A stand-up comedian might expect Christian audiences to be more forgiving, but that’s not been Hannah Boland’s experience.
Hannah is a comedian who performs “clean” material for both secular and Christian audiences, but finds the latter group harder to please.
“It’s a lot tougher in the Christian context because people’s definition of what is clean and acceptable is a lot more stringent than it is in the secular industry,” she said.
“The sad truth is that there are so many topics that seem to be completely off limits no matter how well and with whatever good humour you broach them.
“That to me is the real tragedy; that it is so easy to offend people and particularly in the Christian context.”
Although Ms Boland does not swear in her act, she says that the Bible might surprise some in this regard.
“There are many instances of vulgarity and even some swearing in the Bible. If it was any other book it would be banned from many of our Christian bookstores,” she said.
“Vulgarity is actually a very effective tool and it is used time and time again in the Bible and sometimes it is used even in the context of humour.”
Hannah will be appearing in the Squeaky Clean Comedy Roadshow during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
The four comedians and one MC on the program will perform material that is considered clean for an adult general audience, which makes it stand out from the other 500 or so acts being staged for the festival.
“If people get put off going to see a comedy show, particularly at the Comedy Festival, because so much of it is filth, we encourage them to give this one a try,” Hannah said.
“We have very high expectations of the comedians who perform; that there is no swearing of any kind, there is no racism, there’s no vilification or slander, there’s no discrimination.
“It is a real challenge to write clean material because you have to be a lot cleverer, you have to have really good ideas that stand on their own; you can’t rely on throwaway vulgarities to get the laughs.”
The Squeaky Clean Comedy Roadshow is being staged by the non-profit Candlelight Productions company, whose mission statement is to bring “salt and light” to the entertainment industry.
This means treating artists and production crews with “grace, generosity and compassion” in an industry often known for exploitation and abuse, as the #MeToo campaign has highlighted even in the upper echelons of Hollywood.
“The heart of what the company is about is based very much on the Christian ethos,” Hannah said.
“It is very much to put people first. We want to be living examples in an industry that so desperately needs it.”
Hannah said a supportive and positive creative environment was something audiences picked up on.
“One of the comments that comes back is that when they step into the venue, the way they are treated by our team just feels different,” she said.
The Squeaky Clean Comedy Roadshow will support mental health organisation beyondblue.
Show dates and locations:
6 April at Whitehorse Centre, Nunawading
7 April at Mahon Theatre, Ringwood
13 and 14 April at National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne