NEXT UP ON this.
Celia Pacquola is a multi-award winning funny person. She got her break writing jokes for Good News Week, and has since made her name acting in Australian TV shows Laid, Offspring, Utopia and Rosehaven. On the international scene, Celia has been a guest on Never Mind The Buzzcocks and The Rob Brydon Show. She even hosted the 2016 Melbourne Comedy Festival Gala in a pair of sparkly boots. But how did she get there?
I had no idea. Not little-to-no idea, but no idea. I had no back-up, like maybe I’ll do teaching or something. All I knew was that I enjoyed theatre, I enjoyed writing, I enjoyed drama, but never really knew I was going to get into the filming and technical side of it too. I didn’t think, ‘I’m going to be an actor’.
I busted my arse to get good marks in high school for no reason, because I did professional writing, drama and media. The best thing I learnt when I got to uni was that high school wasn’t ‘it’. You think that high school is the whole world, then you get to uni, and you go, this is so much better. You’re with people with similar interests, and they haven’t been there through your entire awkward stage. At uni, I met five of my friends, who I’m still really close with today, and we started our own theatre company.
With this theatre company, I wrote and directed a play that was all angsty and meta, about the masks we wear. I wrote it really seriously and I thought I was having brand new thoughts no one else had. The audience laughed the whole way through it, which upset me at the time, but now I actually think it was funny. That was the first experience I had of my work being funny. Then I started dating a comedian and he signed me up for RAW Comedy, which is an open mic competition. It just took off from there.
I don’t have a regular job, everything I do is a ‘one off’. I’m very aware that it can stop at any point. With this career, if you’re making a living from it, that’s all you can ask. I have no option to get a real job, it was waitressing or bust. I’ve tried to branch out as much as possible, in terms of stand up, writing, acting, even directing.
'I don’t have a regular job, everything I do is a ‘one off’. I’m very aware that it can stop at any point. With this career, if you’re making a living from it, that’s all you can ask.'
Former professional writing, drama, and media student at Deakin University
The hardest thing is the instability and not being able to plan. It’s tricky when people ask you if you want to do a gig in a year and a half, but you don’t know if you can commit. It’s an industry where a phone call can change everything. You have to make decisions on the fly, and try to guess what’s going to be a good thing for your career, and what’s not.
I’m always doing something completely different for the first time, but I just do it, because what else are you going to do? For example, hosting the gala was huge and I absolutely felt out of my depth. However, I feel more equipped now as I’ve been doing it for 10 years, so you hope you have more tools, but there’s always the risk.
When I think of jokes it’s about my personal life, and it’s observational. I’ll never sit down and go I’m going to write jokes about dragons. It always comes from something that’s happened, or an opinion that I have. More and more now, I’m starting to have opinions and own them. A rule for me is that I can’t make a joke about a person unless I could say that joke if that person was in the room.
For stand up, RAW Comedy is brilliant. Anyone can sign up, you can invite your friends or not invite anyone if you’re nervous. It’s a professional gig, with a professional MC, a professional audience, and it’s only five minutes. Or just start going to open mic nights. You’ll meet other comics there and they’ll become your best friends. Everyone’s in the same boat. Just do a gig and get it out the way. You’ll either go, why haven’t I been doing this for ages? Or you’ll go, I hated that, I’m never going to do that ever again.
Celia Pacquola studied professional writing, drama, and media at Deakin University.
Photograhpy: Andy Hollingworth
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