Q&A: Stephanie Tisdell and Ting Lim

Bris Funny Fest is well underway, and with several brilliant female comedians performing in venues all over the city, there’s no reason to miss out. Hot Chicks with Big Brains caught up with two of those brilliant comedians, Stephanie Tisdell and Ting Lim, ahead of their upcoming show, Token Ethnics.

Please can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

Ting Lim: I’m Ting. I’m a programmer by day, and by night I’m a comedian.

Just like a super hero, but instead of saving the world, I put on my crippling neediness and make the world laugh at me for my pleasure.

I am originally from Singapore. I came to Brisbane to pursue a degree in Information Technology at QUT. I only intended to stay in Brisbane for a year to figure out what I was going to do next. I ended up staying for 7 years as an illegal immigrant (JOKES!). I am not as confused as I used to be, I am just more forgetful now!

Stephanie Tisdell: Hey! I’m Steph. I’m a comedian, but what that actually means is that I’m unemployed – or “funemployed” as a friend once more accurately suggested.

I put in the hours of a full-time job, but the pay cheques come much later.

How did you first get into stand up?

TL: My housemates left for Singapore over the summer break. I did not know anyone else then, and ended up spending a lot of time alone. I found it hard to make friends as I have severe social anxiety. I ended up getting depressed as the days went on. It got really bad on Christmas. I was all alone in a foreign country. I started second guessing everything in my life, “What I am doing with my life?” During my meltdown, I started getting angry. I was like, “Why am I feeling sorry for myself? What is wrong with me? Fuck this shit.” And in that moment, I decided to do something crazy and signed up for a comedy course. I honestly wasn’t expecting much but, to my surprise, I had a good set at my graudation ceremony (my first ever gig).

I decided to give comedy a shot. I figured, “Why not?” And within my first year of comedy, I was handpicked to represent Queensland in the RAW Comedy competition.

It was then that I realised I really like doing comedy and have not looked back ever since.

Ting Lim

ST: This is a long story… but to cut it short… I had a bit of an identity crisis halfway through my Law/Journalism degree and couldn’t see myself working in either field. I was lost and confused and suffering some severe anxiety. I decided to throw myself in the deep end and force myself to swim, so I booked return tickets to London for 4 months with just 1 night’s worth of accommodation.

A lot of odd and serendipitous things happened that lead me to end up in Leeds in the middle of the night talking with an Hungarian lady who had lived an incredibly unconventional and amazing life. She said that to live in the present you must say nothing else but “Why Not?!” I got this motto tattooed on my wrist with a snow man.

For the rest of my trip I was a “Why Not Woman” and when I got dared to do comedy, I wasn’t allowed to say no. I walked into a bar in Dublin, improvised a set for about 10 minutes, and caught the bug. I won Deadly Funny at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2014 on my 8th ever gig and realized I wanted to explore it further.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced throughout your careers so far?

TL: I have always been very self conscious of my accent.

I am afraid of being misunderstood or not understood at all while I am on stage. That, and my lack of belief in myself, have been the bane of my comedic journey.

And, similar to Stephanie, I have a serious distain for my “tokenism”. I dislike being the token “Asian” or the “chic” on stage. I just want to be treated as a comedian.

ST: For me, it has been my own mental health struggles and my tendency to self-sabotage.

Also reconciling my disdain for ‘tokenism’ with my overwhelming urge to use the platform to shine light on some issues in my culture.

Stephanie Tisdell

What’s given you the greatest sense of achievement in your career to date?

TL: For me, it was getting off the phone with the Melbourne Comedy Festival director and being told that I was handpicked to represent Queensland in the RAW Comedy Competition.

I was so happy that day, I couldn’t stop smiling and might have freaked a few strangers out while I was in the Ladies.

I would also have to include the Laugh Your Pants Off Gala at Jupiters Casino I did with Rove McManus. It was amazing and incredibly humbling to be on the same line up with him. I loved every minute of it. Don’t get me wrong, I was really nervous beforehand but also extremely excited to be doing a gig with a comedy legend.

ST: I signed with management earlier this month; it made me feel incredible. I also had a 30 minute solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival called Boob-a-rang that had standing room only.

Zoe Coombs-Marr happened to come along and she then generously offered me mentorship. She is one of my idols, and it was an amazing experience.

Also, at the Adelaide Fringe last year I got to perform several times on SetList which was a goal of mine.

Can you tell us a bit about how Token Ethnics came to be?

TL: I was talking to Steph outside Heya Bar (which is where the show is going to be!) after a gig and we hit it off. She mentioned in passing that she was interested in doing a show at the Bris Funny Fest. I really liked the idea she had, and we decided to join forces. That was how the show came about!

ST: I’ve looked up to Ting in the Brisbane comedy scene for a long time. I knew I wanted to do a show that shed some light on tokenism and gave myself an opportunity to talk about my culture.

I also had a think and realized that I can count the Asian comedians I know on one hand and that seemed odd to me.

I love Ting as a person and performer, and asked her if she’d be interested.

What can audiences expect on the night?

TL: A show offering a different perspective on some uncomfortable subjects such as the tainted history of Australia, our personal experiences with racism, mental health issues, and our life as a token. They can expect to laugh and learn at this show.

ST: Dark humour, deep topics, a feeling of white guilt and a lot of eye-opening insight and SO MANY FUCKING LAUGHS. Honestly, we rehearsed together and it’s going to be a riot.

After Token Ethnics, what’s next for you?

TL: I am thinking of doing some tours around Australia, possibly Asia and maybe doing my first solo show at the Adelaide Fringe next year.

ST: A few days after the show, I am going on tour. It’s called “Wander Beyond Blue Yonder” and we’re filming a documentary following our progress. It’s a tour designed to talk about mental illness in rural towns and communities.

Get your tickets to Token Ethnics at Metro Arts on the 13th of August quick – the first show is already sold out!


Answers and Images provided by Ting Lim and Stephanie Tisdell

Featured Image via Facebook

Questions and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

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