Usually, when a show needs to have its entire ending rewritten it would be cause for concern, but for Fiona O'Loughlin's Gap Year, it's very good news indeed. The comedian mines a surprising number of chuckles from what she calls "a pretty rock-bottom year in 2016" after being in a near-fatal coma due to carbon monoxide poisoning, which was indirectly caused by her struggles with alcohol.
"I was kind of on a runaway train and the train crashed and we all survived," says O'Loughlin, laughing. The show was written post-rehab while she was in recovery and needed to be tweaked when the stand-up found salvation in a rather unusual place: reality television. Her stint earlier this year in I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! saw her crowned the winner after 45 days in the South African wilderness.
"Reality TV is a risk in that you have no control over how you are portrayed, but every now and then the stars are all in alignment for everything to go right. I feel like I came out of the jungle and the universe said, 'Would you like your life back?' and I said, 'Yes, please'," says O'Loughlin. "It really is one of the most wonderful periods of my life and I certainly didn't expect that to happen to me."
Her honesty in sharing her battles with alcoholism in her work has seen many reach out to her privately via social media to discuss their own experiences. "Every family knows one of me. Everyone's got that uncle or the mother with the glassy eyes who's not really present. It's certainly not a sexy disease, I wish I'd had a groovier one, but it's the one I've got and I'm more than happy to talk about it."
Gap Year, 8pm, Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville, $36.10, sydneycomedyfest.com.au
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter