O’Loughlin, Fiona. Me of the Never Never
Hachette Australia, $32.99
Read a comedian’s memoir in a café and you may spray your coffee across the table laughing. You may also drip tears into your tea in melancholic moments. It’s the “sad clown” thing: funny people, sad lives.
Fiona O’Loughlin’s life is not sad, but this memoir may still impart tears of joy or sadness. Plod through slow-going chapters of life in a large, rural Catholic family, and you’re rewarded with exhilarating tales of O’Loughlin’s career as a hardworking standup comedian.
The memoir really hits its stride when she moves to Alice Springs, following the dental technician she would later marry and raise five children with. Describing how she sees “the Alice”, O’Loughlin’s vision is 20:20. Raw countryside and racism, transient residents and its oldest inhabitants: she values all, despite baldly stating Alice Springs “has helped me and hindered me, and only ever tenuously felt like home”.
The best paragraphs are funny ones that read like vignettes from her stage show: lines working up to a punchline. Equally enthralling are naked, oft sad, details O’Loughlin shares: temporarily looking after foster children, post-natal depression, a teenage cousin’s death in a road accident. Alcoholism.
As the narrative accelerates, details are shaved with some aspects of a brilliant career reduced to little more than names and places. Her fans may have preferred a little more flesh on these fabulous latter-year bones to the 130-odd pages of rural youth delivered at the outset.
Reviewed September 2011