Turning dark days into comedy

Three comedians explore how they tackle difficult autobiographical material in their festival shows.

In one of the most influential stand-up shows of the era, Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, the performer explored some of the most harrowing experiences of her life. That show illuminated both the limitations and possibilities of using comedy to convey the impact of trauma and inspired many comedians to create works in this challenging yet potentially rewarding field.

Some of the shows on this year’s fringe festival circuit see performers telling deeply personal stories in a comic setting. Scout Boxall’s Buck Wild, for instance, gives a vivid insight into their life with bipolar disorder. Where their previous work has been mainly character and sketch-based, this show ingeniously uses audiovisual elements and tonal shifts to evoke the bipolar mind.

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Daniel Herborn is a journalist and novelist based in Sydney. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and others. He has also practised law at an Intellectual Property firm specialising in creative industries clients.