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How does Comedy Facilitate Healing? Dane Simpson

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m Dane Simpson, I live in Wagga Wagga, my mob is from Walgett, NSW on Gamilaraay country. I was born in Bundaberg, in Queensland, that’s my Mum’s mob. I was the host of Deadly Funny this year, in 2021. 

Also - I’ve talked to a few people, and they were very, very impressed by Deadly Funny this year, and it was such a big compliment - it was such a strong competition - it was insane, and we put a lot of work in, and it showed. 

What are your reflections on Deadly Funny?

There are so many incredible performers come through, and I love that it gets to showcase past performers as well, which gives them that opportunity to come back and really shine. I love that about Deadly Funny. 

I lost [my Deadly Funny heat] - and that was a good thing, like it was a good thing in hindsight. , I It was hard at the time, I really wanted to win, obviously, but in hindsight it was great because it gave me a greater insight into wanting to get better at comedy. And I feel like the Melbourne International Comedy Festival also provided me a way to do it. They’ve supported me along the way. 

You tell the Melbourne International Comedy Festival that you really want to do gigs, and you want to do comedy and stuff and they will 100% back you. Deadly Funny in 2015 was just me dipping my toe in. It’s been insane ever since. 

How has comedy helped your growth? And connection to Community?

In 2015, on the night [of the Deadly Funny National Grand Final], we had Archie Roach come to perform, which was absolutely incredible. I didn’t know it at the time, but I helped him into The Forum. His oxygen tank had gotten stuck on the door. I said “are you alright Unc?” and I looked up and it was Archie Roach and I was like “oh my God, you’re incredible”. 

We had the Djuki Mala dancers come as well, and they were incredible people. Baker Boy was a part of that crew as well. We made all these really cool friends. 

Later I went on to do a show with Josh Warrior and Karen Edwards, doing AborigiLOL for the first time, the following year. I remember watching them all from the side of stage and laughing so much, and just barracking for them and wanting them to win. 

I really made solid connections [at my heat] - which is crazy, because they were my competitors! And I’d be like “YEAH that’s great!”. And that is a really cool thing that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival do for Deadly Funny. They don’t create a competitive environment, they nurture it, and then everyone in that circle goes “we’re all here for the same reason, let’s work together, let’s make this show incredible”.

How has it felt to come full circle - from being a Deadly Funny participant to a mentor and host? 

It has been incredible. To go from being a contestant at Deadly Funny, at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, having all this excitement to be on stage and to do these jokes, and to be trying to figure it out, and making all these friends. And then that whole excitement of “this is my first time doing these really big gigs in front of all of these people”, then very few years later, to be hosting the show that I got into comedy with? That’s nuts! 

And to be walking around and have all these new comedians treating me almost exactly like I was treating Kev [Kropinyeri] when I did Deadly Funny, asking all these questions like “what do you think of this? What do you think of that? Is this funny? Is this gonna work?...” And now I’m getting that! And it’s so weird, because back then I was thinking “I don’t want to be annoying Kev” and I was DEFINITELY annoying Kev…

Even when the Deadly Funny contestants were getting photos of me, at first I thought that was just the vibe of the place, and then they say “I’m going to post it on my social media” or whatever, that’s weird. One person wanted me to sign a hat, and I’m like “why?!?”

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

There is something really connecting between the performer and the audience when everyone is Indigenous, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, whatever mob you’re from, you’re connecting to these Black stories. Sometimes you can’t help it, if you’re mob, you’re mob. Like I might tell some jokes and stuff, but I AM Aboriginal, I can’t help it but have that flavour through it, I can’t help but see the world through my own eyes, that’s just how I am. 

And it’s just so cool to have an audience with similar experiences, and I’m telling these yarns and they’re like “yeah, I know what you mean. I’m from that, sort of, culture, from that idea that you’re trying to get across”. And it’s just so cool, and it feels like you’re all in on the joke… It’s that feeling of connection. For example you see a comedian do The Angels’ song “Am I Ever Going to See You Again”. And the crowd start singing “no way, get f**ked, f**k off!”. It’s that same feeling, but for your whole set, because everyone knows where you’re coming from and where you’re going. They’ve grown up the same way, and it’s cool. 

Do you have any advice for people considering entering Deadly Funny, or trying out comedy for the first time? 

For anyone wanting to compete in Deadly Funny, and I say this to absolutely everybody, just be funny, that’s it. There’s no need for anything else. Don’t try to be the most clever person in the entire world, don’t try to be the most shocking comedian you’ve ever met. Don’t try to be anyone else, don’t try to be who you watch on the television. Just be yourself, and be funny, that’s it. There’s a reason why you’re competing, there’s a reason why you’re there. You’ve thought or someone else has thought you’re funny, and there’s nothing more than that. 

Also, for people who are pondering getting into it? Get into it. Absolutely. Jump. Do it. Nothing stopping you from getting involved. All of the bridges are there to help you walk across. Melbourne Comedy Festival will always look after you, the comedians involved will always look after you, and you can always, at the end of the day, just pull out and say “nah, that wasn’t for me, gave it a red hot crack”. Nothing wrong with that either. 

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