Justine Sless

Justine Sless

Justine Sless: Is Fearless

Let me count the ways that comedy has shaped my life… I can still recall being a kid maybe six or seven years old at a Shabbat dinner at my aunt’s house. My cousin and uncle were, as always, telling stories, jokes and anecdotes that they knew would make us laugh. Their humour was wry and their delivery was flawless; well-worn jokes told well. I remember that jolt of the hearing everyone laugh, myself included and wondering, ‘how did that happen, we knew what was coming and yet we all still laughed.’ 

I remember clumsily trying to emulate their style and failing. 

I stored that moment away, the feeling of failure at trying to make my family laugh. It was a kernel that would serve me well after I harnessed my fear and did my first comedy gig. It served me well when I started doing gigs in comedy rooms where I was met with such a perplexing sense of hostility and animosity from the all-male line-up. It served me well when I went on to create comedy shows, run the Melbourne Jewish Comedy Festival, teach comedy and to understand where that unbridled hostility came from via a Masters by research in creative writing.

For so many years I felt that I was grappling with a comedic monkey on my back. I really, really wanted to understand how to make people laugh, but fear so often got in the way of my artistic ambitions.

Over time comedy has just become part of who I am. I know how to craft a good joke, to hold the room, to revel in a joke that lands well, to labour for hours over material for a client who has given me a tricky brief.

Over time dealing with fear has also become part of who I am. I know how to recognise the physiological responses I have when fear is coursing through me, I know how to revel in the feeling of fear and controlling it, I know how to accept fear as being comedy’s non-gender specific bed person (as opposed to fellow) 

Over time I have often thought of comedy as an animate being, there to be understood, to be tamed to be enjoyed. And I have often thought of fear in the same way.

It has been over four decades since that moment round the Shabbat table and over that time comedy has shaped my life, but embracing the discomfort of fear, has given all aspects of my world structure and strength.  

For our first event of 2021, our Melbourne producer Justine Sless will be showing us how to harness our fears to actually bring us joy as well as some comedy in the Comedy Workout on 13th January. To book your place click here!

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