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Comics' Corner - October 2019

Showcasing Top End comics and local stand up performers.

By Will Crawford

Many of us attend comedy gigs as  a bit of an escape. To have a chuckle, maybe a beer, and to not take life too seriously for just a little bit. But it’s not always light or funny moments that inspire the comedians on stage. I caught up with Leah Potter to chat about what inspired her to get into comedy, and how she turned her darkness into light.

Please note, some readers may find this content confronting.  

So Leah, you co-founded the All The Single Ladies international tour of regional Darwin. What is it and what inspired you to kick it off?
During the 90s, Mayfair Gallery was decked out as a bondage dungeon and I worked there as a dominatrix. This year, I decided to book Mayfair for my own Fringe show – Recollections from the Dungeon – where I told stories from that time with musical intermissions by Gravy Train… We completely sold-out.

Then Amy Hetherington suggested I get together with Gabby Wolfe and Hanada Ghazala, also Raw Comedy finalists, to put on a girl show. We came up with All The Single Ladies and performed it at the Fringe Comedy Garden. It was really well received, so we shopped it around to other venues in Darwin suburbs. It’s been so much fun!

How did you go from being a dominatrix in the 90s to a comedian today?
I’d like to talk about what really led me to stand up comedy but it’s a bit dark.

I was born in Darwin but had a rough childhood and ran away at the age of 13, spending my teenage years on the streets of Melbourne. I came back to Darwin in my 20s and worked in the sex industry. I struggled with complex trauma and social anxiety, and was diagnosed with bi-polar in 2008, so I moved back to Melbourne where I later married and had kids. 

Last year, I returned home to Darwin, leaving an unhappy marriage behind in Melbourne where I’d endured domestic violence for over a decade. It was a really s--t time for me and my kids.

I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. How did you get through it?
When I got home, I concentrated on helping people even worse off than I was. I founded the Sunset Soup Kitchen and spent my days rounding up food, then went out every night to feed Darwin’s homeless people. 

That’s still my favourite thing to do! I feel grateful for every little thing in my life and the soup kitchen is how I pass some of that gratitude on.

So, after everything that happened, how did you find the confidence to get on the stage in the first place?
I was asked to speak about domestic violence and the sex industry for SPUN on International Women’s Day. I really wanted to do it but I was in a dark place with my mental health. So I sought professional help and spent about six weeks working through complex sessions of hypnotherapy and trauma treatment.
 
I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do the International Women’s Day gig but I thought I’d see if I could get up at an open mic competition and entered Raw Comedy. To my shock and surprise, I made it through to the final!
 
And… I did do SPUN for International Women’s Day. Therapy was working.
 
And all of this has happened in a year! Looks like comedy may be your therapy, in a way?
I am still physically sick before every show I perform but I do my breathing exercises and remind myself I know how to do this. I’ve been telling funny stories at my own dinner parties my whole life. It’s the same, just a larger audience – and they’re strangers!
 
Any words you’d like to offer anyone going through tough times?
If you want to do something, but your mental health is holding you back, reach out for professional help. It’s not your fault that you struggle – there is help. 
 
If you don’t get it from the first person you see, don’t be afraid to ask if you can please change to a different one. Sometimes it takes a few tries until you click with the right one.
 
Life is just too short to spend it in the dark.

If this article has raised any issues for you, help is available. headspace | headspace.org.au 1800 RESPECT | 1800respect.org.au Dawn House | dawnhouse.org.au MindSpot | mindspot.org.au

Will Crawford is an up-and-crawling comic. He moonlights as a land rights lawyer and policy activist.

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