Musings

I have begun the process of heavily researching for my next festival show. For me, this involves learning about ‘pop-psychology’ and dominant philosophical trends society takes on board. I plan to pick it all apart in a funny way and involve my audience in a series of ‘experiments.’

Luckily for me and my curious brain, there are a lot of resources available that identify societal trends over time. One huge advantage of the internet age is that people are willing to share their knowledge and you can find education on just about anything if you’re looking for it.

For me, this has meant falling into a worm hole looking at epigenetics, epidemiology (specifically related to mental health), social economics and what ‘fulfilment’ really means.

But there’s one trend that all the research seems to come back to, and its our overwhelming desire for a sense of community. This is a focus because we seemed to have moved away from it. Whether speaking from a biological perspective, an evolutionary one, or from a psychological stand point; research seems to suggest that we, as individuals, are happiest when we’re working together towards a greater goal, especially the idea of “the greater good.”

One of the societal trends that I find funny in recent times is this trend of “over-defining.” The underpinning basis of most equal rights movements or egalitarian propositions seems to be to let everyone be themselves and accept everyone regardless of their gender, age, sexual orientation, mental illness etc. Conceptually, it is absolutely the most simple and uplifting principle and one that should be easy to grasp. However, in the process we expand the definition of these things. Which seems to infuriate those that don’t understand or empathise. Which again I find pretty funny.

Perhaps this is just like the “Sylvia Plath Syndrome.” That is, the more able we are to articulate our experiences and pain, the more likely we are to feel them strongly. I guess you can draw similarity to books like 1984, wherein if you take away language (“bad” “double bad”) you inhibit articulation to explain why this is so and find the root cause, and therefore the solution. Maybe it works in the inverse as well.

When you’re met with defense, the likelihood of over-explaining, over-articulating, creating similes etc becomes just so easy to do. And somehow this causes more confusion. Or maybe it just causes more opportunity for those who would like to argue for arguments sake to now find more points to argue.

I find that often times we end up becoming aligned to a theory or argument that wasn’t even the one we wished to open with. Like when you see a simple status on Facebook break out into all-out war. Where we stop talking person to person, and begin talking political theory/alignment to political theory/alignment. Nobody is listening to the other side, nobody is hoping to expand their ideas, they just want to articulate their opinion over and over.

I’ll give you the simplest example I can: the push for a safer society and imploring people to assess their biases and the like turns into an argument of “not all men.” And now that’s the only point being argued. Instead of what the entire movement is about. Which, I think, is as simple as “treat people better, be aware of people’s fears and concepts of the world and look internally to see if you’re contributing in a positive or negative way.” And somehow every one of these turns into a theoretical, philosophical argument on the merits of feminism.

Opinions don’t make you an expert. Though, theoretically, with all the information in the world available, the time you spend researching for sources to back yourself up probably bloody could.

So how have we moved from the basic principles of letting people just get on with their lives, to the overcomplication of every miniscule element of what their lives entail? Perhaps it is over-simplification, but that seems to be the biggest problem as I see it. Like, somebody didn’t like that their concept of sexuality was challenged and so when we were trying to defend that, the theory of the ‘grey area’ comes up. And it should be enough to say “hey, don’t worry about what they’re doing, you’re doing alright. Just check back in in 6 months and see if all the things you were scared of happened.” But we defined the grey area. And to define, you have to set boundaries. So grey areas aren’t enough, we don’t put them under the banner of “I am who I am, it’s not a big deal.” We fight the definition.

I guess because the power structures in our lives don’t operate on that same level. Or perhaps because there’s a strange amount of pride that comes with being on either side of the argument. Maybe when we’re publicly looking to back our opinions up we’re asking for a community to join us. Perhaps ‘group mentality,’ online or otherwise, is the only sense of community we can feel in a world that has been championing the individual for generations. Or perhaps I’m saying perhaps too much.

I don’t really know, obviously. There are so many people arguing points on various platforms. But I never, ever come across these people in real life. Nobody is having the conversations with me in real life. And I’m looking! Nobody is talking about these things where it counts. It’s one thing to have passion behind a computer screen, but if you’re not actively seeking out perspectives that differ from your own and require you to expand your thinking, then I begin to question your motives.

Which brings me to my second point. In an individual-first society, the desire to be ‘seen,’ or ‘stand out’ is overwhelming. I often think about how much easier it would have been in the old days before we had the ability to mass communicate. Can you imagine if you only found out about someone who was better at you than everything like once in your entire life? You’d only look at the people around you and you’d feel good. The people around you would allow you to see where you fit. You’d have grown up knowing exactly what was expected of you and your goals would reflect that. So is the crux of the issue the visibility of others? Or the fact that the visibility reminds us that we’re capable but falling short? (I am aware, also, of how constricted that way of looking at the world can be and we only need to look at the 50s to see that it wasn’t all roses either, but just go with me here.)

One of my favourite movies, “Waking Life,” poses the most interesting question about free will.

“We’re mostly water, and our behavior isn’t gonna be an exception to these basic physical laws. So it starts to look like whether its God setting things up in advance and knowing everything you’re gonna do or whether it’s these basic physical laws governing everything, there’s not a lot of room left for freedom.

So now you might be tempted to just ignore the question, ignore the mystery of free will. Say “Oh, well, it’s just an historical anecdote. It’s sophomoric. It’s a question with no answer. Just forget about it.” But the question keeps staring you right in the face. You think about individuality for example, who you are. Who you are is mostly a matter of the free choices that you make. Or take responsibility. You can only be held responsible, you can only be found guilty, or you can only be admired or respected for things you did of your own free will. So the question keeps coming back, and we don’t really have a solution to it. It starts to look like all our decisions are really just a charade…

[…]So we can’t just ignore the problem. We have to find room in our contemporary world view for persons with all that that entails; not just bodies, but persons. And that means trying to solve the problem of freedom, finding room for choice and responsibility, and trying to understand individuality.”

I love this entire concept, the idea that whether we see our life journey as fate or as random happenings based on phsyical and scientific principles, our idea of free will is always at the hands of something bigger than us. We struggle with the concept of individuality, because there’s no way the world hasn’t ever encountered your perception of the world before, and yet in no way could it ever have encountered it.

We struggle with the concept of individuality to an extent that pushes us outside of community feelings. It’s not enough to be like everyone else and contribute in a way that we have before, because where’s the “extra.” We’re so bombarded with examples of what that looks like for everyone else. And yet the driving force behind all of these philosophies is to be accepted, it’s to contribute to the ‘whole.’ Or to seek a community.

And so, from what I surmise, we just want to exist as an individual within a community.  Which is entirely possible. Except we seem hell-bent on defining the rules and guidelines of what that community is and who fits in and out of it.

Here’s the interesting part. People also don’t like the feeling of responsibility. Unless they’re power hungry or broken somewhere. Enter: Politicians. Politics is built up of individuals trying to create a community they never really wanted to be a part of. Because they wanted to be the leader. And here’s the hypocrisy – to lead they have to speak theoretically. They have to predict futures they can’t possibly predict and err on the side of safety, “the greater good.” They don’t want to reward the individual because freedom causes huge amounts of fear. If we allow people to be individuals in whatever that means for themselves, where does the power go? What if things go wrong? What if we don’t know whats going to happen!

It seems to me, whichever way I look at it, the government attempts to play the predicter. I suppose this is what underpins conservatism (in law it’s called ‘the floodgates’ principle). It is a place that has no room for feeling, emoting or empathising. And so, once again, we move away from community. Because, as I’ve said, when we over-define that concept of community, if we think too much about what we want and how we do that, we have to think in terms of the individual and how the individual contributes, not their individuality. And so it’s the chicken vs the egg.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to get at. Maybe the frustration I feel at the futility of creating a feeling of community. Because it should be all-inclusive and allow everyone to feel a sense of purpose. But that feels impossible. Or maybe, more accurately, I’ve mashed together aabout 5 different concepts that I feel and tried to interlink them.

I think what I want to say is just let everyone be who the fuck they are, find your own tribe and give to it all the love you can. Etch out your own destiny but leave room for other people, because they’ll contribute. Don’t compare yourself to people who’s context doesn’t match your own. And if you want to break free of the your community because you’ve outgrown it, move on but don’t knock the community that you left. At one stage, it fulfilled you and you saw merit in it. If, upon moving on, you feel that there’s a gap, or injustice, or something that you missed before – then approach it with empathy. Don’t scream it into the void. Live by example.

Human nature is one thing. But individual psychology is what makes it up. So communicate with people around you.

 

 

 

Deadly Funny 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, but I’m full of words, phrases, passion and thoughts whose presence is easier to process through a computer right now so I’m posting a blog mid-Fest!

It’s the 15th of April, 2018. There’s one week remaining of Melbourne Comedy Festival, and yesterday was my favourite day of all of the days that join in what I heard somebody calling “Comedian Christmas.” Yesterday was the Deadly Funny National Final. If the festival is comedian christmas, then Deadly is the bike your parents said they couldn’t get you and then surprised you with. It’s the trifle after a dinner that was so delicious and filled you up so much, but you still make room for it because otherwise, what’s the damn point!

Firstly, a huge congratulations to my bala Leon Filewood who took out the whole dang show! He is 2018 Deadly Funny Winner! And, from my experience, this is a life-changer.

DEADLY

(From left to right: Kimberly Lovegrove, Elaine Crombie, Kylene Anderson, Maggie Walsh, Aunty June, Dora Smith, Michael, Leon Filewood, Dion Williams (Tyler Saunders on the shoulders!), Richie Fejo, Bill Makin, Ghenoa Gela, Kylan Ambrum and Jalen Sutcliffe)

For those reading who don’t know what Deadly Funny is, or why it is so important and has changed the landscape of Australian comedy in Australia, please let me tell you.

Deadly Funny was conceived by the awesome brain of Jason Tamiru 13 years ago. He recognised that blackfullas can bloody spin a yarn and that, given a platform, that humour that we share with mob could be used to break down barriers and fight some damaging stereotypes. And I could not be more grateful for that idea. Because he was absolutely right.

When I won in 2014 the competition was still fairly small (well, comparatively to what it is now, I mean). We performed in a 200-seater venue at the Comedy Festival and there were only 4 finalists. Good finalists, of course, culled down from the heats that took place over the nation, but there were still only 4 of us.

And how far we’ve bloody come! The Final was held at the Fairfax Theatre in the ArtsCentre, with 12 finalists! For many of them, the Final was their second time ever performing comedy, the first being at the heat. I definitely didn’t meet anybody who had performed more than about 10 times MAX. And yet the staandard of the show was incredible. I don’t say that with a bias, I say that as someone who consumes a lot of open-mic comedy and also partakes in it.

A common thread of black comedy is an underlying political message. It’s not because we’re inherently political people specifically, but more that once you identify as Indigenous, society asks you to wear a certain level of responsibility, demands you have a certain level of knowledge and invites you to justify your existence/status/place/standing etc in society at large.

My favourite stand-out line of the whole show was from Kylan Ambrum who opened his set with “Hello black people! Oh, white people… I didn’t know you were coming!” This line already illicited a laugh as it was an incredibly clever thing to say, and honestly, a lot of the black audience was thinking it. Once the laughter died down though, he absolutely sent the audience into a frenzy by following with “neither did my ancestors a couple of hundred years ago!” And then he laughed it off and made everybody feel as though they were a part of things.

A number of topics were discussed such as online dating and how if men stopped being superficial they might find a nice Murri woman who loves to cook AND suck dick, the hilarious and somewhat surreal ramblings of a ‘deep thinker’ (Maggie Walsh, my new obsession. I’d pay good money to have her be my inner voice/narrator), an American accented conversion attempt that confused Dora into thinking she should open up her ass and cleanse her hole (instead of her eyes and soul) and an incredible impression of white people dancing.

Even if we disregarded the entire competition performance and final show, the day still would have been my favourite though. Because from when I arrived at 9.30am, to when I went home after my final performance at midnight, I never stopped laughing or smiling. I got more hugs yesterday than I’ve had all festival. That’s not even an exaggeration. I gave – and received – more genuine expressions of love than I have in the last 3 weeks combined. That’s what black comedy is. It’s community, love, encouragment… family. I received words of wisdom, gorged on kindness, wrote impromptu sketches, songs and jokes with strangers that became friends.

As somebody who has struggled to find my voice within my community and as somebody who carries the burden of a guilt about not knowing my culture the way I’d like to, Deadly reminds me every year exactly what it is, and exactly how deeply embedded into my nature my heritage is.

I write jokes about where I think my understanding falls short and my frustration at not being able to inact change. I write jokes about the frustration of that frustration. The burden of that frustration, wanting to show other people how great my culture is and then seeing their fear or over compensation/ dishonesty in owning up to their own lack of knowledge.

Last year somebody I have respected for a very long time gave me sage words of wisdom. Or, at least, I think they meant to. I cannot be angry at their attempt for it was based on a misunderstanding/misconception of why identifying as Aboriginal in my comedy was important to me. I was told that in order to find the right path in my comedy there would have to be a time where I would have to decide whether I was “an Aboriginal comedian or a comedian.” I was assured this was not their opinion, but an opinion that would be echoed in the scene at large. Whether or not that was true, this statement rung around in my head for months and months. First it made me fearful, then it made me angry and now it makes me sad.

I don’t believe the statement to be true, for the record. I can’t help being Aboriginal so, by default, my decision is already made. I know where the statement came from of course, the intentions and beliefs that underpin it, that there may be difficulty communicating to a wider audience, that I am probably more susceptible to backlash, or open to criticism and I had to decide whether I wanted that. But thats why it makes me sad.

Isn’t it funny to think that we are still in a time where somebody feels concern for you because of criticism or difficulty you might face just because you are proud of an element of yourself? I think the irony in the advice is that I’ve had to make that decision all my life. I am racially-ambiguous enough to a wide portion of society that I could cruise by without some of the shit, the racial slurs, the “you’re one of the good ones.” But I refuse to – because I am proud. And the statement of pride is one I believe all Aboriginal people should be able to wear without fear of prejudice.

Deadly Funny is a showcase of how blackfullas are naturally funny, because we’ve always had to be. Humour is such a huge aspect of our culture…you know they say comedy is just tragedy plus time… Well, there’s still a long way to go… so we’ll still be pumping out some shit-hot comedy for a while I reckon.

The truth is though, I do really believe what I say here. The standard of Aboriginal comedy in Australia is so high, especially for the low (but rising) number of comedians we have. I truly believe Deadly is changing the landscape of Australian comedy as we catapault our yarns into a space where they can be heard and appreciated. Humour, for mob, is like a slow process of weaving a net. Each yarn adds to the tapestry, each new element adding a peice of a shared experience that white Australia has never had much of an understanding or insight on. I hope that as it continues to grow, the strength of the net improves and we can use it to bridge the gap.

The gap exists still, and sharing experiences, open communication and finding common ground through laughter is a fucking great way to start mending.

 

Why I hate my size but don’t want to lose weight

Okay, so perhaps the title is slightly deceptive. I have never liked how I looked, never liked my size, my boobs, my hair, my teeth. It’s extremely common; I don’t think I’m special for feeling at odds with my appearance. And I desperately want to lose weight, but right now I refuse to make a proper go of it.

This seems such an odd post to write, I know. It’s quite self-indulgent, I admit.

I’ve never been happy with how I have looked, particularly regarding my body. Since about the age of 14 I’ve always been slightly chubby and from 16 I’ve been a full-blown fatty.

Since then I have massively fluctuated up and down in weight. When I put my mind to it, I am able to lose weight easily and it’s a great feeling when it happens. But since I have realised how related my cravings are attached to whatever I’m feeling, I’ve decided to look inwardly and figure out what my real reasons for committed weight loss goals and how quickly I can fall out of a habit.

I’m going to be honest here, and it’s incredibly difficult to admit… but I’ve never lost weight for any other reason than to look better, to spite someone or to impress someone. I’ve never lost weight and felt more confident in myself because I’ve never approached it from a holistic viewpoint, even when I told myself I did.

Recently I had a conversation with my partner’s Mum. She put it succinctly when she said “you need to understand that you’re not just a brain. It’s okay to be a body too.”

The phrase rattled around in my head for weeks. I thought and thought about it and what it meant. She has lost weight and taken a very healthy attitude towards life including quitting smoking and finding solace in exercise routines. She is a happier person for it. My lovely partner, her son, was a huge piece of that puzzle for her, encouraging her that it was okay to care about her body, it wasn’t going to take anything away from her personality.

beforeandafter

I think there’s a fear that if I lose weight just to look better that it might happen. Hold up, I know that’s strange but… what if I do? What if I look good and stop being who I am? Is that something that could happen? What if I looked better and it gave people more cannon fodder to find other things they don’t like about me, deeper, more scathing comments they could make than things based on my appearance?

I fear so, so strongly becoming arrogant, out-of-touch and unrelatable.

It’s been interesting thinking about this conundrum in my head. And perhaps it’s just the result of overthinking but I’ve decided one thing:

I have to be okay with how I look now and who I am now before I lose weight. I want to lose weight for health and not to focus on the superficial feelings of pride I might get.

I have one goal, the biggest and more fearful thing I could ever do. And I encourage anybody who reads this and is interested to join me: I want to pose nude for painters. I want to be okay enough to be naked in front of others and then see their paintings and understand the beauty. What will they capture? How will they enjoy painting me? Will it scar them? Or will they just paint because that’s what they’re there for and they don’t actually mind.

Please understand this post isn’t anti-diet or weight loss. I think it’s an incredible way to show yourself your own strength and it’s such a great journey. I just realise I have become a certain kind of person who thinks a certain way and I’m going to indulge in that and use my blubber to understand myself.

If anybody is interested in doing live modelling for the reasons I’ve listed above, let’s do it together. You can look at my stretch marks, my eczema and my weird belly button and then we’ll just fucking feel good!

Thanks for reading, and again, apologies for what is very self-indulgent.

Enjoy your day!

Ps LIKE my comedy page: Stephanie Tisdell

Also, check out my show: “Identity Steft”

So what is it to be Aboriginal?

This issue I’m submitting something different. This was a speech my brother wrote upon being called upon as ‘a great example of Indigenous employment initiatives’ in his Government job. His words move me beyond belief and deal with the unique issues him and I share in growing up away from mob and the difficulty we feel because of this. These are the words that need to be heard. This is a common issue and something I wish to cover.

“My name is Christian Tisdell, and I am a 25-year-old man who was born in Mt Isa and moved to Brisbane at a young age. My mob is Dulgaburra Yidinji of Northern Queensland, Tablelands area. I have a large family with extremely varied backgrounds and experiences ranging from unfortunate drug and alcohol cases to outstanding, international entrepreneurs and philanthropists. I’m proud of every one of them, not because of aboriginality, though, but rather any family or human experience.

So what is it to be Aboriginal?

To be an aboriginal in modern society is to be walking a tight rope between two worlds; one world is a culture that slips through our hands year by year, while the other is a dominating force of industrialisation and white society. Try as i might to identify with my heritage, being so removed from the source only makes it difficult. It’s not a lifestyle that fits with today’s world and not a lifestyle that people want.

Regardless, Australia presents a face of Aboriginal culture and heritage to the world, ignoring the horrors of the past (‘what stolen generation? Genocide? Never heard of it’). The references to indigenous culture are how we present ourselves in a bid to show that we’re not just another clone of the US and UK.

But it’s not true.

Indigenous people are boxed up and dealt with as policy initiatives until we need them – we take their art, their history, their colour and their land when it suits, but otherwise, we take them as a problem. A problem of crime, a problem of drinking, a problem of employment, a problem of welfare, a problem in general. A hard thing to say, and a hard thing to hear, but it’s the reality.

So we try and fix things. We come up with initiatives, interventions, on-the-ground support, financial aids, and alternate pathways to conventional assistance. All have the very best intentions. Don’t get me wrong, the consideration and desire for change is a wonderful thing, but are we actually helping those in need, or do we just make ourselves feel better?

Life for me as an Aboriginal man has been easy; this is because, as I call it, I am ‘commercially black’ – black enough to be recognisable, but not black enough to be threatening (satire, people). But as others have said to me, I’m “one of the good ones”. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident or that I was joking. Racism is rife in this country, and really dark aboriginal people will be judged based on the colour of their skin alone. This severely limits their chances at life regardless of their character. I’m quite a light-skinned Aboriginal – I’m not judged by my appearance as someone darker would be (unless you count my skinny Murri legs).

Instead, my struggle is not knowing my culture and feeling like a ‘bad blackfulla’. It’s not an easy thing to pick up and learn, either, especially because each year the traditions and stories are lost with the passing of our elders and the spread of family across the country/world.

Australia has hundreds of different Aboriginal groups, mobs, tribes, lands, each with unique and special cultures and traditions, but most with a similarly sad story. Cultures were forcibly abolished and made to assimilate into white life all those years ago, and now they’re slowly fading and literally being bred out.

So, what can we do about it?

We just need to keep educating, and this means fully involving EVERYONE in Aboriginal culture because exclusivity is killing us. Keep it going, keep it strong, keep it respectful, and share the beauty and stories of our countries with everyone so they can feel as proud as we do.

And maybe things are changing in schools, I don’t know anymore, but we should be teaching kids the Traditional Owners of the land, and the unique features of their cultures. Not only that, but the real history of black Australia needs to be taught and not just swept under the rug. A little knowledge goes a long way.

Anyway, I’ve rambled for long enough. On a final note, I’ll leave you with a list of the great parts of being Aboriginal:

  • A great beard
  • A genuine connection with the land, which for me, is a love of red desert lands and the outback like that of the Isa.
  • Being able to spot other Aboriginals and strike up a conversation purely on that basis (where’s your mob?)
  • An amazing family and culture
  • Feeling a connection with your ancestors.
  • Rarely sunburn.
  • Having rhythm.

Much love you mob

Christian”

Being different is trendy!

My name is Steph Tisdell. I am a proud Murri woman. I am also a comedian. I have always struggled with where the two overlap; how to break down barriers using comedy to shine light on the other. It is difficult to create an intelligent and impassioned social commentary in a funny light without losing strength of the underpinning belief. (It is important to note – I have not done this yet. But this is my ultimate goal.)

I have spent the last few weeks writing profusely for a double-hander show for the Brisbane Funny Fest. With more stage time to occupy, I want to use the opportunity to shed light on life from the only perspective I’ll ever fully understand: my own.

More and more, as I accept and embrace my vulnerabilities and differences on stage, I notice that not only is my performance better, but the audience receives it better as well. Speaking specifically of comedy – it is said that the psychological process of a ‘joke’ in the brain is the building of tension and an abrupt release of that tension. And so, with this in mind, there is a lot to be said for intelligent, thought-provoking humour and the therapeutic benefits that it can give to an audience; of course, there is an opportunity for a dialogue to be opened, ignorance to be examined and awareness to be generated as well.

See, what I have noticed from performing comedy for the past few years (including 2 years living overseas and being a part of various different festivals) is that trends in the arts are changing. While likeability and relatability will always be an important part of any theatrical performance, audiences seem to crave expansive and transformative art that provides a new perspective on the world. I didn’t think I would use this term after high school but more and more we’re disregarding the “Dominant Discourse” in search for performances that offer us insight on this discourse from a different angle.

And it is on this point that we get to the crux of what I wish to talk about – a comedy club and the promoter that runs it, and how this room has changed my perspective of comedy.

Heya Comedy Club is a weekly show held at the Heya Bar on Brunswick Street in Brisbane every Wednesday. I jump at every opportunity to perform at the venue, but I also have so much faith in the standard of the show, that watching comedy every Wednesday has become a part of my weekly social calendar. I’m not alone in that either; there is an impressive repeat audience and the venue has gained a reputation both here and with interstate comedians as becoming one of the best comedy nights in Brisbane.

While comedians are often considered “brave” for tackling difficult issues on stage, the burden weighs heavily on the shoulders of a promoter and a venue as well. In fact, it may be said that the burden is heavier on the promoters and those in charge of administration in these shows. Audience numbers and enjoyment, after all, falls more squarely on their shoulders. So I understand why booking acts that are sometimes viewed as ‘weird,’ political or represent minority groups may be something that can be challenging to promote to a new venue and an audience unfamiliar with live comedy.  Club comedy differs greatly from the comedy we see on television in that the experience is much more visceral and varied . Not that challenging is how it should be considering what I’ve detailed before, just the reality.

Kate Rudge runs the Heya Comedy Club and her line-ups are always very diverse, funny and excitingly – thought-provoking. While this sounds like a promo of this club, this is more a celebration and a show of gratitude to those who are seeking out and encouraging new talent and listening to their audiences. Especially in the current landscape of entertainment.

Heya Comedy always has a perfectly balanced ratio of men to women, new comedians to experienced ones and a diverse mix of perspectives and insights. The best part is that it isn’t advertised that way, it isn’t advertised as a socially progressive comedy club – it just is one. It sets the tone for audiences and means tokenism is almost entirely avoided.

Venues and promoters like this deserve to be celebrated. While Heya Comedy is not the only one that exists like this, it springs to mind immediately. The Brisbane Funny Fest needs places like this.

Brisbane Funny Fest has several venues throughout Brisbane and some amazing Indigenous acts too including Matt Ford and David Woodhead who will be performing at different venues. We have some amazing talent in Queensland and if you’re looking for an indie comedy festival with new faces, I highly recommend visiting the Brisbane Funny Fest website and booking tickets!

 

Shows to see!

** See Matt Ford’s show “Pocketful of Rainbows” – 13th August 6pm – Heya Bar
** See Stephanie Tisdell and Ting Lim as “Token Ethnics” – 12th and 13th August 5pm – Heya Bar
** See David Woodhead and James McKenzie “Little Simon and Big Garfunkel” – 7th and 8th August 9pm SBC

 

Australians All Let Us Rejoice: Anthem and Minority

This week, PM Malcolm Turnbull has rejected suggestions to change the National Anthem to be more inclusive and relevant to Indigenous people in Australia. Turnbull did, however, ‘graciously’ allow the new proposed lyrics to be performed as a ‘patriotic’ song at certain events.

Victorian Supreme Court Judge, Peter Vickery, proposed the new lyrics as part of the Recognition in Anthem Project. In Vickery’s version, the line “for we are young and free” would have been changed to “in peace and harmony.” A third verse making reference to Dreamtime and Uluru has also been put forward.

Turnbull based his rejection of the new lyrics when he failed to be convinced that there was enough support from the public.

And herein lies the biggest issue of all. In turning down what is essentially just a symbolic platitude, Turnbull has shown a distinct lack of awareness or courage. Holding our highest level of responsibility and as the representative of our nation, the PM has a responsibility to lead our country and set the tone for what is important and not important. In fact, I’d put the point forward that “a lack of public support” may be one of the main reasons why these changes have to happen.

Things of this nature always incite a particular conundrum in my head. On one hand, as a proud Murri sister, I sigh thinking how unnecessary empty platitudes and hollow rhetoric should be. On the other hand, I see how much these symbolic moves do to get issues into the public consciousness.

The issues us blackfullas are facing these days are due to a generational poverty and disadvantage bestowed upon us through historical trauma. Once a population is marginalized and stripped of pride of culture, has disease, judgement and disadvantage introduced, the effects are passed on. On both sides of the coin – the attitudes are inherited.

The argument against things like changing the anthem or changing Australia Day’s date are usually based around an argument that is “but it’s been this way for so long! Why do we have to change it!” either followed by ignorant comments or an explanation of the supreme difficulty or burden this puts on the public. Which is utter – insert which ever curse word suits you best here.

Opposition to anything that is purely symbolic only goes to highlight exactly where disadvantage in our society lies. In the same way that is a universally accepted fact that if you say “I’m not racist but…” you are about to say something racist – I posit that saying “we already love Aboriginal people – we don’t have to change anything” is code for “put the rug over it! I am full of white guilt!”

It has been a real pleasure to see that our entertainment industries have been embracing Aboriginal culture more and more recently. How lucky we are to have the oldest continuing culture in history being celebrated. Oftentimes, this is how it works though. To shift the public consciousness to a place of empathy rather than apathy, ignorance or guilt, it is usually through art and expression that the seeds are sewn.

If we can shift public attitude and make the public more aware and empathetic (note: different to sympathetic!) and honour and celebrate our amazing culture, then proposals to change the constitution memorandum, the lyrics of a song nobody knows the lyrics to anyway and the shifting a public holiday will be perfect ways to really start a healing process.

Unfortunately, the truth is, making these symbolic changes doesn’t address real concerns in policy. It is a start however.

Aboriginal-Australia

Why Dating Somebody with Asperger’s Syndrome has Been One of the Most Growing Experiences

Welcome to the page! And welcome to this blogpost!

Asperger’s Syndrome is something that gets talked about a lot. In fact, I often exclaim that “that was such an aspie thing to do,” if I feel I’ve been particularly socially awkward (as I generally am) or have made a social faux-pas. It’s frequently diagnosed (possibly over-diagnosed in fact as a means of explaining socially awkward or quirky children) and seems to have a buzz around it at the moment.

We talk a lot about the difficulties of Asperger Syndrome and other Austism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This blog post is to talk about the opposite. This isn’t a plea to explain what Asperger’s means or ask for your understanding. This blog post is about my journey loving a man with Asperger’s and how much the experience has transformed my understanding of social interactions.

asperger_symptoms

I make a lot of jokes about my bizarre communications with my boyfriend on stage and they always get laughs, but I am always very sure to point out that he is the most beautiful person I know. Because he is. And that’s what I’d like to get across about Asperger’s or dating somebody with the disorder. It is a trial of patience, understanding and compromise.

As a recap – those who need some refreshing, I have compiled the below from the leading-expert Attwood.

Asperger’s Symptoms:

  • Delayed social maturity and social reasoning.
  • Difficulty making friends and often teased by other children.
  • Difficulty with the communication and control of emotions.
  • Unusual language abilities that include advanced vocabulary and syntax but delayed conversation skills, unusual prosody and a tendency to be pedantic.
  • A fascination with a topic that is unusual in intensity or focus.
  • An unusual profile of learning abilities.
  • A need for assistance with some self-help and organizational skills.
  • Clumsiness in terms of gait and coordination.
  • Sensitivity to specific sounds, aromas, textures or touch.

I chuckled as I read this list realizing that maybe my Aspie was the most Aspie of all! Every symptom suits my fella to a tee.

I met Josh in a very unusual way, and a way that required me to play the role of chaser as opposed to chasee. He was working at my local Service Station and something about the kindness and gentleness he oozed endeared me immediately. I knew that this person would have stories, insights and perspectives different to others. With the help of my friend, I left him a note with my number detailing how I thought he had very kind eyes and I’d like to create a friendship with him. I urged him to text me if he didn’t think my note was the creepiest thing ever.

To my delight, I received a text from the mysterious servo attendant almost immediately.

We chatted through text and I invited him over for drinks that night. I had no idea he didn’t drink, he was overwhelmed easily by social situations and didn’t finish work until midnight. But he came along after having a cheeky midnight gym session – as you do.

We clicked immediately. I often struggle with small talk and can find group social interactions tiresome if the conversation doesn’t veer into a topic I feel has depth. It’s very frustrating to be my friend for that fact, actually. My social energy levels fluctuate and I can get caught up in concepts rather than being present in the company around me. **Please note: despite my quirks, I am neurotypical; I have the ability to socialize and create small talk – it’s just not my preference. I am an acquired taste, that’s for sure. Depending on who you speak to, I’m either endearing or unendingly annoying. I only mention this because I don’t think it’s appropriate to describe my anxious quirks as Aspergic because it disregards the true difficulty and disadvantage of a social disorder such as AS.

Josh and I talked about concepts, dissected the root of ideologies like racism, explored the merits of hope and religion and reflected on self-reflection! I was smitten immediately.

And so begun the most bizarre and awkward journey of acceptance, patience, tolerance and eventually love.

You see, what I couldn’t move past was the genuine kindness that this man displayed. None of his actions were ever from a place of self-indulgence. While interactions were initially marred by bizarre subject matter or inappropriate remarks, underlying every interaction was the feeling that here was a person who craved understanding, self-growth and had genuine curiosity in the world. And as we move into this new generation where cynicism is often revered and bitterness is often associated with intelligence and ‘truth,’ this new person in my life was fascinating and incredible.

My partner struggles with affection, spontaneity and group socializing; I am unbelievably affectionate, I live for spontaneity and spending time with my friends is probably my favourite hobby. The partnership didn’t seem to match. And yet, it was in these fundamental differences that we connected the most.

Josh, a curious soul who obsessively plans his days, movements, exercise, eating, social and work life was so committed to the idea of self-growth that he saw my characteristics in these ways an opportunity to learn and observe. What some people see as unsurmountable differences, he saw as a fascination, an education and an opportunity to learn. Because he recognized that we could learn from each other and we had curiosity and wonderment in common.

The beginning of the relationship was very difficult. We both entered into the relationship too soon and with a lot of baggage. We also both had walls that many neurotypical relationships had, but with the added difficulty of a disorder that found change, vulnerability and emotions almost intensely overwhelming. Our biggest challenge was affection. I express my gratitude, love and affection through words and gestures. I wanted to see Josh all the time to grow the relationship. But he needed time to warm to me and would often feel frustrated that I felt that having a rule to only catch up once a week or to a schedule was nonsensical and insensitive.

Despite our obvious care for each other, I ended the relationship after about a month of dating. My self-esteem and self-confidence wasn’t high enough to recognize that these frustrations weren’t a sign of a lack of affection and care towards me, but of a brain struggling to deal with new experiences.

However, we couldn’t really keep away from each other. For a disorder that affects social awareness, here was a man wise and perceptive beyond his years. For somebody who struggled with emotions, he picked up on any slight change in tone and body language and could always identify a mental battle in others.

He explained to me that because he struggled with social interactions, he had taught himself to become extra observant and approach situations with compassion first and foremost. Here is a person who truly thinks of others first as his best way to reflect on himself. This is such a rare quality, and one that filled my heart with an affection I’ve rarely felt. I had such unending respect and admiration for those characteristics.

And once I got out of my head and began to attempt to view the world through his eyes, all of a sudden I noticed myself becoming a better person too. Petty frustrations and rash judgements didn’t feel fair when I had now met somebody who had to actively ignore those urges just to function normally through life.

Feeling inadequate but not wanting to stop seeing each other, he said I should date other people to make sure I found an ‘easier’ person to date who could fulfill my needs for things like sleepovers, family dinners and natural obligations you put on a partner. It was a weird time, but I did see a few other people. But they were boring and shallow in comparison and in no time, we found our way back together.

I overcame some of my own demons to admit I had fallen in love with him. It was a situation where I knew I wouldn’t receive the words or the feeling back without more time and trust. But so comfortable I felt, so secure in myself because of this person and the new perspective he gave, that I put my own insecurities aside to tell him he was deserving of my love. He’d had a life marred by bullying, difficult interactions, depression, anxiety and the feeling of being an outcast. And yet, his soul was so pure, his heart so kind that to deny my feelings and to deny him that love would be an injustice.

So there’s our story together. It has been incredibly difficult, requiring extra patience from the both of us – extra understanding, honest and transparent communication. But we took the time to really, really know each other as people and we worked on understanding each other and I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time because of it. There is no superficiality or paltriness to the connection we have as people. We celebrate each other’s successes and allow each other to reflect on situations in depth and detail to overcome the difficult ocean that is humankind and socialization.

This isn’t meant to be a gushy-affection-laiden blog post about how great my boyfriend is (although he is), but an opportunity for you to reassess your preconceived notions on the strength and beauty of somebody who struggles daily with the things we take for granted and appreciate the dazzling goodness of a soul committed only to self-improvement. Never see a social disorder as a reason not to date someone. The reward is worth the work.