Gosford girl Fiona Cox is hitting the big city with her debut solo show as part of the Sydney Fringe Sideshow. We spoke to Fiona Cox about writing jokes, being cynical and some of her favourite comedians.
You’ve been writing and performing comedy for five years and you’re a two time Raw Comedy State finalist. When did you first become interested in comedy and what was your path to pursuing it as a career?
I used to make a lot of jokes in school. I was actually voted most likely to be a comedian. I always watched comedy and was interested as an audience member, but never really thought about doing it myself until I was almost 30. I thought, I’ll just give it a go, and if I hate it, at least I’ve done it once. But I liked it. I work in the ad industry as a copywriter, which is a very, very fun job but I think I just wanted to cut out the middlemen and do something straight to an audience. When I did Raw Comedy, one of the judges chased me when I was on my way to the car and asked to add me on Facebook. He put me in touch with different bookers around Sydney and that’s how I ended up doing more spots.
After a decade in the ad industry you have “the writing chops to show for it and a good amount of cynicism.” Does cynicism help with writing comedy?
Yeah, I think it does. It gives you a different lens to look at things. Although at the moment, I have noticed that negative or self-deprecating stuff isn’t doing as well and I think it’s just because people need a bit of a break from bad stuff. So, I’ve been trying to throw in a few more positive jokes and put a positive spin on things. I am a pretty dry and sarcastic person in real life.
Your upcoming show on Friday 4 March is called XOXO Gosford Girl: a show about fears and hometowns and trying to get away from both of them. Can you give us a sneak peek into the show and how it first came about?
I started writing it two years ago and then had to shelve it because of COVID. But then I reread and rewrote it because I found I was a different person after two years. Because it’s my debut solo show, you have to give a bit of an introduction to who you are as a person. I don’t think I could do that without explaining growing up in Gosford and what that was like. Not to give too much away, but I go into a bit of personal stuff and how that has affected me and made me make jokes, even when I shouldn’t. I’ve made some jokes about Gosford, but I think it gets a bad rap. I have a bit of a soft spot for Gosford.
Do you have a favourite venue to perform at?
My favourite one actually closed during COVID: the Comedy Lounge in Surry Hills. Now I really enjoy Powerbomb Comedy in Glebe, and The Bat & Ball. There’s smaller rooms where it’s good to try new material and then at the bigger rooms the energy’s much more exciting. It is nice to have a small crowd that you can joke around with a bit more and get to know them as opposed to a big crowd. You could probably gig every night of the week in Sydney if you wanted to. It’s a really welcoming community and people are extremely nice. Which helps when you’re doing something so vulnerable!
Writing and performing are two very different beasts; what do you most enjoy or find challenging about each aspect of stand-up?
The writing process itself can be frustrating, because you start with a jumble of things and you’ve got to work out how the puzzle fits together. It’s often good getting an outsider’s perspective to help put all the bits in the right order and thread everything together. I also have a writer’s group that I meet with every fortnight just to share things that we’ve written. Then you have to just try it and see whether those jokes work in a crowd setting. Which is it is all a daunting process and fun for different reasons. When I first started, I hadn’t really found my people in the scene and it was harder to work in isolation. It’s really nice now having just a handful of people that I can trust, and who know my personality on stage and my tone. It’s like a safety net.
Who are some comedians or storytellers who inspire you? Are there any dream comedians you’d love to work with?
When I was growing up, Seinfeld was my idol. I also really like Tig Notaro, she’s a comedian from the States. She’s really dry as well so I often watch her stuff. Locally, there’s lots of amazing women, like Becky Lucas – she’s one of my favourites.
Covid made it tough for live entertainment everywhere, but now that things are opening up, where would you love to travel in Australia?
For a holiday, I would love to go to the Northern Territory, Western Australia or even Tassie. There’s also some great rooms up in Brisbane, and I would love to perform there. I would eventually like to do the Adelaide Fringe Festival, which I haven’t done. Maybe next year!