‘Rock bottom isn’t rock bottom until you see it that way’ – an interview with Angella Dravid
New Zealand comedian Angella Dravid had a pretty unique reason for getting into stand up: she wanted to tell a story. One story, specifically. Her critically acclaimed show Down the Rabbit Hole is that story, and Dravid has spent years honing her comedy in order to tell it, and tell it well. Her talent, and signature style of elongated awkward comedy, have landed her TV gigs, a film role, and continued stand up success. Dravid kindly answered some of our questions about comedy, internet dating and trying to find catharsis.
In other interviews, you’ve talked about how you felt the need to practice and refine your stand up before you could tell this story. How do you balance a great idea with the need for it to well-presented/good artistry?
This is something I’m still struggling with. I don’t know if I ever feel like something is really finished and refined enough – which means I’m either never satisfied with something, or I’m reluctant to share it with other people. I felt at the beginning that my skill level wasn’t adequate to deal with the story I wanted to tell. I spent a few years doing stand up until I had enough confidence to tell my own story. Deadlines seem to be the only way I get things done.
You’re quite an anxious person, how does that anxiety interact with your stage presence and persona? Has being on stage had any effect on your anxiety in everyday situations?
I have started feeling comfortable with how I make people feel, and I think the difference is that I feel more in control of it. When I started doing comedy, I felt tension go beyond what I could handle. It was the same in everyday situations. I think doing comedy has allowed me to be comfortable with who I am, and I now have friends who like me for who I am, rather than as the entertainment.
You met your ex-husband in a chat room. How do you feel about internet dating in 2018?
The normalisation of dating apps has made meeting strangers less of a stigma, and people take calculated risks and precautions. Technology is going to keep improving – hopefully humans do too.
Sometimes your show has a Q&A section at the end. What’s the weirdest thing anyone has ever asked you?
One guy was a smart ass and asked me how my mum’s pineapple pies were. It was pretty weird. I asked him if his mum made pineapple pies. He said she made trifles, and I replied, “that explains why you’re trifling”. I’m not proud of that.
You ran away from a country town in SA – how does it feel being back in Australia?
It’s a strange experience being back. I remember walking through town thinking, last time I was here, I was a teenager running away.
What advice would you give to young women getting out of difficult relationships, small country towns, or prison?
This is hard because everyone is different, and there’s no real certainty in any situation. The first step is easier if you don’t look back. Hesitation and doubt constantly plague me but I find if I force myself forward, I end up having fun. Also, rock bottom isn’t rock bottom until you see it that way.
Retelling a tragic or dark story, even for comedy, night after night must be pretty draining. What do you do to look after yourself during festival seasons?
Not every night is the cathartic release I’m looking for but I’m at the MICF! Around 2005-2007, Flight of the Conchords appeared on TV in the bail hostel, and I gathered other residents to watch it with me. It was the first time I’d seen NZ comedians on TV in the UK. Last year, I did a few scenes directed by Jermaine Clement. Every day, a loose end gets tied.
You’re also involved with the TV show Jono and Ben. What’s been the strangest thing to come from working there?
I think just working with Jono and Ben, and the team, which encompasses New Zealand’s brightest and funniest comedians is pretty strange and amazing.
Who else are you looking forward to seeing at MICF?
Most of my friends are on at the same time as me so I’m gutted I can’t see their shows! In no particular order:
All the New Zealand acts: Alice Snedden, Paul Williams, James Nokise, Rose Matafeo, Guy Montgomery, Tim Batt; as many internationals as I can, Beth Stelling/Headliners, Alex Edelman, Fern Brady etc etc and Aussie homegrowns: Becky Lucas, Rhys Nicholson, Matt Okine, Sam Campbell, Danielle Walker, Tom Cashman, and Tim Hewitt.
Angella Dravid is performing Down the Rabbit Hole at 8:30pm at the Forum until 22 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets, show details and accessibility information can be found via the MICF website.