by Rachael Dexter | @rachdexter64
Comedy with Fiona O’Loughlin is more like a late-night bitch session with your hilarious Aunt, rather than a traditional stand-up show.
She’s warm and wickedly funny, makes digs at her ex-husband and the pretentious woman next door. She’s the cool one that swears like a sailor, sneaks you alcohol and gives you advice about men.
But this time Fiona is going out on a limb with her Melbourne Comedy Festival show, ‘The One Where she Left her Husband and Moved to Melbourne’. The show name is literal. She has recently upheaved her entire life and in this show she puts her dirty laundry out to dry with honesty and humour.
After a public battle with alcoholism, marriage breakdown and a suicide attempt she has risen again on stage like the Lady Lazarus of comedy. And yes she performs just as well -if not better now- being off the grog.
After a bit of a slow start, Fiona found her rhythm telling stories about her tragically banal childhood in Warooka, South Australia. Her most vivid memory was when a fake Santa fell off the back of a ute in the Christmas parade and died.
No joke. She reminds you of a female Dylan Moran -wrestling with her Irish Catholic roots and alcoholism with dark humour. But now in her 50’s Fiona belongs to a unique category of female comedians, like Judith Lucy and Denise Scott, who somehow get funnier as they get older.
Most of Fiona’s show is deeply personal and relates to a friend she met back in her boarding school days; Jasmine Afanis who “had the heart of Mother Teresa and the mouth of Chopper Reid”.
O’Loughlin describes herself as Jasmine’s “pathetic off-sider” in stand-off scenes with the bullies at boarding school, which sound like an episode of Prisoner.
Jasmine is just one several real-life characters which populate Fiona’s hysterical funny and often heart-breaking stories. By the end of the show you’ll know them all by first name; such is her openness to share the intimate parts of her life.
The lady herself is pretty incredible- she’s fostered over 20 children in Alice Springs in addition to her biological 5. But she doesn’t at all fall into wanky preaching, taking the piss out of herself saying she felt “a little bit Geldolf, little bit Bono and little bit Mother Teresa” after her first foster child.
Be warned: Fiona talks about domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness -and she’ll make you laugh about it.
She’s back, she’s dry and she’s funny as ever. Isn’t it time you went to see your Aunt Fiona?
4 and half stars.
Fiona O’Loughlin is performing ‘The One Where She Left her Husband and Moved to Melbourne!‘ at the Arts Centre until April 19. More information is available via the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website.