GETTING TO KNOW: VANESSA CONLIN

A scientist in a previous life, she has been described as the ‘Darling of Canberra Comedy’. Cheeky and thoughtful, Vanessa is quickly making a name for herself in various comedy circles. Having performed alongside some of Australia’s comedy favourites, including Tom Gleeson, Celia Pacquola, Nick Cody, Jean Kittson and Matt Okine, Vanessa Conlin is one to keep an eye on.

Her first solo show, Vanessa the Undressa set to debut at Canberra Comedy Festival in March 2018, chronicles her efforts as she overcomes heartbreak and preps to compete in a body sculpting competition. Direct from Sydney Fringe and Melbourne International Comedy Festivals… Introducing Vanessa Conlin.

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THE STREET TALKS TO VANESSA BEFORE THE DEBUT OF HER NEW SHOW IN THE CANBERRA COMEDY FESTIVAL – VANESSA THE UNDRESSA – AT THE STREET THEATRE.

WHY COMEDY?

Haha – ‘Why not comedy?’ is possibly the better question.

I just love it. I’ve always had an affinity for stand-up comedy. As a child I would watch the festival galas on the television and think how great it would be to be up on that stage.

Laughter is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and being able to make someone laugh brings me so much joy.

I believe comedy connects people faster, and in more ways than any other form of human interaction. It is also incredibly challenging – I really enjoy that aspect.

Now to make a full time job of it!

YOU HAVE HAD A LONG AND WINDING JOURNEY TO COMEDY FROM SCIENCE GEEK TO ENTREPRENEUR TO FUNNY GIRL. TELL US ABOUT THE TWISTS AND TURNS.

If you told me ten years ago what I would be doing today, I’d laugh.

Hard.

It has been somewhat of a winding journey; and I am nowhere near my destination.. . wherever that may be. I’m more than okay with that.

I like being more than one thing. I love learning, and people fascinate me. My ‘career path’ (science, business, comedy) probably isn’t as unusual as it seems at first glance.

What I have come to learn is that happiness is key. As a mother, all I want is for my child to be happy – it took me a while, but that’s what I realised I should want for myself also.

WHERE DO YOUR STORIES COME FROM?

Most definitely from life – sometimes you just can’t make that stuff up! That being said, as a comic, I do tend to sprinkle a bit of fairy dust on my gear.

There are so many different styles of comedy and performance. You certainly get a look-in to who I am and what makes me tick… But don’t believe everything!

HOW DO YOU TEST YOUR MATERIAL?

Living in a smaller town, the normal avenues to test your material (open mic nights, curated line ups etc.) are few and far between. I have found that I (subconsciously) drop some thoughts and ideas into everyday conversations – if someone laughs I know it’s worth exploring.

Stand up is such a curious artform, but as with anything, the more you engage with it, the better you become. From understanding what is and could be funny, to the writing and performance element. There’s no right or wrong. I love that.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN THE AUDIENCE IS NOT WITH YOU?

You can feel it. And it is devastating. There’s always the challenge to win a crowd back – it happens… sometimes. Often because you’ve lost a crowd before.

In the moment you just want to die, but time passes and you develop as a result. I think you become a better comedian, faster as a result of a bag gig.

The first time I got heckled, I lost my place, my energy, and my crowd. I can handle a heckler now – and it’s actually fun. It’s a confidence thing. Feeling capable is empowering.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN IT’S NOT WORKING?

Cry.

Haha. I’m kidding. If it’s really going nowhere the best thing to do is finish your current joke. Pull out a classic that gets a laugh and get off! Like with most human interactions, a crowd can turn quickly if they think you’re not ‘listening’ to them. You can be forgiven for messing up a joke, if you acknowledge it and move on. The crowd wants to have a good time; they’ve come to be entertained. That’s what I try to do.

YOUR SHOW AT THE STREET IS ABOUT A HEARTBROKEN COMEDIAN PARNERING UP WITH FITNESS PROFESSIONAL TO PREP FOR A BODY SCULPTING. WHAT CAN AUDIENCES EXPECT?

Audiences can expect a story. They can expect an outfit change. They can expect zero advice. They can expect a bit of glitter. They can expect to have fun.

I just turned 33. I’ve been single for a long time and had my first heartbreak just over a year ok. I’m a mother, a deep thinker, and a bit of a loose unit. I think they can expect to relate to something in the show no matter who they are.

YOU WERE THE MC FOR ACT LIKE A LADY, A COMEDY SHOWCASE IN MELBOURNE OF CANBERRA WOMEN COMEDIANS. DO YOU THINK THERE IS A STYLE OF COMEDY EMERGING FROM THE CAPITAL?

I don’t know about style, but I can definitely say the women are killing it in Canberra at the moment  On any given line up, often more than 50% are funny, FUNNY women. There is so much diversity with their individual styles and personalities too. I’m very proud to call myself a Canberra Comedian – the community here is very supportive of their local talent.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

I write a lot and I’ve recently gone back to floristry. Sometimes you can get so stuck in your own head and your creativity becomes stagnant. You need other creative outlets. Writer’s block can be debilitating… and like Tennis Elbow, it sounds like complete rubbish… but the struggle is real. Haha.

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

Reading: I recently went on a rampage whereby I *actually* read all of the books from my high school curriculum. This came off the back of the controversy of Jasper Jones (one of my favourite books by Australian Author Craig Silvery) being included in some school curriculums.

I loved them all – it’s amazing how your perception of a book can change. It’s also incredible how much you can enjoy something when it is no longer a task. I was a good student, but homework was a chore.

Watching: I do enjoy my Netflix every now and again. The last series I watched (read: binged) was The Handmaid’s Tale. I have the book.. I am yet to read it.

I am currently too busy to start a new series. However, my secret vice is reality TV – Married at First Sight is like a cheeky piece of chocolate before bed to me.

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