Well, I promised you some interviews with faboosh mummies who are chasing – and living – the creative dream, so what the heck? Don’t say I never come through for you!
I’m kicking things off with an interview I did a little while back now, with the amazing woman, comedian and mother-of-five, Fiona O’Loughlin.
This interview was originally for a book I was putting together on mums rocking the world, a project which I am very much hoping will still come to fruition when the time is a-ripe! But I very much want to share it with you now as even today, I find the determination shown within to be mega inspiring!
Now I should tell you that when I first met Fiona, I hadn’t even started contemplating a career in comedy – to think that a few years later I would be her supporting act at the Big Joke Comedy Festival just rocks my world.
At Bangalow Big Joke Festival 2007
She gave me some of the best compliments of my life after that gig, and has continued to be nothing but lovely, approachable and rocking whenever I’ve seen her since. Anyway, I shall stop the gushing before I stain something. And without further ado, introduce you to the wonderful interviewee #1 on the Comic Mummy blog: Fiona!
*Note: this does not imply in any way that her kids were born on the bathroom floor, it just sounds good, okay?
Raising five children, living in Alice Springs and possessing no knowledge of the entertainment industry, didn’t stop Fiona O’Loughlin from achieving her dream as an internationally renowned stand-up comedian. But her path to success wasn’t without its doubts, obstacles and thoughts of giving up.
How it all began
“I wanted to be an actress before I got married, and I was in the mindset that it was a choice, that you either had kids or a career. When I got pregnant I thought “oh well, that dream has to go.” I had three babies in three years, and I just sort of went nuts. Whatever that is inside you that tells you what you’re supposed to be doing, you can’t quiet it: I was amazed at how loud it was! I wasn’t after a work thing, it was to be creative. So I joined an amateur theatre company. We used to put on cabarets every two weeks – I’d be the MC. I’d just felt so dull before that – it helped my sense of happiness enormously. The Arts Minister was in the audience one night and he said “why don’t you apply to my office for a grant to go watch stand-up so you can come back and create stand-up from here?” So I did! I think that was possibly one of the bravest things I did. I left for two or three weeks on this adventure to see stand-up – it was incredible.”
Climbing the road to success
“It took about ten years. After the funded trip, it all just seemed so exciting and yet so inaccessible – I had no clue how I was going to do it. But I was dogged. I used to do the most shameful things – I’d set myself targets, like “I’m not getting off the phone until I’ve got myself on the television today” and it always worked. I would treat it as a fact, like: “I’m going to be on the Bert Newton show” and it wasn’t if I was going to get there, but how. So I did the Bert Newton Show, The Midday Show Hey, Hey It’s Saturday – I did a lot of television, but I didn’t even know what I was doing! I just knew I wanted to become a known stand-up. In the entertainment industry, there’s this big wall which not many people get over, but because I was in Alice Springs I didn’t see the wall so I wasn’t afraid of it.”
“My worst moment was when I died on the Midday Show: I just stared at the camera like a rabbit in headlights. I very rarely cry, but I was so embarrassed I sobbed all the way back. I didn’t intentionally give up, but my feelings were very hurt, and while I was licking my wounds, I inadvertently let things slide. I wasn’t proactive anymore. I had two more babies and tried to make (the urge to perform) go away again, but that didn’t happen. I remember when I knew that it wasn’t going to go away: one night my mother said to me rather snidely “oh but I thought you were going to be a comedian.” I locked myself in the bathroom and for the first time let myself feel how much it hurt to not perform when you wanted to. I lay on the bathroom floor and completely sobbed for three hours.
Then I got up, came out and rang up the local Arts Centre – a 500 seat theatre – and said “I want to book the theatre, I’m doing one-woman show in March”. This was in November and I hadn’t written a word of it! I remember thinking “well, you’d better come up with something or you’re stuffed now!” The show I ended up writing was the same show I took to the Adelaide Fringe, then to the Melbourne Comedy Festival where it won the Barry Award for Best Newcomer, and then to Edinburgh: all of that born on the bathroom floor.”
The defining moment
“A lot of wonderful things have happened, from going to Montreal to hanging out with Eddy Izzard on a rainy afternoon in Edinburgh, but the most beautiful moment was around the time I was writing the one-woman show. I was guest speaker for an Early Childhood Conference in Darwin and it was the first time I started being really honest with my comedy: just speaking of what I knew. It was one of those nights when you go “wow that couldn’t have gone any better”. It wasn’t like getting a standing ovation at the Opera House, but I remember sitting down afterwards, ordering a champagne and toasting myself. That was the last time I felt any doubts about what I was doing.”
Facing the effects on family
“My kids will have memories of an absent mother. It could well happen that it’s all going to come back and hit me in the face but I’m ready for it. If one of them comes back and says to me “you don’t know what it’s like having a mother who was away for a month and then home for two days,” I’m going to say “I’m so sorry, come tell me about it” and just listen. I do know it’s a lot for them sometimes, but on the other hand, they do get to come away on tour with me: I never had those experiences with my mum. I rotate it – they call it “the turn”. And with five kids, having that one-on-one time’s pretty rare anyway. They love it.”
“In the beginning, while Chris (my husband) would look after the kids, he was hopeless with practicalities. None of the kids killed themselves and none of them starved to death, but that was it. It almost felt like a punishment that every time I’d get home the house was like a dumpster and I’d have to clean it up. Nowadays, it’s not like I’ve got cash coming out of my ears, but I do put my money towards hiring an aunt to look after my kids. She flies in when I fly out and keeps the house so clean and ordered – coming back to that it just awesome.”
“In the start (my television gigs) were self-funded expeditions, and Chris was pretty awesome dealing with that, because there were no guarantees that it would work. I remember this accountant said to Chris “Just get it out of your head that Fiona’s going to make any money out of this. It’s never going to happen.” And Chris said, “Well, let’s just think of it as a hobby then. If she was a quilter, we’d have to buy all the quilting stuff!” And I thought that was really cool.”
“It’s his victory as well that I’ve made it.”
Know somebody you’d like to see interviewed on here? Perhaps that person is even YOU! If so, get in touch!