Talking to Felicity Ward
We talk to Aussie comedian Felicity Ward as she heads off on tour around the country with her latest show, ‘Busting a Nut’.
Fresh off the back of her new BBC Radio 4 series (Appisodes) and a Netflix special (Live from the BBC), multi-award winning comedian and regular co-host of The Guilty Feminist Podcast, the fabulously funny Felicity Ward heads off on tour this autumn with her new show ‘Busting a Nut’. Serenading audiences near and far with her brand of honest and upfront comedy, we caught up with the Aussie comic to talk about her forthcoming tour, nuts, and mental health.
Tell us about your new show…
Well the great thing is that I can’t really give anything away, because it’s just an hour of straight-up jokes, Most of my other shows have had a theme or an experience that has happened to me and it’s an hour of that and we explore it and go off on tangents. This is, ‘I haven’t done a show for two years and here is an hour of the material that I’ve been doing in clubs at the weekend, all put together in a very structured fashion’.
What is your favourite kind of nut and why?
Ah, good question. Look flavour wise, the macadamia, obviously, because it’s like a lovely hard butterball but they really make you work for it. I mean the pistachio, you suck it and you take off all the salt on the outside, then you open it and then you eat the nut inside. It’s like the Oyster of the nut family, except you don’t really suck an Oyster shell, do you?
Will people with nut allergies be safe to attend one of your shows?
They will be. Having said that I did give someone an asthma attack once in a comedy show. This girl was like, “oh my god, my boyfriend laughed so hard he had an asthma attack”. Imagine if you made someone laugh to death? Like awful, but also what an achievement – that would go on every poster.
When you’re not being hilarious on stage, TV or radio, what do get up to?
I play the guitar and I sing and I write songs. I play PlayStation, actually I play 2 games, I play Doom and I play Crash Bandicoot. And I watch a lot of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. A lot of repeats. Basically, if Gordon Ramsay is involved in a failed business, I’m watching it. I love it. It’s just very comforting. I suppose it’s like McDonald’s. I know it’s not good for me but I know exactly what I’m going to get. Except it is good for you because it’s Gordon and he values fresh produce.
October 10 is world mental health day and you make it well known about how you suffer from anxiety. Naturally, everybody is different, but how do you cope with your anxiety on a day-to-day basis?
Well, it depends. I have a lot of people that I talk to, and it takes about 5 different people before I start believing them. For example, I did Live at The Apollo last night and I did a good job. It’s a very big room and its 20 minutes and people don’t know who they’re getting to see. But because I didn’t have the time of my life for the whole time, I walked off and was like ‘was that any good?’ and everyone was like “yeah, yeah that was great”. By the end of the night, I had diminished it in my head to, ‘I’ve disappointed myself, and my family and my country’. So I’ve been speaking to more sensible people than myself. There’s an old saying that, ‘my mind is like a bad neighbourhood and I shouldn’t go down there alone’.
I have to do exercise to get out of my head. The basics of anxiety are so boring to look after it; it’s good sleep, good food, and exercise, not believing your thoughts and talking to other people for perspective.
When I get really anxious I call it the rats in my chest and I think exercise just gets the rats out – pest control that’s what I call it. Swimming is the one that physically helps me the most, but at Edinburgh Fringe Festival I started doing yoga more frequently because another comic was teaching a class every day. The difference with yoga is that I’m not with my own thoughts, whereas swimming it’s just me and my brain going, “oh, remember how you looked at that girl and then she looked at you…”.I haven’t got a monologue when I’m doing yoga apart from, “this hurts, are we going to change this position soon?”
Do you think that comedy and your openness about the subject has made it easier for you and your audience members to deal with mental health issues?
I think people with mental health issues like seeing information on it and they like relating it, but I think when it’s said through jokes it’s more of a release. It’s not a sad reminder, it’s a funny reminder if that makes sense and it’s coming from someone who has it rather than someone that doesn’t.
I always feel good about the mental health material because they’re jokes coming from the inside rather than a voyeur looking in. Often with comedy we’re just observers on life and the life that’s happening around us. Sometimes we observe things that don’t specifically happen to us, but they happen to other people, they happen to the world, that’s what satire is, that’s what political comedians do. The reaction is still happening and it still incredible. Even today, someone wrote on Facebook about the Netflix special that went out a year ago, people with IBS, anxiety, and depression are writing to me saying that they’re going to the doctors after seeing my show.
When I did my BBC Radio4 series I had people send me messages, but because I’ve been banging on about it for years, I forget that people still have a sense of shame about it. If you’re watching someone laugh about what you have who also has it, you don’t feel like a victim of it. It’s really hard not to have a victim mentality sometimes when you can’t get out of bed physically because of something that you have mentally. I think it’s a relief more than anything that you don’t feel like you’ve been laughed at, but being laughed with.
CATCH FELICITY WARD: BUSTING A NUT
October 4 / Farnham Maltings / www.farnhammaltings.com
October 31 / G Live, Guildford / www.glive.co.uk