Actor/comedian Andrea Gibbs returns to The Blue Room stage for the second time this year in the WA premiere of Zoe Coombs Marr‘s Sydney Theatre Award-winning show Is This Thing On?, directed by another Zoe, Zoe Pepper. ITTO? tells the story of a comedian named Brianna at five different points in her life. Gibbs, herself also stand-up (among many other credits such as actor, radio presenter, storyteller and one half of the duo behind Barefaced Stories), takes a moment to give us a glimpse into her own life as a comedian and performer.
How did you become involved in this project, and what about it excites you most?
I was in Sydney doing porn (Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography @ Griffin Theatre Company) and the show Is This Thing On? was in development at Belvoir. I didn’t get to see it, but I was at The Sydney Critic’s Theatre Awards when the cast took out best ensemble. I asked Zoe Coombs Marr to email me the script and just loved it so much that I began dreaming of who to get to direct it here in Perth. I think we’ve put together a pretty great team of creative for the premiere of this work in Perth.
How do you tell the Zoes apart?
It’s pretty easy because Coombs Marr is at Edinburgh Fringe Festival [at the time of writing] being the wingman for DAVE who’s doing his show Trigger Warning: 2.
Tell us a bit about the character you’re playing. What are her quirks and charms, her achilles heel, what makes her tick? Do you identify with her?
All of the five actors in the show play the same character, Brianna, just at different stages in her life. She is a stand-up comedian and I get to be her when she’s 34 years old – my age. She’s pushing shit up a hill for a long time in a business that’s hard, especially for gay women. She’s frustrated and definitely not happy with her lot in life. As a female stand-up, I well and truly identify with her. I think she’s where I would have been if I didn’t quit drinking so much booze.
I’m not truly comfortable in any of the hats I wear to be honest. I’m a pretty anxious person. Being in front of people isn’t really that comfortable for me, I think I just hide it really well. One hat I do wear all the time whether playing a character, interviewing someone on radio, hosting Barefaced Stories or teaching is an honesty hat. I actively try my best to bring honesty and authenticity into everything I do. Honesty and few fart jokes.
What do you love and hate about doing comedy? What do you love and hate about playing dramatic roles?
I like the challenge of adopting the character’s sense of what’s funny and what’s tragic. Getting to the bottom and truth of that is a fun thing to explore in rehearsals and onstage. It’s a challenge for an actor because they have to put themselves in the back seat and let the character really take over. With this piece in particular I really want to show Brianna the comedian, not Andrea Gibbs the comedian.
Who are your favourite female comedians in Perth? Who are your favourite female comedians anywhere else in the world (living or dead)?
My favourite Perth ladies are Tor Synder, Famous Sharron, Emily Brennan and although she wouldn’t called herself a comedian she’s bloody funny, Adriane Daff. I love Gilda Radner, Amy Schumer, Anne Edmonds, Hannah Gadsby, Bridget Christie and Zoe Coombs-Marr (of-course).
Are women funny? Why is that even a question?
I feel sorry for anyone that doesn’t know the answer to this. They need to get out more.
Is This Thing On? opens next week at The Blue Room and runs from 20 September to 8 October. For more information and tickets, visit the Blue Room website here.