Conversations With… Danielle Walker

When my fiancé and I arrived in Brisbane, we realised that it was Brisbane Comedy Festival and decided to attend. The only issue was that, being from England and not knowing the Australian comedy scene at all, we didn’t really know who was on the lineup. Our scientific method of picking whose show to see was to watch five minutes of their standup on YouTube and pick the one that made us laugh the most – that lead us to Danielle Walker.

Danielle is a comedic storyteller. Her tales may digress and take dark, unexpected turns, but they are always laugh out loud funny and supported by her brilliant illustrations. Her stage persona is bubbly and she giggles along at her own jokes with you. There is something contagious (in a good way) about being in Danielle’s audience and you can’t help but be caught up in her theories of the Loch Ness Monster and her ghost stories.

Danielle originally grew up in Townsville, North Queensland but moved to Melbourne to pursue her career in stand up comedy, a move that has proved successful with Danielle winning ‘Best Newcomer’ at the 2018 Melbourne Comedy Festival as well as being crowned winner of ‘Raw Comedy 2016’. The fame hasn’t gone to her head though, as she was kind enough to answer my Instagram message requesting an interview.

How did you become involved in a career in stand up comedy?

My cousins were the first people to tell me I should do stand up when I was probably around 16. As I grew up, more and more people told me I should do it but I never really considered it. Then I moved to London just after I turned 19 on a 2 year visa and everyone in London seemed to be doing whatever they wanted so when I moved back home to Townsville at 21 I decided I’d do a gig.

What was your first ever gig like?

My first ever gig was at the Herbert Hotel in Townsville. It was great! I did 5 minutes to about 100 or so people. All the other acts on the lineup were doing their first gigs too so it was a really supportive night. I had planned on doing my comedy in a deadpan kind of manner but as soon as I got on stage I was very silly and just myself. I think I’m pretty lucky that I felt comfortable being myself from the first time I did stand up.

It sounds like comedy just comes naturally to you but there must be times where standing in front of an audience is pretty scary! How do you combat pre-gig nerves?

I don’t really do anything to fight nerves or stage fright. I don’t really get them anymore unless I’m doing a big gig or trying out new material, then I probably just don’t eat for a few hours before because I’ll get nervous poos. Mostly if I’m feeling nervous I just go over my material.

Your shows are really creative which really makes you stand out compared to any other comedian I have ever seen. Why do you include illustration in your shows?

Thank you! I think in a very visual way so I want to share what I’m thinking. That’s kind of the gist of all my comedy – ‘this is how my brain works, enjoy!’. Also if I write a funny joke, I can get more laughs out of the joke by thinking of some funny visuals as well. I think the audience enjoy having something to look at every now and again too.

When we saw your show the drawings definitely added extra laughs and helped get certain points across. Are there any jokes that you think are ‘off limits’?

I don’t think any jokes are off limits because of freedom of speech. However, I do think that the audience has every right to not like jokes and to let the comedian know. Also room runners have the right to not book people who might alienate their audience.

Whilst your comedy touches on many broad and sometimes ‘out there’ topics, it also discusses more relatable things like your relationships and people in your life. How do your friends and family feel about being referenced in your routine?

My mum loves it! I think she’s of the mindset ‘any publicity is good publicity’ so she just loves being talked about. My family are pretty laid back so don’t really care at all and so is my boyfriend. Sometimes I just check with him beforehand to make sure he’s okay with a joke. With friends I just usually don’t name them.

Starting out a new career is always scary, never mind one that requires you to stand up in front of huge crowds of strangers. Do you ever doubt yourself and if so, how did you overcome it?

I have self doubt all the time, but I just keep doing what I’m doing and look at my progression. That seems to be enough to keep me going. I think self doubt is healthy. I think if you don’t have self doubt you’re probably a psycho or don’t have self awareness. Obviously crippling self doubt is not good but the way to get through it is to slowly work on what you need to work on (everyone knows what it is they need to work on I think) then look at your progression against yourself.

So far, what has been your career highlight?

This is hard because I’ve had some pretty great opportunities and won awards, but my favourite thing was doing my first solo show at Melbourne International Comedy Festival last year. I had a great time and really enjoyed performing my show.

In a parallel universe where you hadn’t gone into a career in comedy, how do you imagine your life would be now?

Oh I could be happy doing so many things. I’m a pretty content person so I think I’d end up pretty happy no matter what. I think I’d have ended up doing something creative though. I’d be happy being a florist or a baker and cake decorator. I think no matter what I would have done something I enjoyed. I really love comedy but I’d be happy doing so many things. I don’t think there’s just one career path for everyone.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about giving a career in comedy or performing a go?

Just do it! If you’re scared you’ll embarrass yourself then don’t invite anyone you know. Nobody in the audience will remember you in a few hours and you’ll almost certainly never see them again. Who cares what people think? You don’t even know them. Someone in the audience sniffs their own farts, they should be embarrassed not you (unless you’re also a sniffer).

If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?

My mum used to say ‘shit happens then you die’ and I like that. I guess I think nothing matters so if you want to do something do it* you’ll be dead soon.

* as long as it doesn’t hurt other people

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