Shining and vibrant
I feel a special connection to Canberra comic hero Frankie McNair. An on-going, increasing shimmer of pride and joy. This is partly due to her dear Mama living just down the corridor from me, where every time we bump into each other, a spirited chat punctuated with smiles occurs celebrating Frankie’s latest triumph.
To whit: she has recently returned from London (yes, England) doing an eight-date run at the prestigious Soho Theatre (“I was reeeeally worried about how things were going to translate,” she reveals of the experience. “But they were vibrant crowds; super up for it and really vocal. It was awesome.”).
This followed Frankie’s TV debut on ABC’s Question Everything, where she frissioned the airwaves alongside luminaries Jan Fran and Wil Anderson (“London was probably more nerve-racking,” she says of the two, “But TV was scary. I learned a lot from that.”)
“A tasting plate of my brain”
And now, whilst simultaneously working on a brand new show for laterz, we can look forward to a Best Of, of sorts, at this month’s Canberra Comedy Festival, serving as a kind of metaphorical underlining and bolding of her strength-to-strength career to date.
“It’s an amalgamation of all of my favourite festival bits,” Frankie says. “A combination of what’s been working in the rooms, but also the things that I really enjoyed doing. It’s a tasting plate of my brain.”
Selecting work of personal enjoyment is important to Frankie.
“I’ve found that every time I’ve had a not-great show, it’s because I haven’t been enjoying myself,” she states. “I have to do what’s fun for me to do. And things that I find funny, not everyone is gonna find that funny. And that’s absolutely fine.”
This sense of enjoyment is a protective wisdom Frankie has honed throughout her career; a mantra that has kept her mental health in check for such aforementioned big moments, as well as serving as a reminder of what’s important.
“I’ve been trying not to have that mentality of worrying about big opportunities,” she says. “I used to have that weight. When I get really focused on it, and put a lot of expectation and pressure on it… It was exhausting.
“It got in the way of just enjoying being in the moment and performing.
“So now I just take the opportunity without any expectation that something will come from it and just enjoy that experience for what it is.”
Frankly good mental health chat
Speaking of enjoyment, there was a time some years ago – when Frankie was still firmly on Canberra terra firma – when our paths crossed in the fated corridor. We had both recently embarked on an abstinence from alcohol, having identified, and subsequently publicly shared, its destructive underbelly. I enquire, from a place of love and understanding, where she sits on it today. What ensued was a healthy mental health chat, and a surprising and delightful McNair project.
“I am drinking again,” Frankie says. “But I feel like I’m more aware of it. It’s not really a big part of my life, whereas once it definitely was.
“I had a few years off. And I’m gently working through why that was. And I’m not sure where I’m gonna land with that; whether I’m going to cut it out again, completely.
“But I know that, mentally, I’m doing a lot better. Being sober, especially in festival environments, does feel a bit hard sometimes.
“I think Australia, especially, has a pretty close relationship with it as well,” she continues. “There are so many people who, when I was taking some time off, reflected on it and realised that they never lived their adult life without alcohol being a part of it.
“Often we create space to ask, why am I doing something? Am I doing it because I want to do it? Or am I doing it because that’s just what’s expected? But for some reason, when it comes to alcohol, we kind of don’t do that.
“And uncomfortability,” Frankie continues, with renewed purpose, when discussing the alluring masking/numbing effects of alcohol, “where it feels gross, is where everything happens. Growth and wisdom rarely comes from feeling great all the time. So if you don’t let yourself feel it, you can’t grow.”
A delightful McNair project.
And it is from this point that a revelation emerges.
“We’re not really taught this,” she says. “I am in the process of trying to get this kid’s book I’ve written published. It’s basically talking about how to process and acknowledge and work through those hard emotions of life. When something bad does happen, how do we deal with it? And how do we process it in a way that is safe and healthy for us?
“I don’t think we’re taught that, so we tend to bottle things up. And then it turns into something else. So it’s about healthy coping mechanisms. It’s a book for kids and adults alike, and maybe it can be my little weird contribution to the world.”
And there you have, in a nutshell, why pride and joy for Frankie beams within me; a good person with a good heart doing great comedy on an increasingly greater stage. I can’t wait to share this article with her Mum.
Anything else to add before we part, Frankie?
“Oh, I don’t know. I just hope everyone is good. I hope everyone is joyful. Everyone is looking after themselves; and being kind.”
Frankie McNair’s comedy hits show Relax Your Knees is at The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre on Monday, 20 March at 8:30pm. Tix are $25 + bf via the venue.