Geraldine Hickey is remarkably relaxed for someone whose industry is facing an existential crisis. The setting helps. We’re in Venus Bay, sitting on the back porch of the house she shares with her partner Cath.
With this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival cancelled, and live gigs impossible for the foreseeable future, Hickey has every reason to be worried. While she’s been able to do plenty of work in isolation, including streaming comedy gigs, and her day job as co-host of 3RRR’s Breakfasters, the cancellation meant a big hit to her income.
Her role on Breakfasters requires her to come up with several segments to chat to her co-hosts about. Without the ability to go anywhere has meant she’s making comedy out of the vanishingly small number of human activities that are still allowed. For example, she found comedy in taking her dog for a walk down a different path.
She makes finding the laughs look easy but, as Hickey says, “It can look easy on the surface, but the ducks are paddling a lot under the water.”
When the Festival was cancelled, Hickey didn’t feel dread, just a degree of relief.
It took being in a relationship for her to admit the impact performing can have.
“I have so much anxiety around that [Comedy Festival] time. I think it’s because I’m now in a relationship. Someone else is there to see the change.”
When it comes to live stand up, Hickey’s genuinely unsure about its future. Not about whether audiences will want to come back. She thinks most people will be keen to get out and about when the gigs start up again.
But will the stand ups want to return?
“I’m worried. I wonder if comedians will come back, that’s my concern. I really like my lifestyle at the moment, and every time there’s a creative thing I have to do, like an online thing, I just get so anxious about it. If I took comedy away then I think a lot of my anxiety would go away.”
Perhaps if more performers were as honest as Hickey is about the toll performing takes, the Federal government would be more inclined to treat the artists like the incredibly hard-working people they are.