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STEPH TISDELL Melbourne International Comedy Roadshow is go

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow descends on Perth next week, Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22 at His Majesty’s Theatre, bringing with it some of Australia’s finest talent. Featuring Ben Knight as MC, Aaron Chen, Georgie Carroll, Rhys Nicholson and Steph Tisdell, it promises to be a night of belly laughs. NATALIE GILES had a chat with Steph Tisdell ahead of the tour.

I’m going to be completely honest when I tell you that when I was given a choice of who to interview, you were a no-brainer. I love supporting women in comedy, but an Indigenous woman? That’s so rare I had to talk to you. Can you tell me about your experiences as an extremely rare cut of comedy diamond?

It’s actually a very political figure to be. I feel a very strong desire to identify my heritage on stage and I believe there’s a legitimate necessity for me to use the platform to highlight some truths for blackfellas. But at the same time, there’s a lot of pressure to be a role model I don’t feel capable of being. I can only tell my own experiences as an Indigenous woman, but part of the issue with that is that I’m very, very aware that my experiences don’t mirror the experiences of a lot of Indigenous women. So it’s a very fine line that I walk; I don’t want to be something I’m not, but I think the need for representation and visibility for Aboriginal women is dire. But there are anxieties and insecurities related to the position I’m in at the moment.

What do you get out of performing?

I get honest-to-God, total joy out of performing. You have the ability to connect with a big group of people and a platform to say things that matter.

Do you use comedy as a way of challenging stereotypes, and if so, how?

It’s probably one of the main things that keeps me pushing forward and allows me to maintain my passion. I try to be soft and articulate in my approach and challenge an audience to see things from a different perspective, that white guilt is prevalent and hilarious but perhaps more of a hindrance than a help. The more we ignore issues or divide Australia’s issues as “Australian issues vs Aboriginal issues,” the further we drift away from true reconciliation and the ability to keep our culture strong.

How do you feel about PC culture and tone policing in comedy?

Honestly, and perhaps this is weird… but I don’t mind it. It’s such a bullshit concept in comedy because I can tell you the kind of people who most often say their comedy is being policed, are often the ones who either just aren’t funny or don’t know how to connect with their audiences. Comedy should be a space to be progressive in. If your audience doesn’t connect with your thoughts, it’s time to rethink your joke, or perhaps just the way you get the message across. Nothing is offensive if delivered properly or if the intent is fully understood.

So what do you find personally offensive?

Racism more than anything else [laughs]. Oh, and entitlement. It’s rife among people both on stage and in audiences. I have had an incredibly privileged upbringing, but have always been taught how important it is to be grateful for things.

You made your start in the UK. How did that come about?

Ha! It’s a very long story. But if I can summarise, after I won Deadly Funny, I didn’t feel ready for the opportunities I knew would come up. I also had a lot of internal struggles with identity, fear of tokenism and difficulty in knowing what my voice was. I also just didn’t want to suck in front of friends and family, so it seemed like the best thing to start properly somewhere else. Up until that point, I’d done maybe four or five spots over two years, so I hadn’t really started and would have lost traction without the confidence that win gave me. As a very anxious person, whenever I’m stuck I tend to find the easiest way of dealing with things is to remove the safety net, so to speak.

What are your thoughts on the election result?

We had no strong leaders going forward. I don’t actually particularly like any of the parties. I’m not happy with the result, but I understand why it happened. We have leaders that are full of fear. It’s actually embarrassing. A good leader sets an example and makes decisions that are difficult to make… and then sticks by their guns.

You’re in really good company at the Perth Roadshow! Can you tell me a bit about your fellow comedians in the show? And don’t be shy of throwing shade – we won’t tell them…

Nah, you’ve gotta watch them! They’re all incredible. I actually can’t believe the calibre of people I get to work with these days. It’s insane. I’m often actually quite intimidated by other comedians as I often get quite shy because I forget we do the same thing! [laughs] Like, sometimes I’m just so in awe and I know how hard we all have to work to get to the place we’re at.

Why should Perth come and see you?

Comedy is just a great thing to go out and watch! Especially live. It’s about atmosphere, soaking up the energy and learning different perspectives. And the way they match the tour groups up on Roadshows means they’re always super balanced and exciting.

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