Melbourne International Comedy Festival acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live. We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' spirit, imagination and rich history of storytelling and humour that is an inspiration to all Australians.

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How does Comedy Facilitate Healing? Bel Mac

I’m a Kukatha / Wirangu / Kaurna / Ngarrindjerri woman from South Australia and I’ve been involved with Deadly Funny a couple of times over the years, I’ve also done Nungar Funny also, coincidentally. So around 2013 I reckon I figured out to be, and 2021. In 2021 I was lucky enough to be called up as a wildcard to come to Melbourne and be a part of the International Comedy Festival. Which was a BLAST. 

Can you tell us about any standout moments from your experiences in Deadly Funny this year?

A highlight and standout for me about Deadly Funny this year was that I was actually moving house and having a rough time, and I get a call from Tom Dickins, saying “you’re the wildcard, what are you doing next week” and I thought “well I’m not moving house, and I could do with a holiday.” So it was fab, what an amazing experience. So that was the initial highlight. 

It then followed on with the amazing, inclusive and supportive community that I found over there, the different characters, the personalities, the stories that came with every comedian, with every producer, with every mentor there was a backstory that I love. I love that kind of thing. 

Learning to feel safe enough in an environment where I could do a dry run, without thinking that I was shame, or looking the fool. It was a very inclusive environment where I did things that I don’t like to do, but it was a safe space where I could, that was a big thing for me. And then the laughs, so many laughs. And it wasn’t people putting on a show to make you laugh, it was just the vibe, the happiness, the inclusivity, the diversity. It didn’t matter what shade of Aboriginal you were. It didn’t matter what age you were. It was just a bunch of really cool people… I got back to me by going to Deadly Funny. 

When I came home, I have a woman that I’ve been working with on productions in Adelaide for years, through Feast, and she saw me, and she said “oh you’ve changed, you’re not the same, Melbourne has done something to you”. And I went “yeah, yeah it did” So that was a very cool thing. 

How can comedy help to facilitate healing, or contribute to healing country? 

I think when it comes to Deadly Funny, and doing stand-up, is that we were all able to take a story of our own diverse lives and our own experiences as Aboriginal and Torres Strafit Islanders, that it allowed to tell a story in an environment where it was ok: Where we could share about ourselves. We could share that piece of our reality that comes from all our experiences as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and it be OK. It be accepted. Whether it be about how you walk, how you play the didge, your aunties, being a mother, evolving as a person yourself, and the rawness that comes from doing comedy. 

It’s very vulnerable to do comedy. You’re really putting yourself out there. It’s not like “I’m doing this music, or I’m doing this play”, it’s like “This. Is. Me. 100% all me.” And you’re putting it out there and you’re able to tell your stories. And that’s what we do as a culture, we’re storytellers. And so to be able to have the contemporary and traditional culture blended in with this magnificent and supportive stage, with likeminded people who have either walked the walk themselves, or respect the walk in itself, you do get a greater sense of “I can breathe now… I can breathe”. And I came back breathing. 

What have you been up to since the Deadly Funny National Grand Final? 

I’ve now been doing radio with (fellow 2020 National Grand Finalist) Christopher Crebbin, every two weeks on Radio Adelaide. And I’m also writing my own show for Feast. It’s insane! At the moment I have the bones. I have a theatre background and a music background. And storytelling. And comedy. And now it’s about putting the meat on those bones.

The NAIDOC 2021 theme – Heal Country! – calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction. We're using this week to amplify the voices of the First Nations voices on the Australian comedy scene and in doing so, asking them how comedy facilitates healing. For more stories, head here.