Reykjavík Fringe Festival is here in full force and one of the most talked about acts is the collaboration between comedians Dan Zerin, Elva Dögg Hafberg Gunnarsdóttir and Hannah Bryndís Proppé Bailey entitled ‘My Voices Have Tourettes’. Dan and Elva Dögg both suffer from Tourettes Syndrome and Hannah from Schizophrenia and the show is a comedic journey through the trials and tribulations of those illnesses.
Hannah only started doing comedy a little more than a year ago but quickly became one of the most talked about acts on the Reykjavík circuit. Her frank, honest, and absolutely hilarious insights into the illness have made her the undisputed champion of many a’comedy night.
We sat down with Hannah for a quick Q&A about her comedy and the show.
So Hannah, you’ve been performing for only a year and yet you’re already having your first big comedy extravaganza, and at Fringe no less! How did you get into doing stand-up?
So I’m 24 and I’ve been dealing with this illness for many years now. I was first diagnosed with Schizophrenia about three to four years ago.
Last year, I started thinking about how everything in my life was so serious all the time—all these doctors visits and therapy—what could I do make it lighter? That’s when I started coming with up comedy bits about my mental illness to educate people on it in a funny way. My older sister Kat McDougal has been doing standup for a while now so she inspired me.
You often talk onstage about the difficulties of dealing with the illness in day to day life. How have you used comedy to help with the ups and downs?
Well, it’s definitely harder to think of comedy when you’re down but the humour spark can spark whenever. When I’m really low, my mind almost shuts down. It’s like I hibernate but when I’m just below the stability line, I sometimes see the irony in things and that can give me ideas.
When I’m up and my paranoia isn’t really bugging me, then that’s when it’s easiest to make jokes and think of the funny sides of my illness.
My first time performing was just over a year ago now. I was so nervous, I thought my legs were going to collapse. But then I got up on stage and told my first joke and the whole room burst out laughing and after that it was just fun.
Just so you know, I got it confirmed that the whole room was laughing to make sure it wasn’t just in my mind.
But now you’ve got this big show. How did it come about?
Well, it was an idea that me, Dan, and Elva worked on together. We wanted to educate people about different illnesses and syndromes such as Tourettes and Schizophrenia. I recall that Dan had the original idea to do a show about Tourettes but then I joined the group and added the voices in to the title because I hear voices. We have been working on it for a couple of months trying to think of the format we wanted and then we decided to just go for it.
Schizophrenia is an issue most people aren’t particularly knowledgable on, but it’s pretty common for those suffering to deal with things like this through humour. What is the funniest thing for you about Schizophrenia? I hope this isn’t a bad question!
Hahaha! Yes that question is fine!
When I look at it from an outside perspective, I’d say one of the funniest things is the paranoia because the paranoia can often be very irrational—well at least that’s what I’m told because to me it can be very real. So I’ll often imagine somebody has put poison in my glass or that I’m not living in this world but actually in an alternative universe. No one has ever poisoned me though. I guess people would say that’s quite funny!
What do you wish people knew about the illness?
I would like people to know that for people with an illness like mine, a task that may seem simple to one person can be 100 times harder for us. We have things that add extra weight on our backs all day everyday whether that is depression, hearing voices, paranoia, anxiety, Tourettes, OCD and more! So what I want people to know and what I want to educate people on is not only about our illnesses but also to be understanding because yes, everyone has troubles but on top of our troubles we are carrying the weight of our illnesses.
Info: ‘My Voices Have Tourettes’ will be playing tonight at 21:10 and Saturday at 21:00 at the Secret Cellar. Tickets are 1,200 ISK online and 1,500 ISK.