Image: Felicity Ward / Steve Ullahorne
How often do you hear of shows about irritable bowel syndrome? It’s not exactly a common plot feature, yet it’s the focus of Felicity Ward’s new show What if there is no toilet?, which is currently playing at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival in Auckland.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to get to know Felicity over the phone, and to ask her about her show. What if there is no toilet? is about her struggle with irritable bowel syndrome, and how she has managed this illness alongside her career as a comedian.
For those who don’t know her, Felicity Ward is multi-award winning Australian stand-up comedian, writer, and actor perhaps best known for her TV appearances on Spicks and Specks, Thank God You’re Here and Good News Week as well as for her work with comedian Heath Franklin (otherwise known as ‘Chopper’), starring alongside him on his popular show Chopper’s Fuckin’ Bingo.
It’s been six years since she last performed in New Zealand, during which time she’s played a number of solo shows all around the globe, and managed to slot in a number of impressive TV performances.
What If There Is No Toilet? was written after her Australian documentary on mental health, Felicity’s Mental Mission, was aired on ABC in 2014. In What If There Is No Toilet? Felicity delves into her depression, anxiety, a lame attempt at self-harm, and her longest running relationship: with the toilet. Her inspiration in creating this show came from her a desire to create good out of a bad situation.
When I asked Felicity about her biggest achievement in life, she described how amazing it felt to create a documentary on mental illness instead of focusing on plain old comedy.
Comedy, however, has played a significant role in her life, and she knew after her very first gig that she wanted to be a comedian. She’s realistic about the comedy road, however, and offered the following advice to young comedians hoping to break in: “Get prepared to become financially unstable! But mostly write as much as you can anywhere you can and gig until you make it.”
I asked Felicity where she gets her material from – “comedy gods” and “the universe” but she mostly finds material from anywhere and everything. Life itself is a form of material, she says. An important part of being a comedian is living in the now, but with society changing so fast, I asked Felicity where she sees comedians further down the line: “Robots have taken over but I’m still paying my bills.”