New Zealander Heidi O’Loughlin’s show A Woman Talking delves into her remarkable ancestry. Not only does it reveal her fascinating family tree but she’s also crammed it full of funnies as well.
She received a Barry Award nomination for Best Newcomer at the Melbourne Fringe and has just finished being tour support for the wonderful Josie Long. She’s about to start her run at the Soho Theatre so we thought we would fire a few questions her way…
You’re about to do you show at the Soho Theatre in London. How are you feeling?
Horny doesn’t even begin to cut it. But on the other hand I feel very excited about the show.
You also recently completed a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. How was that experience?
Edinburgh is amazing. You get to wander around pretending you’re at Hogwarts. And during the Fringe there are heaps of people in weird costumes so it’s easy to keep that fantasy alive. I guess the shows were really good too.
Your show delves into your interesting family history. What inspired you to look back at your ancestry?
It’s hard to do a show about your family ancestry without being too self-indulgent. I always knew I wanted to tell this story someday, which is about an ancestor who got into trouble and stowed away on a ship and sailed from French Polynesia to London. But I knew I had to wait until I was experienced enough to know how to tackle this kind of one-hour show. I also talk about an ancestor who was framed for arson by the French and exiled.
I like to think these stories provide an interesting and relevant insight into a part of history from a place in the world that isn’t very well known over here, which is more important to me than being like “hey look how awesome these people I’m related to but have never actually met are!” – I mean, there’s that too but the first thing makes me seem real humble.
Are there any ancestors you missed out?
Nearly all of them. That’s the thing about ancestors, they go way back. I guess it’s in our nature to focus on ancestors who are seemingly interesting or colourful in the pursuit of believing that in someway it means our dull lives are more compelling than they are. But just because your farmhand great-great-grandfather isn’t famous doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything interesting or important. He probably isn’t an easy source of comedy to research though. Those ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ shows are great in a historical context, but it’s dangerous to think that has a lot to do with the person you are now.
What do your family make of the show?
They haven’t seen it. Namely because I haven’t toured it back home yet but also because I get more nervous performing to people I know, so I’ve never really had my family at any of my shows. In a way it frees me up to say whatever I want about them and also I don’t have to give out comps.
You’ve previously performed in a show called FanFiction Comedy. Can you describe the premise?
It’s a show where me and my talented friends from New Zealand get together and write original Fanfictions but with jokes. FanFiction is basically the most illegal form of literature there is. We also get cool special guests along and we try and create a show that’s different each time. It started out as a gig I invented as a chance to do comedy exclusively about Harry Potter and Doctor Who, and my friends joined in because I told them they were allowed to read off the page. Now it’s turned into something much bigger than we ever imagined, and genuine big comedy names often come and take part now!
What’s the most disturbing fan fiction you’ve come across?
There’s some real weird shit out there. A friend once sent me an Anne Frank / Sonic the Hedgehog mash up he found. I’m not sure if the author thought that Sonic needs more persecution from the Nazis or if Anne Frank should collect gold rings to survive sustaining damage, but I guess the point of FanFiction is that it’s about writing for your own enjoyment.
You started comedy as a teenager. What were your early routines about?
I wouldn’t have said so at the time, but teenagers really don’t have a lot to talk about. I’m pretty sure it was mainly stuff about how I don’t think people should wear fedoras and vaguely ethnic necklaces. I tried to focus on being different more than anything. A year after Michael Jackson died I did a show that was a one hour wake for him. I removed all the chairs from my venue, recruited a 10-piece choir and handed out snacks whilst performing the service to a slightly baffled audience.
How do you feel you’ve developed as a performer since then?
I’ve got better at saying yes to new opportunities and that has resulted in me just getting better as a comedian. This show is not only the first time I’ve properly done an hour of storytelling, but also the first time I’ve really talked honestly and personally on stage. I still want to do all the silly stuff, but it’s been great to push myself to try something different.