One of Punchline’s Top 10 Recommendations for this fringe, Felicity Ward is the funniest comedian we haven’t booked. But the exciting news is that she has moved to the UK from Australia so perhaps we’ll persuade her… we caught up with her ahead of her 2014 fringe show: The Iceberg.
Hello Felicity Ward, how excited are you about performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe?
I’m VERY excited about performing! I feel like last year was the first time it didn’t take a massive toll on me. I cried a lot less, I slept a lot more, I spoke to good friends and I didn’t seem to go as crazy so I’m looking forward to seeing if I can top that, and almost enjoy myself.
How many times have you performed at the Edinburgh Fringe?
This will be my fifth show.
This year’s show is called The Iceberg – can you tell us what it’s about?
The Iceberg is a very loose metaphor for when we think we’re looking at the whole picture when actually there’s something else going on. Or that we’re looking at something one way, when there might be a different perspective that’s more interesting.
And you’ve moved from Australia to the UK – how does that feel?
Great! I have a Right of Abode. There’s a beautiful little patriarchal law that happened when I was born, because even though my mum is English, I didn’t automatically get a passport because she was a woman and not a man (that changed in 1983). Last time I had a return trip, and this time I have a one way ticket. You’re stuck with me!
How do the Edinburgh Fringe crowds differ from other audiences?
I find Edinburgh Fringe audiences more adventurous. For one, there are more people. It’s such an enormous international tourist event, that people will go and take a punt on a show they’ve never heard of before. That works very well for people that have no profile whatsoever, i.e. moi.
I also find that people are very loyal. I find this in Australia as well. Last year was the first time that I had a lot of people saying “I saw your show last year, and I want to come back again and we’ll always come to see you”. It was so nice; it felt solidified as of last year. It’s interesting to create a loyalty in a country that you’re not from, or in a city that you’re not living in.
Do you feel quite at home in Edinburgh?
The city itself is so beautiful and it’s so easy to fall in love with and I have so many excellent memories there. I can find The Edinburgh Fringe very lonely: that idea of being surrounded by a hundred people and still feel like the loneliest person in the world. Sometimes that can be Edinburgh when there’s so much going on that you can’t connect to any of it, but that’s just the Fringe Festival and not the city itself. It also depends on how much sleep I’ve had and how much I’ve tried to act like a 21 year old, and not remember that I’m a 33 year old!
Do you have any traditions during the Edinburgh Fringe?
Something that Celia Paquola and I did for a few years was walk up to Arthur’s Seat and we wrote “Hey matey” in stones, and one of us went up to the top and took a photo of the other one and then vice versa. I have a tradition every year of going “I’m going to swim at North Berwick once a week!” and I never do but it’s nice to say, and hopefully I’ll keep that tradition up. I also have a tradition of eating very well for the first week: I do a big shop, I cook home-cooked meals, and I’m like “I’ve got this shit unlocked this year” and then I get to week three and it’s like “Oh it’s Angus Burgers again, OK!”
I like the hidden secrets in Edinburgh, and every time I go there someone will take me somewhere that I’m like “how did I not know about this place?”. The City Cafe does breakfast until late. I eat breakfast late and I want breakfast three times a day. If I could have my choice, I would only eat breakfast. My first meal of the day always has to be breakfast. If it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, but I haven’t eaten, it’s breakfast.
What is the best thing about the Edinburgh Fringe, and what are your previous highlights?
My friend has a show called Hot Dub Time Machine, and this sounds like a bad thing, but he broke his foot (that is definitely a bad thing) but because of that, he then asked me and a bunch of our other friends to be the Hot Dub Time Machine Dancers, so we got to come on and hype up the crowd, and that was a career highlight!
The first year the Dead Cat Bounce boys’ show was on after me, and one night I came off stage and went backstage and they all had party poppers and said “Yeah, you finished the show!” Then next night there was a finishing line, and then it got more and more elaborate. One night they set up a table, and Mick was in a tuxedo, and they had a bowl of spaghetti, and they’d set up Lady and the Tramp and written a poem! Another night they blindfolded me and led me over to the window and they’d got a group of strangers in the street. So I was leaning out the Gilded Balloon window and they took the blindfold off and they’re all holding signs saying “We love Felicity!”
They are the things that make Edinburgh so magical, and why everyone is so exhausted, because you don’t want to be the person who went home that night. Because sometimes magic happens up there! In the underpass near Bristo Square, my friend put on an Underpass Party. The slogan was “Do you need a pass for the underpass party?” And everyone replied “You don’t need a pass for the underpass party”. Basically it’s a response to all the promoter parties that are happening that you need a particular kind of pass or invite, so we just had a little dance party in an underpass!
You are one of Punchline’s Top 10 shows this festival. Who would you recommend?
It’s always so difficult because you assume you’re going to see the same people every year. Celia Paquola’s show got nominated for the Barry Award, it’s so awesome and she’s such a good writer. She’s so funny, it’s just an excellent show.
Demi Lardner won Raw in Australia, which is our So You Think Your Funny, then last year she [was joint winner of] SYTYF, so I’m very excited to see what she does for an hour. Luke McGregor is so great – it’s his first hour in Edinburgh. Sara Pascoe is awesome. She’s such a brain.
Adrienne Truscott is fucking great. My friend said it’s the “Most Punk Thing I’ve seen in Comedy” and that’s exactly what it is. It’s so Punk, and it’s so irreverent, and it’s really exciting when you see comedy that makes you want to do something or want to change, or look at how you’re presenting stuff, and make you question if you give a shit about what you’re doing. It’s an invigorating show. It’s tense, and it’s nervous, and as an audience member, sometimes you’re relaxed and sometimes you’re not. It’s very unpredictable which is really exciting in comedy.
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall is a Canadian who’s been living in Australia, and he’s really understated but he’s got beautiful ideas, and he’s a wonderful writer and he’s really funny, and once he clicks in the with an audience, once he’s hooked them in, they’re there. He’s got a really original brain and great jokes.
And finally, any advice for Fringe first-timers (performers or audience)?
Just don’t peak too soon. Just don’t party every night like you think you’re going to party every night. Because it will not last. I remember the first year, and for the first week and a half I was like “I don’t know what people are talking about! This is the greatest festival ever! This isn’t exhausting”, then I kept going out every single night until 4, 5 o’clock, and then I started to get tired, then by week 3 “How am I going to get through the next 24 hours?”. I don’t drink so this isn’t the hangover speaking – it’s just exhaustion. As much as you don’t ever want to miss out on the party, I’ve learnt that if I want to get through it, and not cry every day, then I have to give up on the party.
You can catch the wonderful Felicity Ward every day at the Underbelly at 9.25pm. Buy tickets here