Comedian Felicity Ward on public toilets, chicken karaoke and her favourite cricket pundit

By September 16, 2018

Comedy. Leeds.

‘If I’m paying for a toilet, I want music and a door person to open my cubicle’ (Philip Gatward)

Five years ago, Australian stand-up comedian Felicity Ward first rocked up in London, determined to establish herself on the city’s comedy circuit. Despite having already performed in her homeland for several years, in her words, she had to start all over again. Fast forward to today and Felicity has just posted a selfie standing outside her dressing room ahead of an appearance of ‘Live at the Apollo’, proving her hard work is starting to pay off as she takes her appropriately titled ‘Busting a Nut’ show on a nationwide tour, following its rave reviews at this year’s Edinburgh fringe.

Her award-nominated show will be stopping in Yorkshire for a couple of dates, firstly at the Halifax Square Chapel Arts Centre on 7th October, followed by Leeds Wardrobe the night after, with Felicity clearly thrilled with the recognition for ‘Busting a Nut’, confirming, “Absolutely delighted, I’ve been doing stand up for a decade and this year was my eighth Edinburgh.”

Felicity’s material is particularly candid about her ongoing health issues, a recent podcast series ‘Appisodes’, available on BBC iPlayer, features Ward exploring technological solutions to her insomnia, IBS, anxiety and depression, an app at a time, with predictably hilarious results. The IBS episode is particularly funny, Ward’s frustration at our nation’s inability to fathom the concept of clean public toilets all too apparent; “Not even clean, just free,” she rails, continuing, “In London they charge people for public toilets, I used to have a joke about it where I’d say ‘London Kings Cross charges people 50p to use the toilet, but there are two free pianos in the foyer so I’ve been shitting in pianos the whole time’. If I’m paying for a toilet, I want music and a door person to open my cubicle, I cannot believe that even the paid toilets are so disgusting. If you put up with something for long enough you get used to it, like the cost of trains; I can’t believe that everyone just accepts it,” she says. “You can tell I’m a socialist!”

Despite a hectic last 12 months, Ward admits it’s not all been plain sailing during her time in The Old Smoke; hardly easy starting a new life on the other side of the world from your nearest and dearest, any downtime providing ample opportunity to question the wisdom of her chosen career. “I was doing a Guilty Feminist podcast on the night of the [2017] election and the topic was ‘Nevertheless She Persisted’, talking about how you’ve got to keep knocking on doors and eventually someone will answer. I was really at a low point, I’d had a couple of rejections, although I was still getting paid to do stand-up. On the podcast I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do it any more, I don’t know what else I can do, the only thing I’m trained for is making coffee, and I just feel really hopeless.’ Then, I found out I’d been booked for ‘Mock the Week’, my Radio 4 show got the green light about 2 weeks later, followed by the Blaps – the Channel 4 short comedy episodes – a month after that. I flew out to Australia and wrote a sitcom pilot I’m trying to pitch, opened for Katherine Ryan, Maria Bamford, Amy Schumer, recorded my radio show and did other TV stuff; all of which made me realise I should really be saying ‘It’s not working for me’ more often!”

Ward is also currently loved up, having recently tied the knot – increasingly a source of new material. “There’s a bit in the show where I talk about getting married. We were going to play the Jurassic Park theme song once the ceremony was over, my husband loves palaeontology and there’s this other bit about how we went on holiday to the Jurassic coast because he loves dinosaurs. Yesterday we were having a food shop delivered and the Sainsbury’s guy asks if I had kids, as we have some Lego Create the World cards, to which I replied instead, ‘I’ve got an infantile husband.’”

Felicity is unsurprisingly a fan of her national sport, appearing with fellow comedian and cricket fan Andy Zaltzman on The Urnbelievable Ashes Podcast throughout last winter’s Ashes Test Series. “I was trained to like it from when I was a baby. I was indoctrinated, and it’s in my blood. I do understand why people don’t like cricket but I love meeting people who do. I can sit there for five days. I remember on the first day of the second test, I ran a bath, I made a cup of tea and got a little footstool, put that on top of the toilet then my laptop on top of that, and sat in the bath watching the cricket, I started crying because I was so happy; it’s so soothing.” Ward’s favourite cricket pundit is Michael Holding. She explains: “I could listen to him say anything,” adding, “I’m going to let my whole family and friends know, if there’s any bad news, get Michael Holding to deliver it, because I think it will be OK if it’s come from him.”

Felicity is also looking forward to visiting Yorkshire: “There is something cool about Northern cities  there’s an earthiness to the people and also, in cities that have been oppressed, or faced hardship, incredible art emerges from that.” She says she’ll be treating audiences to “an hour of just gags, plus half an hour of me piddling about at the start,” elaborating, “I have to do an hour and a half as I can’t afford a tour support. The one hour is very tightly crafted, non-stop gag after gag, and before that I’ll probably do some chicken karaoke which is a very dumb thing that I do, talk to the audience and maybe try some new material.”

When pressed on the audience’s enduring love of chicken karaoke her response is one of predictable bemusement: “I sort of stopped doing it but people kept asking for it… So humiliating!”