny, but being able to share joy with that many people at the one time. Like, everyone likes laughing! Nobody's gonna be like, "Urgh, I don't really like laughing". Everyone likes laughing, it's the best. It's like when you're in love, "ohhh, how can I get this all the time?". And it's immediate. If you don't get it with this joke, maybe you'll get it with the next joke, or the next joke. Also, whatever jokes you tell on whatever night, it's going to have a different reaction. So I could do the same show the same way 30 nights in a row, and it can have a different response, depending on which combination of people are in the audience.
You've been described as "up-and-coming". Is that a fair description of your career at this point, because you've done a lot! What do you think of that label?
I think I can't control what anyone says about me! I don't read reviews during festivals, I'll read them afterwards. And if someone says "up-and-coming" then it means I'm "up-and-coming". It's none of my business! It doesn't really bother me. People can say what they like about me. Their opinion of me is none of my business.
Last year you did a documentary called Felicity's Mental Mission, and you were really open about your anxiety and how it's being treated. Have other people stopped you and thanked you for being so candid about it and shedding light on it?
I haven't been back here since the doco went to air. But in Adelaide, people were waiting around after the shows and say thanks. It's been really lovely. At the time it was really overwhelming, how much of an effect it had. Making it was so intense, but when the show came out 6 months later, I was flooded with emails and tweets and Facebook messages. You know, people are desperate, and they don't know where to turn. So they see a programme with someone who is talking about it, so they ask me questions.
It's nice that people with anxiety can see it and think, "Ohh, she's talking about it, that's cool – phew!"
Yeh, people must assume that if you're in the public eye that you don't get mental illness, or if you have a job in the arts then you don't get mental illness. It's very strange.
Do you think the anxiety has helped you develop material for your work or do you think your work allows you to deal with anxiety?
I don't think anxiety's every helped me in my work! It's helped me talk about it, the next show that I'm writing is about mental illness … and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, because I like to keep things sexy! So, it's informed my material! It's definitely helped me be more empathetic and sympathetic. Sometimes it's hard when I meet other people with anxiety if I'm having a good day. It's painful, because I'm like, "Ohhh, I know exactly what situation you're in, and I know how hard a day you're having".
Comedy culture in Australia and the UK, what do you think are the similarities and the differences?
Similarities are that the sense of humour translates almost exactly. I've been going back to the Edinburgh Fringe for years and I've never changed my shows dramatically to be over there.
The UK have highbrow and lowbrow, and so many outlets for comedy. Whereas in Australia, you've got ABC and you've got ABC2, and occasionally a commercial network. That's ridiculous!
Last year, I went on Twitter and asked if we could name any commercial networks had produced Australian comedies. And I think we came up with two. Across THREE networks! 7mate did Kinne. But I don't know why we're not making Australian comedy. How can you expect people to stay here and make work if you don't give them work?
Do you think the way the Arts is going in Australia now and people heading to Europe or America, what do you think will make people stay in Australia?
I don't know, the tide's changed. I don't know if networks know that they have a platform to develop new talent on their digital channels.
There's a real cutthroat culture in Australia. I remember the Ben Elton show in Australia a couple of years ago (Live from Planet Earth). There was so much pressure on it, and it was advertised for weeks and weeks. And then it got 2 episodes, people destroyed it on Twitter. And then they pulled it! I don't think that Twitter axed the show, but I think that after two episodes on a live sketch show, on something that hasn't been done in almost 15-20 years, there's gonna be mistakes. And if the mistakes are so fundamental, that should've been figured out in the writing process and the production process. Don't let the comedians eat it on stage!
It just seems really brutal to let that fall on the performers. If it's a problem with the writing, that should've been figured out in the writing stages. If you think it needs more time, then push the airdates back. If you think it's just about there, then performers are gonna learn while it's happening, unfortunately. That's how you get better. You practice!
One show only in Sydney. Friday, 7th February at The Comedy Store
Do you think you'll ever do a show on the scale that you've done before?
Like Ronnie Johns? Oh yeh! That was a decade ago! That was loads of fun, but I needed to get away from sketch to figure out who I was as a performer. That was my first foray into comedy. I loved being a part of a group and I love the guys very very dearly, and they're all very very close friends of mine still. But I didn't know who I was as a comedy performer by myself. So it was really helpful to go and so stand-up and find out. So I would love to now take that confidence of knowing who I am and knowing what I am on stage and taking that back to a group. Stronger elements, and what have you.
If you were Tina Fey and you had to choose an Amy Poehler to co-host an awards show with you, who would it be and what show would you host?
Ooooh! I don't know! The Logies? Probably Celia Pacquola. She's my best friend and we laugh a lot together. I don't know what show though? It'd be fun to do the ARIAs, or the Logies. I don't think that they would let us do it though. I'd probably do the ARIAs because I've been to the Logies and no one listens to anything that's going on onstage! (At the Logies) everyone's just happy to see each other, it's just a big social event!
Would you wear something outrageous, Lady Gaga-ish?
I probably wouldn't wear meat, it would turn over the three hours! I don't think this is ever going to be an issue, so I haven't thought about it!
Who's your favourite Australian comedian?
There's so many good Australian comedians! Luke McGregor is awesome, Ronny Chieng is awesome, Matt Okine, is awesome, Celia Pacquola is awesome, Kitty Flanagan is awesome, Sam Simmons is awesome. There are so many incredible people, and I'm not just saying this. We have amazing comedy in this country, and I think that's why I get so furious because we're not getting television made to reflect that. I just want us to get adventurous again! I want us to love comedy like we used to. I don't think that can happen if you have one or two TV shows, coz there's so much pressure on those shows to be funny, that people go, "Aww, Australian comedy isn't good anymore". Yes, it is, it's really good!
Twenty years ago, we had a choice. "I don't like this one, but I like that one". When you've only got one or two things, you go, "Ohh, that's not very good". But we could make amazing comedy in Australia, and we have incredible comedians. But it has to happen at executive level at networks, where they're commissioning risky shows. And not even risky shows, just making shows. In 2013 there were a ton of new shows, and it 2014 it was a desert.
If an iceberg struck your cruise ship, who would you want to be stuck on a plank of wood with, and why?
I would like more than a plank! I get really cold really easily! How about a blanket and a plank? A planket! I'm trying to think of which of my friends annoy me the least … It needs to be someone I could sit next to for ages, and will be fine if we were quiet, and fine if we were talking.
Or someone who doesn't get cold easily so they could lend you their blanket?
So a dog then? I would hope that a dog, or a poodle would be good. And then we'll cuddle, and I'll pat it, then we'll hang out.
What can we expect from you this year?
You can expect me to leave the country. I'm going to be in an episode of a BBC sitcom later this year, which is really cool. And I was just on an Alan Davies show called "As Yet Untitled", which is a bunch of comedians sitting around and talking, and that came out in the UK a couple of weeks ago which was exciting. I'm doing Edinburgh this year with a new show. And there are a couple of little things I'm trying to get off the ground at the moment, which will be really fun.
What do you want audiences to walk away with after The Iceberg?
They don't have to walk away with anything because it's a comedy show! Hopefully they walk away with sore cheeks, that's all that I care about.