"I feel like I’m in a coven of incredible witches," says Felicity Ward about the women comics she's surrounded with in London.
After a slow adjustment, the Aussie standup now feels a deep sense of community in the UK, both personally and professionally. "I’m surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world that are also my friends."
To strengthen that community, a year ago Ward started a WhatsApp group that now has 65 female comics in it, which has become a place "where we workshop ideas" but also "report back experiences too, so there’s that network of support." The group began as a way to ensure diversity on line-ups was maintained if someone was no longer available. "Often we're the only [woman] on the bill. So if you can go back and offer a female comic who's available and who is at a similar level to you, it maintains that community."
Ward's love of the comedy scene in her adopted home is more than only the people she's surrounded by. It's also the benefit of a large population that means more comedy clubs, more gigs, and more opportunities to do what she loves: standup.
Since 2011, Ward’s work has often explored issues around mental illness, especially in her 2015 show What If There Is No Toilet, about anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome. "I had some thoughts about my anxiety and my IBS and maybe I could make [them] funny. What was really terrifying was committing to it, and then figuring out how to make an audience comfortable enough to laugh at your mental health without feeling sorry for you."
Her new show Busting a Nut is "a straight standup show. There’s no sound effects, there’s no story binding it all together, it’s just a well-organised hour of jokes, and hopefully people will find them funny."
The show received standing ovations and was nominated for the Best Comedy Award at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe, reactions that Ward finds hilarious and baffling.
"There’s a one minute performance art bit where I do an impersonation of the funniest fart sound there is," she says. "I don’t know what this says about the award, but I think I’m bringing the tone down."
After years of difficult material, Ward says she finds this return to club material and being silly to be liberating: "It’s the best."