She was the winner of Deadly Funny at the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and now in 2018, Steph Tisdell is presenting her debut show, Identify Steft at this year's festival. Tisdell, who has also been named the Funniest Aboriginal Woman in Australia looks at what 'sorry day' means to her and sharing her thoughts on white guilt and racism However, her show will also delve further into the more personal with Tisdell sharing her own mental health struggles and identity issues.
"Both my awful mental health and my identity crisis were actually what inspired this show. I desperately wanted to know more things about my culture but there were roadblocks everywhere. From every angle," she explains. "I needed to tell MY story. Which is one of feeling pride and fear at the same time. And I know it's one that a lot of Aboriginal people feel, certainly if they're mixed race."
Tisdell was studying law and journalism when she was announced the winner of Deadly Funny in 2014, which she describes as a life changing moment. "It changed everything. I ended up dropping out of school after winning. I wanted to be in Human Rights and Aboriginal advocacy and debunk some myths and then I fell into comedy and it was a platform that suited me much better," Tisdell says. "I realised academia wasn't the place to sell messages because you're preaching to the converted. However, with comedy you can talk without walls or pretences. While every joke in my show has a serious caveat, I like to be conversational and make it feel fun for everyone. Identity Steft is actually entirely conversational and I genuinely encourage people to come along to ask questions."
If winning Deadly Funny wasn't an honour enough, being named the Funniest Aboriginal Woman in Australia must surely have come with some pressure to live up to the title. "I suppose so! I mean, statistically I haven't beat out too many," she laughs. "No, that's awful! But you know what I mean. It's probably the best thing that's been said about me, but I hate that there's so few Aboriginal women in the scene (or men for that matter). I'm happy to wear the tokenism but it shouldn't be the case. My manager said, "it's only tokenism until it isn't." I put A LOT more pressure on myself than any quote could because I care about what I'm talking about."
While it's always challenging to put on a new show for a festival, when it's your debut show there is always that little bit of extra fear of people not connecting with your material, but not so much with Tisdell, who looks at it from a more practical side of being a comedian. "I had a throat issue a few years ago and my voice tires easily. I am very animated and I lose my voice just about every show. It's incredibly difficult. That and self-doubt would be the most challenging aspects."
1. My favourite board game is CLUEDO because IT'S THE FUCKING BEST!
2. Which movie would you like to see turned into a musical and why?
Pan's Labyrinth. It's my favourite movie and it would lend itself well with the deep drama, costumes etc.
3. Which one person would you love to come to your show and why?
My ex-boyfriend (still best friends) because he was a comedian too and he has seen my growth. His feedback would be invaluable because we know each other so well.
4. I will try to keep sane during MICF by having my best friend along for the ride. She's been acting like my producer in Adelaide, she's incredible.
5. Why did the chicken cross the road?
Why can't the chicken do anything without so many questions.
Venue: Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season: 28 March - 8 April | Tues - Sat 8.00pm, Sun 7:00pm
Length: 50 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Tightarse Tuesday and Conc
Bookings: MICF website
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