“A railway station and a titty bar wrapped in an anus,” is how Felicity Ward describes her hometown of Woy Woy, a small slice of suburbia (pop. 9985) on the Central Coast of New South Wales.

And yet it’s these humble beginnings that set Ward on a path to comedy stardom, her debut stand-up show Ugly As A Child recalling this less than glamorous upbringing with brutally hilarious honesty, and bagging her Best Newcomer at the Melbourne Fringe into the bargain. 

That was back in 2008, and in the five short years since Ward has been decorated and adored the world over, winning accolades and selling out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Sydney and Perth Comedy Festivals and Melbourne International Comedy Festival, to name just a few. She’s also been a regular face on the likes of ABC’s Spicks And Specks and Network Ten’s Good News Week. 


But while it might sound like Ward was blessed with a shortcut to success, truth is it’s been a rough road – a chapter she’s looking to close with a re-run of her most difficult show, The Hedgehog Dilemma, at the Soho Theatre this month, before starting afresh with new material at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

“My last show [Hedgehog] was a bit gut-wrenching because it was based on a time when a lot of things were bad,” Ward tells TNT, her sober confession completely at odds with the assault of animated, ever-so-slightly unhinged energy she thrusts down the phone line.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine Ward as the “sad clown” she’s admitted to feeling like in the past. Around her first Edinburgh Fringe show, one interviewer wrote that she was “as endearingly doolally when in civvies as she is when performing”, and that holds true today, even if Ward insists she’s “chilled out a lot since I first started”. 

If this is Ward at her most mellow, we’re alarmed at the idea of her even more excitable: “When I first did Edinburgh I was crazy!” she yells in her brash Aussie brogue, before half-singing, half-squealing: “I LOST MY MIND!” Nod. Smile. Back away.

Because Hedgehog is rooted in what was a tough time for the comedian, Ward had feared it might be too serious to get laughs. The title itself is hardly the stuff of knee-slapping mirth, referring to the impossibility of human intimacy without causing mutual harm (much as hedgehogs will hurt each other with their spines if they get too close). 

She admits a trial run of the show for friends confirmed her anxieties. “They said the first half, which was full of stories about my drinking problem [Ward is now teetotal], was just too sad.” The solution? Ward converted her sorry tales into a three-minute, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-esque ditty. Much funnier.

In the end, Hedgehog hit a home run. Taking Ward’s experiences of quitting the grog (her drinking was at one time so out of hand, she got a call from TV’s Logie Awards asking that she “pace herself” on the big night), ending an eight-year relationship and starting life “from scratch”, it turned them into something audiences could both relate to and piss themselves laughing at.

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It won her Best Australian Act in Sydney and Perth and she was nominated for Best Comedy at Melbourne and the Adelaide Fringe last year, too. 

“I want to talk about stuff that’s important to me, but I don’t want to preach at people,” Ward explains. “So if I’m as honest as I can be, you’re either going to laugh at me and feel relieved it’s not you, or you might connect with what I’m saying. 

“And that can be something as earnest as, ‘I had a drinking problem’, or as grotesque as the joke I make about going to the beautician and her asking if I want my toes waxed, and me saying, ‘No, stick to the arrangement, a half leg and my arsehole is fine.’ “There are always two women in the audience who laugh a lot louder than they want to at that.”

Perhaps it’s unsurprising Ward has so deftly turned tragedy into comedy – seems she just can’t help being funny. After all, stand-up was never part of the plan. 

“I’d wanted to be a serious actor,” she reveals. “I was a failed actor for a really long time. But since doing my very first stand-up gig [in 2008] I’ve never had to do anything else, which is extraordinary.” 

An example of this natural knack for clowning? “I’ve slipped on a banana peel twice in my life, and no one was there to see it.”

There remains an element of personal struggle in the new show debuting in Edinburgh, Irregardless, which touches on the anxiety attacks Ward suffered after her first Fringe performances in Scotland (she admits to “bawling” in the aftermath of particularly harsh heckles). But it’s not all gags from gloom.“

The themes are: stand-up is a ridiculous job, I had some anxiety and I love junkies,” she decides. “I did previews in Perth a few months ago and it was fucking great. It’s not a strict narrative like Hedgehog, so I was like, oh yeah, this is stand-up, talking to the audience and being a dickhead. Being a nob really is my specialty. A loose-cannon nob.”

Irregardless marks both the end of Ward’s difficult Hedgehog chapter and the beginning of a new one, its more happy-go-lucky vibe coinciding with a decision to settle in London and make a go of it here. 

“I want to get better and be as good as I can be, so it’s exciting being surrounded by the level of competition and opportunity [in London],” she says. “Hopefully I’ll thrive in that environment rather than get sucked under and overwhelmed.”

So long as there are no banana peels lying in wait, we reckon Ward will be standing tall. 

The Hedgehog Dilemma. June 20-22. 
£10+  Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, W1D 3NE  
Tube | Tottenham Court Road  

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More Aussie stand-ups… 

Ronny Chieng: The Ron Way 

Winner of the Best Newcomer award at last year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival, Chieng (right) takes The Ron Way to Edinburgh in August where he makes his Fringe debut, and London soon after.

Condescending and hilarious, Ron has a staggering intellect, and knows it, so he proceeds to batter you and your insignificant-by-comparison IQ over the head to shows why, among other things, being Chinese is really, really cool.  

Soho Theatre, W1D 3NE. August TBC 
Tube | Tottenham Court Road  

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Matt Okine: Being Black & Chicken & S#%t 

Matt has been taking his Being Black… show around the world for the past 12 months, winning himself the joint Best Newcomer award at last year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival.

He’s been slaying crowds with his well-crafted, superbly told stand-up, and tackles the silly as well as the serious. The 2Day FM Comedy God 2004 finalist is one to watch and also makes his Edinburgh Fringe debut in August. 

Soho Theatre, W1D 3NE. August TBC  
Tube | Tottenham Court Road  

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Claudia O’Doherty: Pioneer 

The eccentric and unpredictable Melbournite returns to Edinburgh to dazzle, stun and perplex in equal measure. Last year’s Fringe show The Telescope was a wild concoction of ‘upsetting theatre’ and historical spoofs that took apart theatrical conventions before submitting itself to Claudia’s whim. So who knows where the lass will go this year.  

The Invisible Dot, N1 9BG. 
June 12. £10   
Tube | King’s Cross  

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Benny Boot: As Seen On TV 

He stormed the Altitude Festival last year and has since been hailed by the likes of Andrew Maxwell and Marcus Brigstocke as the next ‘comic’s comic’. He’s taking all this hoopla by staging his very own TV show in Edinburgh this year.

The performances will be filmed, despite the small matter of Benny not actually having a TV show … yet. Catch this one-of-a-kind comedy before he heads north of the border. Crack Comedy Kingston, KT2 5EE.

July 12. £8   
Tube | Kingston  

The Harrison, WC1H 8JF. July 18. £9   
Tube | King’s Cross  

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Jen Carnovale: Is Not A Person 

Despite appearances, the former Triple J host, who was a semi-finalist at last year’s Leicester Square New Act of the Year comp, insists with her new show she’s not a person. Why? You could ask Sam Simmons, in whose Urban Monkey show she’s appeared. Or you could check her out at this year’s Fringe – her third time up north – or at one of her London preview shows.  

Jester Jesters, EC1R 3BL. June 10. Free  
Tube | Farringdon  

The T-Bird, N4 2DX June 28. Free  
Station | Arsenal  


Photos: Mikey Pozarik, Mike Baker Photography, Andrew Cotterill