FIONA O’LOUGHLIN @ Astor Theatre gets 6/10

Fiona O’Loughlin’s Gap Year @ The Astor
Friday, May 18, 2018


Fiona O’Loughlin is a middle-aged former alcoholic comic who is well known from Spicks and Specks, Rove Live, and several other comedy shows. In her latest stand-up Gap Year, she recounts her experiences of going into a coma as a result of alcoholism and recovering her life (Centrelink et al) since then.

Her best material tended towards self-deprecating. While not everyone goes through alcoholism (I’m told), almost everyone disappoints their parents. A significant portion of Australian culture is revelling in the lack of pomp and circumstance. The standard set of Australian personalities you encounter at family gatherings seemed fairly present. It catered fairly well to audience there.

The main audience, which seemed to consist of middle-aged parents and their teenaged family, appreciated anecdotes about parenting, which I cannot really judge. Certainly they enjoyed vignettes about children being uncomfortably frank, cutting through our normal sense of propriety. There is a certain amount of celebrating being cheeky in a parental relationship, which is understandable. The pressure to be a good example gives few opportunities to be a little selfish, so these stories provide a certain amount of catharsis to parents who may feel exhausted from putting up a front for however long. There was also stories about the decline of parental energy as one has more kids.

The biggest problem that I had (there is always one with comedy) was her cavalier use of the word “retard”. This wasn’t a problem for her audience, and it is indeed a punchy word that can punctuate a line, at least phonetically. Far be it from me to police anyone’s language, but there is a reason the psychology community has moved away from using “retard” as a clinical term. Using a traditionally marginalised (to put it lightly) group of people as a punchline to lightly rib your sister further increases that marginalisation. I fully understand that teasing is a part of normal sibling interaction, but there are other ways of calling people a bit thick or whatever. They’re one can short of a six pack. They’re at the top of the bell curve. There’s nobody home. Indeed, some of these sorts of euphemism were used in the show and were largely more tasteful.

I enjoyed the lack of physical character humour, which is relatively common in stand up acts.

Ultimately, she knew her audience pretty well (myself notwithstanding). If you are a middle-aged parent, I’d recommend going and watching any future shows she’s in. Probably don’t bring your kids.