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Comedy Fest hot pick: Alice Fraser

Apr 19, 2016 Theatre


Australian comedian Alice Fraser is one of those people who seem to excel at everything. She started doing improv at law school in Sydney, performed with the Footlights (y’know: John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, etcetera) while studying English literature at Cambridge, and then honed her stand-up comedy skills in New York, performing in her dinner breaks while interning at an investment bank.

After returning to Australia and working as a lawyer, she quit the corporate world to work full-time in comedy, in whatever form that takes: stand-up, podcasts, corporate gigs, TED talks, or debating with Julian Assange live at a music festival.

One can’t help but wonder if she’s supremely talented, relentlessly ambitious, or both. “I’m ambitious so far as I want to keep doing this forever,” she says, modestly describing her career as “throwing ideas around”.

“It’s not for everyone. It’s not for people who are interested in knowing what they’re going to come out with when they go in.”

“If I can make a living out of it, I will do everything I humanly can to make that happen.”

Savage, Fraser’s comedy fest show, is a darkly funny performance about her mother dying while she was trying to write a comedy show. The result is a deeply personal dive into love, death, faith, paper towels and self-examination — alternating between traditional, joke-based stand-up and a narrative about her writing those jokes.

“It’s a story that happened in my life at the time I was trying to write the show,” she says. “So it moves between the show that I was trying to write, and the show that I ended up writing.”

So there’s a song which gives dating tips, played “badly” (her word) on a banjo which apparently has a philosophy degree, and an examination of her mother’s long battle with MS; there’s a meditation on how weird teeth are, and a meditation on faith in the face of loss; and there’s a light-hearted exposé of her own insecurities, and a dry examination of the consequences of her existentialism.

Savage earned Fraser rave reviews in Edinburgh last year, where it was described as “devastatingly poignant”, “funny and sad, political and daft, girly and grown up”, a “towering achievement”.

While she describes it as a “universal, human story”, she warns: “It’s not for everyone. It’s not for people who are interested in knowing what they’re going to come out with when they go in.

“It’s not for frightened people.”

Savage, May 3-7, Basement Studio.


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