Do You Think I’m Brave?

I’ve never really thought of myself as brave but it’s a word that gets thrown my way on a far more regular basis than I would like. Heading to the bar for a drink after a spot at a comedy night, it’s rare that I won’t have a complete stranger exclaim to me; “you’re so brave, I couldn’t do what you just did.”
It often leaves me scratching my head in confusion, I certainly don’t feel that getting up on stage, rubbishing on about failed relationships, sharing crude, debaucherous tales and randomly sprouting out of tune lyrics from my favourite pop divas makes me all that brave at all. Are they being honest or are they saying that I’m brave because I wasn’t good? I don’t think I am brave. More than anything, I feel like it might be a little bit self indulgent. After a recent encounter at gig I began to wonder about the term ‘brave’ –as I explored it within my own mind I started to travel down many paths within my own self.

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Brave? Misguided? Genuinely crazy?

I decided that to chat to some ladies who I think of as brave and whose life journeys have involved tough choices or hurdles along the way that have helped to define who they have become. Now I don’t know anyone who has run into a burning building or risked their life to save that of another however as I’m sure many of us know, an act of bravery for some is a simple as getting up the strength of get out of bed and face the world each day. Immediately I thought of my best friend Stacey, a lady who I genuinely believe is one of the toughest and most resilient that I have ever met. She hasn’t always been this way – in fact knowing her since we were in primary school, I always kind of considered her to be a bit of a hypochondriac drama queen (sorry babe!) however all of that changed almost two years ago. Stacey and I were living together and despite the warnings to the contrary, living with my best friend was one of the most fun experiences ever – but all of a sudden it changed. I felt like I’d been hit by a train so I can’t even begin to imagine how Stacey felt – within the space of a week, at age twenty four, she was diagnosed with MS and doctors also found a four centimetre tumour at the back of her head, attaching itself to her spinal cord.
The removal of the tumour was horrendous; the tumour was wrapped around the nerve that controlled the left side of her face meaning that it too had to be removed.  My beautiful Stacey could only smile with half of her face and all of a sudden it seemed like her amazing flame had been dulled. It hasn’t been easy for her – that much is evident, but even then I still wondered – did she feel brave? When I asked her, she told me, “People call me brave all the time, which makes me feel a bit embarrassed…I never felt like I was being brave, I just felt like I was getting through each challenge.” Which I guess is what being brave actually is – right?
Stacey is basically blowing me away at the moment. Not only has she been through two more surgeries, worked hard to learn how to understand and live with her MS but she has also met an awesome guy – John and while he is certainly more than just a quick fix, Stacey did make me laugh when she explained; “People called me brave for going on blind dates but I don’t think that makes me brave – I just wanted to get laid!”

I don’t think I will ever be able to fully comprehend the level of courage that it has taken for Stacey to get on with her life and not just survive but absolutely thrive and I truly hope that I never have the opportunity to relate, I do however dream of having the bravery of the next two ladies that I spoke to. I first encountered Hannah Collins when I started working in my current day job – in fact she used to do what I do now, and she trained me up to take over her role. Since leaving the role she has volunteered in Africa, subedited a magazine and just recently moved to New York – with no safety net. I can only dream of having the guts to do what Hannah has done and as she explained, “I knew it was out of the ordinary but I also knew it was what I needed to do at the time.” Which once again brings up the idea of bravery versus self indulgence however, as Hannah enlightened me, sometimes to be self indulgent, you have to employ a level of bravery; “I felt a lot of guilt over leaving my family and friends, especially my family but I also knew that if I didn’t go and do it that I would only regret not going.”

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Hannah – with a big apple in the big apple. You can find out more about her and her work at www.byhannahcollins.com

There’s nothing more disappointing than a feeling of regret – I know that all too well.
Another clever lady who is taking the world by storm is the wonderful Laura Pietrobon – one of the most outwardly warm people I have ever encountered. I first met Laura when we were both sixteen and doing work experience at a radio station. Our paths crossed again at University but now she finds herself living in London, a dream I have always had for myself. She explained that “The first thing a lot of people said when I announced my move was something along the lines of “wow you’re so brave, aren’t you scared?” To be honest, I never thought this move was particularly brave.” However assessing the situations of others who have also undertaken the same challenge that she has she was able to see the bravery in their choices, “so maybe it’s all about perspective in the end” Laura concluded.

The concept of perspective actually, weirdly enough, put things into perspective for me. There are two aspects of bravery; one is perceived bravery, while the other is acted. So while you might not ‘feel brave’, the question is, if a person describes you as brave relative to how they define ‘brave’ in their own mind, while you might not actually be engaging in an act of bravery  you could be brave simply because it is in the eye of the beholder.

At this point I was certainly envying the sheer guts that it took for these two ladies to do what they had done and luckily I had one of my oldest friends Hannah Willsmore (who I have previously described as my womb buddy since we’ve known each other that long) put things into perspective for me. Hannah has recently started her own business – rather sitting idle in a job that she was beginning to resent, she explained “I could’ve just stayed there being unhappy like so many of the others are” however she boldly chose not to – if only for her own sake. I guess this confirmed for me that it is hard, risky and yes, brave, to do something a little bit different but it’s probably harder to let it just pass on by while the world keeps moving.

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This is Hannah Willsmore but that is not her baby – the business she runs does help to bring gorgeous little bubs into the world – www.adelaidehypnobirthing.com.au

 

Finally it was starting to click in a general sense – those around me who I viewed as brave, sure they were overcoming hurdles and individual adversity but each act of ‘bravery’ that I’d investigated had in ways just been a way of moving forward in life rather than choosing to remain stagnant, despite the challenges that may hold. I though, had been called ‘brave’ for the act of performance so I needed to know, is this something that other performers experience? After speaking to several male comedians it quickly became clear that ‘brave’ is a term almost exclusively reserved for female performers or those who deal with challenging and confronting material – it’s rare that a guy gets called ‘brave’ just for picking up the microphone but I think that might be a topic for another day.
In a performance sense I immediately thought of three ladies who I might be able to relate to and from whom I could learn. First up was Haley Brown, a wonderful and talented performer whose direction and style has profoundly affected my own. Haley faces her own physical challenges meaning that ‘brave’ is a word that gets thrown her way and for the first time since I began this exploration, the concept of the term being overtly problematic was raised, as Haley explained; “It’s a very close cousin of what folks in the disability community call “inspiration porn,” when disabled people do fairly ordinary things and are celebrated as being “brave” or “inspiring” for doing it while disabled.” Continuing on that theme of ‘brave’ not necessarily being a compliment, she elaborated “Often the word is awarded to individuals that society deems incapable of doing something who are “doing it anyway.”
I get that. While I may not have the same hurdles to face as Haley (whose work you can find here), there is that matter of my gender. It may be 2016 but don’t even begin to imagine that we live in a world where everyone is used to hearing the female voice as one of power, strength or, god forbid, humour. Sure times are changing however on more than one occasion (many, in fact) I’ve been outright told that “women aren’t funny”. That hurts and I can’t really put into words why – though mostly because it’s outright wrong. I like to think that I can prove those who hold that belief wrong. One woman who I know can do this is Nicole Henriksen whose giddily bizarre show ‘Techno Glitter Penguins’ made me laugh like nothing else ever had, before she slapped me in the face and tore my heart apart with her other totally different but equally brilliant show ‘Makin It Rain’. Despite obvious talent and a drive to succeed that is downright inspiring, Nicole has had experiences that have caused her to feel patronised when being referred to as brave; “I feel especially as a woman, and a woman of colour, the more it’s used “oh you’re so brave… really, really, brave… wow, so brave”… Why am I so brave, you know? Is that person implying that I’m brave for supporting myself, or performing, or what-have-you because my work isn’t good or isn’t financially viable? If so, why is that?” It’s a perspective that echoed my own thoughts, despite our somewhat different performance experiences.

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Many would say that the poster alone screams ‘BRAVE’ – check out more of Nicole’s work at nicolehenriksen.com

Finally I reached out to the lovely Alice Tovey, wise beyond her years, who helped me to put it all together in relation to my own experiences. She identified the sheer fact that she and her material had been belittled at the discretion of particular audience members, choosing to let the fact that she is a young woman cloud their opinion of the content. However she carries on, continuing to present shows that push the boundaries in one way or another. She explained, “I think when most people are asked what bravery is, you’ll get back a picture of an Alexander the Great like figure, who against all odds conquered the world. Or Oscar Wilde, who opposed a regime to preserve the true self. Or An Sung Su Chi, who stood up to an oppressive and unfair government. These pictures are all perfectly valid and good definitions of bravery, but I think comedic bravery is a completely different thing all together.”

“Comedic bravery, I believe, is making an audience laugh at something, whether dark or absurd or unusual, and asking them why. That’s the power that a comedian has. What an audience laughs at will tell them more about themselves than what makes them cry.” But does Alice consider herself brave?  The short answer is, yes – “In a way” How so? She explains; “I hope that I am doing just that, that I am pointing out some of the nastier things in our society. It can be confronting.”

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Alice doesn’t hold back – find out more about her upcoming shows at alicetovey.com

 

Now I can’t say that I’m pushing the boundaries in the same way as Alice, but on a good day I am making people laugh at some pretty absurd ideas – and hey, maybe that is a braver concept than I first believed. I am yet to feel like I possess the same level of bravery that I believe some of the other women I have encountered do, and while I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable being told that I am brave for doing what I think of as ‘dumb comedy’ I suppose I can make brave my own. I can chose to hear it as a compliment rather than in a patronising manner and I can choose to use it as a motivation to push on. Most of all though I can be bravely self indulgent because with life experience under my belt I now know that without being brave enough to indulge my soul in doing the things that truly make me happy, I would ultimately be facing the tougher challenges of regret, disappointment and true sadness. While life is never as straightforward as simply ‘choosing happiness’ –I’ve learned that it can be pretty brave if you’re able to put in action a path that allows you to do so.

Adelaide Fringe Part One

Well there’s just over a week left in the 2015 Adelaide Fringe and the past three or so weeks feel like a blur. I feel like I’ve lived a whole life time in this short space of time, and slept very little. I haven’t had a chance to update and share too many of my experiences so here I go, trying to cram it into one post.
I’ve managed to see 24 shows now (which is less than some people, I know but a lot more than most), perform 4 times, work full time (YEAH I’VE BEEN WORKING A FULL TIME JOB. SUCK ON THAT ALL YOU PEOPLE WHO SAY ‘I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME’) and go to at least 3 gym classes a week (because being sexy is a priority, duh). I’m not trying to show off or anything but I think I might have super powers? and an incoming bout of chronic fatigue?
So without further ado, here is a bit of a summary of my time this Fringe, with links to some published reviews and quick write ups of shows and experiences (more so that I don’t forget  what I’ve seen and done when I eventually do crash into bed and sleep).

SHOWS:

(in no particular order – except chronological. They are in chronological order of when I saw them…)

1) Rhino Room late show – this was the Tuesday before Fringe officially kicked off, a super fun way to begin the hectic season!

2) Geraldine Quinn – Modern Day Maiden Aunt (MDMA) – WHAT?! Fuck yes. Amazing, funny, entertaining and playing to a room of only six?! I am assured though that as her season progressed, the audiences grew. Geraldine is hilarious, witty and had some great tunes in the show!

3) Tahir – The Complete Guide to Being a Racist – find the review here. This was the first show I saw after the ‘official’ opening and it was good! Rough as it was early days but surprisingly not too bogan! I was also super into it as Rhys got pulled up on stage and picked on because he isn’t white, which is basically what I do to him everyday (pick on him because he’s not white, duh) so I felt like I wasn’t the only shit person in the world, for once.

4) Velvet (so good I saw it twice – it also helped that I didn’t have to pay…) what can I say?! High production value and disco beats – a great show does make! You’re never going to be disappointed by a show of this caliber. It’s got everything going for it and with great acrobatic skills, some smooth voices and a polished performance it’s no wonder I saw it again! Also, there’s Marcia…y’know the judge from that talent TV show?! Duh.

5) Sunglasses at Night – The 80s Apocalypse Sing Along Cabaret – this is another show that I reviewed on the first night of Fringe – review here. It was a shit load of fun – basically karaoke with only 80s tunes and not all the lyrics were as they seemed…another great performance by Geraldine Quinn!

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6) Vagabond Late Show – a solid variety hour of acrobatics, comedy and generally making me feel untalented but entertained.

7) Simon Taylor – Personal Best. To be honest, I wasn’t sold. I’ve seen Simon be hilarious before, but not this time. Granted it was like a billion degrees hot outside and my butt was sticking to the seat but sorry Simon, your break-up story was just a little to real to be hilarious. Ouch.

8) Marcus Ryan Love Me Tinder – a fun show on a Sunday night, Marcus was charming and entertaining; review here.

9) Marc Ryan The Beautiful Bogan – Christ I laughed fucking hard during this show. Granted I went with my dad, after we’d had dinner together. My Dad’s a great guy with fantastic taste in wine, a bottle of which we had consumed between us before coming to see Marc’s show. Regardless of how much I’d had to drink, the show was great – read the full review here.

10) The Naked Magicians They do magic, they get naked towards the end…you will be reminded of how ugly penises are. They are gross – and yes, I am into dudes but dicks are a bit strange. The magicians are rather hot though and they do some funky tricks.

11) Double Feature – Rocky Horror Tribute Show Did you know that I am a CRAZY Rocky Horror fan?! Well, I am. So is my auntie. We went to this show together and sang along to EVERY song. We may also have danced and drank a bottle of champagne. Either way, fun was had. Full review here.

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12) Two Ruby Knockers and 1 Jaded Dick – I was totally hammered when I saw this, even though it was a Sunday night. I guess that’s just how I roll? No, only on Cellar Door Wine Fest. day, otherwise I never drink on Sundays…anyhow, we got sucked into seeing this and it was great (as far as I remember..) no, it was. A bit of magic, a bit of comedy, very film noir and pretty cool!

13) Tamar Broadbent All By My Selfie – talented, funny and gorgeous she made me feel inadequate yet I still loved her. You should go see her if you are or have ever been a girl in her 20s. Or if you know a girl in her 20s because this show is on point as fuck and the songs just kinda got me – as embarrassing as that is to admit.

14) Lewis Dowell – Panda Jumper Maybe a pretty charming show and a heck of a lot of fun! Lewis was total pro (professional that is..) and his show was thoroughly entertaining- it was a pleasure being apart of the audience!

15) Everything is Under Control – This show was really interesting; quirky and different to many of the highly polished and finely tuned shows getting all the attention at Fringe these days. I thoroughly loved Angela Yeoh’s performance – it was brilliant contemporary clowning from the recent Gaulier graduate. Based on the reviews some people missed the point or just didn’t get it. Their loss I guess.

16) Chris Knights Fun, sweet, endearing. I was tired, sun burnt and hungry after having to go to Clipsal for work that day yet I still enjoyed the show, that should be testament enough!

17) It’s Rabbit Night – Jon Bennett Uhm has anyone else noticed that Jon has beautiful eyelashes? Y’know, for a dude? He also has mad wicked story telling skills. My buddy Josh invited me along to this show which was in a rad venue (so many hidden cool places in the ‘Laid). There were only 6 people in the audience, Bennett had considered cancelling and I’m so thankful that he didn’t because I fucking loved this show. Can’t stop thinking about how great it was. That is all.

18)  A Greek, An Aussie and A Jewish Comedian walk into a bar – I was in this show the following night, but I also saw a performance that didn’t feature me, which was fun, but less fun than being in it mostly.

19) Sarah Bennetto’s Story Tellers Club a bit of story tellin variety and a damned bit of fun indeed! Four comedians and an MC and some brilliantly wicked story telling – two vomit stories from the talented Cal Wilson couldn’t even put a dampener on the evening – what a champ!

20) Lunatics Beer Garden – Presented by Ro Campbell, this was a heck of alotta fun. I think it helped that most of the audience were comedians and had fun messing with each other. The quality was generally pretty kick ass though (with a few exceptions)…

21) Hans in Das Haus Brilliant. I wrote a review of it and Matt Gilbertson got in touch to say thanks. What a sweet heart and a really great performer. Review here!

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22) Wil Anderson – a seasoned performer whose done the hard yards, been around the block and is now reaping the rewards; he’s doing what we all want to be doing. TV, Radio, the LA lifestyle, getting outted for doing drugs in national papers, it’s a dream come true and of course he’s still hilar. Erratic, but great, I really enjoyed this show.

23) Food Booze Sex Dance – as a lady who loves burlesque, I’m surprised that it took me so long to get along to a burlesque show this year! I reviewed it, the dancing was sexy but I found the food to be more delicious! review here…!

24) Death of a Disco Dancer Marcel Blanch-de Wilt – I’m biased because we’ve been friends for a while. I love Marcel, he’s one of my favourite people in the world – though I do rather like a few people (so don’t feel special, ANY OF YOU)! His show was great though, go see it! Such fun, such laughter, happiness and all round yay-ness!

PHEW!!! So those are the shows i’ve seen so far, below I’m going to recount some of my silly, ridiculous and insane experiences, the kind of which can only be experienced at a festival like this…

EXPERIENCES:

So much to say, so little time to say it! Fringe is the most magical time of year in Adelaide (big call? Maybe. Whatever). I love it, I’ve loved making new friends and chatting to people whose names I’ll never learn and whose faces I’ll never see again – which can sometimes be a blessing.

I have thus far been lucky to perform in two different improv shows – the semi final of SA Maestro and two performances of Sink or Swim. In the final of Maestro I performed one of the coolest and most fun scenes that I have ever done – a solo scene which I acted out with a sock puppet. So it may not sound cool, but it was. It was a really awesome thing to do as a performer and really inspired some great ideas for me. In Sink or Swim I played two totally different characters (in full costume) – one was a film noir dame, the other a fierce Jane Austen lady. Both were great to bring to life – and my fellow cast members made the experience unforgettable however I must say that I adored playing the film noir dame – as it was a great excuse to dress a bit like a hussy and have everyone be okay with it! I have included a photo below as it features one of the rare times in which I am wearing the fancy paint (I hear that normal people call it ‘make up’ but they are probably idiots).

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Wearing fancy paint like it aint no thang…

I did my first 15 minute long spot of stand up comedy – I had an absolute blast and I kinda get the vibe that the audience did too? I did make them laugh at a joke about domestic violence, which makes them the bad people in the situation, not me.

I dressed up in a drag-esque outfit (mirror ball bra, silver wig, plenty of bling) and competed against professional (male) drag queens and some other crazy folk to win $500 – neither I nor my friend Brittany won but we looked fucking hot. The competition was held at Surrender, an experience all unto its own. We completed that night by drinking a decent amount, dancing like fuckwits in the artists bar and arriving home at sunrise.

Before we got too messy...
Before we got too messy…
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Being ridiculous at Surrender…

I’ve seen more ridiculousness and brilliance in the past few weeks than most people see or experience in their lives. I’ve surely missed bits out here but this post is also stupidly long (sorry, I should post more often).

Whatever. There just over  a week to go and I am going to see more shows and probably dress in something totally inappropriate and get drunk in public again so hopefully I can share that soon and the post will be a little shorter!

P.S Read part two here!