About the author: Lana Hallowes is a freelance writer and mum of two boys, who are growing up much faster than she’d like. She loves writing for Mable and is an advocate for inclusion, being hearing impaired herself and living in a neurodiverse household.
Picture this: Standup comic Madeleine Stewart stands on stage recounting the most common questions she is asked by non-disabled people. “The question I get asked most is ‘What happened to your arm?’”
For those who aren’t yet familiar with Madeleine, an award-winning comic and disability advocate, she was born with one arm. “I used to tell them that,” Madeleine tells the audience at the recently held Are you pulling my leg standup comedy evening in Sydney, presented by Vivid Ideas in association with Accessible Arts and Crips and Creeps, and sponsored by Mable.
“But they would seem disappointed by the ‘boring’ answer as to why I only had one arm, so I started making up reasons for it. ‘Ever seen a nutribullet? That’s why this happened!’ or ‘Oh, shark attack’,” she quips.
The night featured comics Madeleine, Bec Charlwood, Robyn Reynolds, John Robles and Lily Starr and Jamal Abdul.
On a chilly night in June, Madeleine and five other hilarious comedians (who all happen to live with disability or are chronically ill), took to the stage at Vivid Sydney to deliver the show to a packed audience.
The show kicked off with a ‘warm up’ session as Madeleine called it. As one might expect, the sketches featured doses of dark humour, but the theme that rang true throughout the laughs was ‘We are just like you, and we go through life’s ups and downs, just as you do!’ And so you laugh along. Hard. We can’t wait to see these, and other comics, perform again and if you haven’t already, recommend you attend their shows.
We chatted with the comics about their experience of comedy in Australia and why we all need to get behind more events like this one.
What’s to love about Are You Pulling My Leg?
Did you know comedians with disabilities or other challenges don’t always have equal access to gigs? It’s true, no joke there.
This frustrating reality — along with many other hurdles encountered by the group of comics — was one of the big motivators for creating the unique comedy event. “Events like these create a platform for comedians like me who have a disability to discuss life with a disability. There is a lack of representation for comedians with disability and this event combats that,” says Starr.
For Reynolds, the event was a refreshing change. “I love getting booked for a gig because I’ve got an autoimmune disorder! Finally, a sexy little benefit,” she jokes.
For Robles, who lives with ADHD, the event offered a wide variety of unique perspectives on disability that he believes makes the comedians “probably funnier! And I get a paid gig on a Thursday night, so it’s a win-win for everyone (disabled and chronically ill people famously love money)”.
The show celebrated a range of comedic styles. For instance, while Reynolds has been described by an audience member as the ‘Bridget Jones of comedy’ (a badge of honour she’s all too happy to wear), Starr says her humour is more self-deprecating and observational. Charlwood’s is…well, her latest show is called Dirty Girl, so we’ll leave that for you to sum up!
For fun, we asked Robles to tell us how their best mate and former school principal would describe their comedy.
“My best mate would say that my comedy is fine and that I owe them $100 (which is in contention). My formal school principal would be like … who is that?” laughs Robles.
Of course, each comedian also came to the event having done different projects, tours and performed at different comedy festivals. Each has a different public profile and reason for being asked to perform at the event.
Diverse profiles and projects
Award-winning comedian and event MC Stewart, who has performed with the likes of Adam Hills, Rove McManus and Andrew Denton, has also just premiered a short film called Inspire Me at the Sydney Film Festival and has been touring a solo show called, So Brave. In September, her Crips & Creeps accessible comedy nights will be back as part of Sydney Fringe Festival.
“Showcasing a diverse range of comedians in a sexy, inclusive environment,” she tells us, adding all shows are Auslan interpreted and wheelchair accessible.
Starr has recently performed her show, My Naughty Dad which raised money for Motor Neurone Disease and Reynolds has a show called CAKE at the upcoming Sydney Fringe Festival, while
Robles has recently toured his show, Gay as in Happy and Charlwoods show, Dirty Girl is soon to be followed by a live podcast called Ladies’ Guide to Dude Cinema.
There is certainly a lot coming our way!
More events like this, please
While this comedy night has been dubbed ‘unique’, it’s really something we should be seeing more of. You can support each of these talented comics by following them on Instagram and going to their shows. Now that you know them, we’re sure you will! You can also buy tickets to their gigs at festivals and various other events. Follow them at:
Madeleine Stewart: @miss_madi_cakes and @cripsandcreeps
Robyn Reynolds: @robyn_reynolds
John Robles: @thejohnrobles
Lily Starr: @lily.starr.comedy
Bec Charwood: @beclovesfood
Jamal Abdul: @jamaloabdul
We were incredibly pleased to see a fantastic audience at the show. If you’re looking to attend a similar show but need support to get there, remember that you can find an Independent Support Worker through Mable for social support.