FUNNY LADY: Fiona O'Loughlin performs in Yamba next Thursday.
FUNNY LADY: Fiona O'Loughlin performs in Yamba next Thursday. JAMES PENLIDIS PHOTOGRAPHY

Fiona brings laughs from dinner table to the stage

IF THERE is such a thing as comedy royalty in Australia, Fiona O'Loughlin would be the Scream Queen.

That would be screaming with laughter of course, a claim her peers will vouch having previously nominated her as the funniest of them all. And Fiona's stand-up is in demand not only in Australia but across the world, her insightful, side-splitting brand of humour knows no bounds.

Yamba will be fortunate to be in the presence of this comedy legend next week, so to celebrate this coup ahead of her arrival on May 23 we bombarded her with a few questions:

Q: As a relative late starter to comedy, was it a case of being told you were funny all your life and then deciding to turn it into a paid job? Is your brain naturally wired to find the humour in everything? Any examples of that when you were a kid you can share?

FO: You're right. I was a late starter to comedy but the advantage of that was I had a lot of life experience behind me before I got started. I don't neccessarily recall being told I was funny as a kid or even an adult but I did love being the dinner host and having people over to the house and holding the floor for hours on end. I think that's where my comedy came from. I wanted to take my story telling from the dinner table to the stage ... That's what the audience is getting ...

Q: Where was the hardest crowd you've ever performed in front of and why was that?

FO: It's funny, I talk about this in my show, every comedian has a comedy death and mine was in Cairns. It's a long story and best left for the stage but one thing I can tell you is I don't believe any comedian that has not had a comedy death ...

Q: Naturally audiences love your stand up, but your peers have also given you kudos for your work. What's the comedy family like these days in Australia?

FO: My audience reaction to my show comes first, that's who I write and perform for, but along the way it's nice to get the respect from fellow comedians who have been in the business a long time and respect your craft. There is a deep respect for all fellow comedians, it's like a secret code, there's only some things you can share or experience that happens onstage that a fellow comedian will truly understand, like for example, a comedy death ...

Q: Australia's female comedians seem to have taken charge in Australia. Have the blokey days of stand up been replaced with kick-arse women?

FO: There's been a great movement with female comics making a rise through the ranks and it's good to see however I still firmly believe that you should be booked for gigs for the being the funniest comedian.

I don't think you should get a head start just because you're a male or female, it should be based on your ability to make an audience laugh. That's the beauty of this industry. We all start from the same position and that is a microphone on a stage, with a light in front of an audience and if you make the audience laugh you move through the ranks. In relation to the blokey comedians' stand-up days being overtaken or numbered, I think as a society our views and morals are changing and mostly for the better and comedy is reflecting that.

Q: Is there a plan of attack for your routines? Is it a mix of thoughtful topics and stories and winging it? What's your usual approach to a live show?

FO: Great question, I have so many stories from over the years to draw on and the truth is I'm never quite sure what's going to pop into my routine from one night to the next, which is really quite exciting for me. I think it keeps my routine fresh. So before the show I'm actually quite relaxed and once I get the microphone in my hand the stories just begin.

Q: Given the timing of the federal election, will there be any political banter in there? What kind of topics might you cover in your Yamba show? Will you have time to look around the place before the show? It's not a bad spot.

FO: Political jokes normally I stick clear of them, for no particular reason but my stories are more personal to me. I'm really an open book up there and I always leave part of my soul on the stage after each show, so I talk more about my life growing up in Warooka (country SA), my children and generally things that I have experienced first hand so it's a real personal show.

I will get time to have a quick look around Yamba. It's funny so many people say to me what a great job you have looking all around Australia but the truth is quite often you arrive to a gig in the dark and leave in the dark so you don't always see a lot. I have been told Yamba is lovely so I am looking forward to seeing some sights.

Q: Your frankness about "battling the bottle” brought a pretty systemic problem in Australia out of the shadows. Do you still have fans come up to you after your shows, thanking you or wanting to chat about it?

FO: Yes I do get some people coming up to me and sharing their experiences and in some cases thanking me for being so open about the topic.

Q: As a reformed drinker (as they call it) does the irony of having to perform in licensed venues form part of your routine? Is your relationship with alcohol still a day-to-day process or do you feel you are atop of the mountain looking back?

FO: Yes it's ironic to be performing in the environment that I'm essentially trying to avoid but that's the reality of my job, but being sober now for so long I'm much clearer in my decision making, which allows me to make better choices.

Q: If yes to the latter, what's the view from there like now?

FO: Regards the day-to-day process of not drinking alcohol? I touch on this briefly in the show but two years ago I checked into the hardest rehab in Australia for eight months and did not leave. There were ice addicts in this rehab that had the choice to do rehab or go to prison and they chose prison as they felt it was an easier time. This rehab was no vacation there were no phones, no TV and daily counselling just to kick the habit once and for all.

However you have to understand, alcoholism is a disease and it's ongoing, so I have surrounded myself with a really good team off support people who are understanding that and together we're all working towards me staying sober. I have to say I'm loving life, I'm a grandmother now and things can't be better, so yeah, I'm on top of the mountain enjoying the views.

Don't miss the incredible Fiona O'Loughlin live on stage at the Yamba Bowling Club next Thursday, May 23. Tickets are on sale from the club or through their website.



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