Comedian Felicity Ward talks motherhood and mental health in new stand-up show

Felicity Ward brings her new stand-up show 'She's Back Baby' to Sydney for her return to Australia tour. Photo: supplied.

After three long years, stand-up comedian Felicity Ward is back in Australia to perform her new live show about pregnancy, giving birth and dealing with newborns. She spoke with arts and entertainment editor Tahli Blackman.

“If you’ve got a strong feeling behind anything that happens to you, then there’s a possibility of turning that into something funny.”

So says Felicity Ward – the award-winning comedian, writer, actor, and musician who is set to hit the Sydney stage with some new material. Direct from her very own Amazon Prime UK stand-up special, Felicity Ward brings her new show She’s Back, Baby! to town.

This project was originally planned as three different shows: an hour on pregnancy, an hour on Ward’s birth story and an hour on motherhood. Ward is planning on doing these shows in the future, but for now, she has combined jokes from each of those shows to create an abridged version for this Australian tour.

“I think it’s a really funny show which just happens to be about motherhood and the absolute wildness of it,” Ward tells The Sentinel.

“I don’t think that having kids is the meaning of life and if you don’t want kids that’s probably a great choice. They are hard, expensive, and very loud but giving birth is the most punk thing anyone can ever do,” she reveals.

In 2019, Ward spoke about what it’s like being a pregnant comedian and made fun of motivational quotes on Instagram for the Just For Laughs Festival. Video: Just For Laughs/YouTube.

Writing jokes for stand-up doesn’t always come to comedians easily and often involves a lot of sitting in front of a blank screen. Ward says you’ve got to get through a lot of bad ideas before you get to something funny.

“When you get a full-fledged joke in your head, I call them the comedy gods, it’s like they just deliver something great to you. I sometimes stop my husband when I need to go and write down an idea, I have to be quick otherwise the idea will go away,” she says.

“I used to write individual notes on my phone if I was out and thought of a sketch or joke idea and it never occurred to me to put all my ideas into one note. I can’t tell you how many jokes I’ve lost because I cannot be bothered to scroll back six years on my phone.”

Doing what she does best

Since leaving what was starting to look like an actual summer in the UK for an Aussie winter, Ward has been doing a few small gigs to warm up before the big shows.

When she first started out, Ward had very clear influences. At the age of 10, Ward would watch The Late Show and would imitate what the Working Dog comedians were doing to be funny. Ward is not influenced by the work of other comedians; she just appreciates what they do.

“I was 28 when I started stand-up, which is quite old as lots of kids are starting out as teenagers or in their early 20s. I had left a relationship, stopped drinking and was moved back in with my mum at the time, so I had been through a fair bit before I started, meaning I wasn’t as impressionable,” she reveals.

“When I started to do stand-up someone highlighted Maria Bamford for me and when I watched her stuff I was amazed and thought that’s what I do but perfect. She’s still one of my favourite comics now.”

Felicity Ward performed stand-up for CLOSEUP COMEDY at the Hockley Social Club in Birmingham UK recently. Photo: CLOSEUPCOMEDYUK/Twitter.

There is a change in Ward’s work now when compared to her earlier shows. She feels a better sense of confidence in her writing and sees the stage as a place where it is acceptable to be her crazy, high-energy self.

“I think I just got better because I learned how to edit. The first draft of every joke used to go into my gigs, a lot of it was funny but some of it was terrible,” she quips.

“My writing is a lot better now and I have a lot more material in my shows.”

Ward thinks of herself as a natural extrovert whose energy is recharged by being on stage and being around laughing people.

“I have always been high energy and I may or may not have ADHD, but the stage is a place where I can operate at the same speed as my brain. Stand-up is somewhere where you can be whatever you want as long as it’s funny,” she says.

Talking mental health

Throughout her stand-up career, Ward has spoken about her struggles with mental health on stage and in her Felicity’s Mental Mission documentary. She believes that stand-up is about explaining your point of view on whatever topic and trying to draw from personal experience. She has always shared what’s been going on in her life with her audience, so talking about her mental health was a custom.

Felicity Ward discusses the ups and downs of her mental health in this stand-up comedy performance. Video: ABC TV & iview/YouTube.

“If I’m an expert at having anxiety and depression, which I am no big deal, then I would love to find a way to make jokes about it for people who have it or don’t. The difference is I’m not someone who doesn’t have it, making fun of those who do,” she says.

“I have anxiety and depression and I’m speaking from the inside to other people inside the circle about experiences they can relate to. I don’t care about the stigma, and I don’t feel it’s taboo to talk openly about mental health.”

What’s next for Felicity Ward?

Ward is currently in talks with a few TV networks in Australia to see if any of them will pick up her show ideas. She wishes to peruse more acting after playing a role in Wakefield, a TV drama about mental illness that aired in 2021 but came to a halt due to pandemic-related production issues.

“I’ve been very close to a few parts and I’m waiting to hear back on some more. I love acting and I can’t wait to see what’s next for me on-screen and of course on stage.”

She’s Back, Baby! will be performed on stage in Sydney at 7pm Friday, 1 July at The Comedy Store, Moore Park. For tickets and further details, visit https://www.comedystore.com.au/event/felicity-ward-shes-back-baby/

Tahli Blackman is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

For further news, features, reviews, interviews, opinion, podcasts and more, visit https://sydneysentinel.com.au. You can also like/follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.