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


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