Last time I saw her, Felicity Ward was the funny lady off the telly and I was the weird 15-year-old who got her to sign a shoe. Flash forward seven years, and her show ‘What If There’s No Toilet’ is a comedy show based on every one of my anxious self’s thoughts.
In my opinion, there’s a few rules of comedy: one of them is to not make fun of things you don’t know about, be it race, religion, or mental illness. When Felicity started talking about her own experiences with anxiety, pulling out jokes that had me in hysterics and had the strangers next to me shuffling awkwardly, I felt as if I wasn’t alone. I love autobiographical comedy shows (this seems to be most of them nowadays, which is great), and Ward has a special skill of making it feel like she’s baring her soul to the audience, taking us through her experience of falling in love and getting engaged to a younger English gentleman. Herein is the greatest line I’ve ever heard: bloody foreigners, coming over, stealing our knobs.
‘WITNT’ (the acronym doesn’t really work) takes you on a journey through the lighter side of mental illness with some forays into the dark that make the whole thing all the more relatable. Interweaved are the intrusive maternal feelings that come from nieces being born on the other side of the world and making you have feelings, hatred of those freaking ugly hairless cats, the joy of tiny animals wearing tiny backpacks, and the absolute terror of finally getting help.
It’s joy mixed with side splitting laughter mixed with some introspective deep thoughts and, as Ward takes you from her first realisation that just maybe having a repetitive annoying anxious voice singing ‘Eiffel 52’ in her head wasn’t productive in her life, all the way to the current day, with tiny victories all the way.
There’s so much stigma around mental illness, although a lot of it’s shifted in the past few years, but this show has been a wave of relief – sometimes there’s shit that’s just funny, and you don’t have to censor it just because it’s a little taboo or dark. Funny is as funny does, and when it comes to mental illness, sometimes you can just use a bloody good laugh.
Jasmin Ashton is a PR whiz and freelance writer/designer from Melbourne who has a lot of feelings about pretty much everything. Find her at @Jasmanna.
Felicity Ward’s ‘What If There’s No Toilet’ runs 24 March to 17 April at ACMI. The venue is wheelchair accessible.
Check out our guide to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for more great shows.