March 6, 2023 – Harriet Dyer is also no stranger to confessional comedy: she runs Barking Tales, a night dedicated to mental illness. Her show Trigger Warning and her autobiography Bipolar Comedian explore the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and her subsequent addiction and mental health issues. “You have to make it funny,” she says, “otherwise it’s just a witness statement. You’ve got to remember that it’s a show.” Now Popplewell is working on her debut comedy hour, Actually Actually. It’s about letting go of what other people think of you, a lesson learned in rehab and revisited when a critical comment she made about Love Actually (in which she had a role as a child actor) was picked up by the tabloids, leading to an onslaught of trolling and insults from members of the public. And that’s all interwoven with her knowledge of addiction, which she hopes to show is actually quite relatable.

Popplewell explains that addiction isn’t just about drink and drugs. It also covers things such as OCD, self-harm and eating disorders. “A lot of things we do are addictive,” agrees Hardisty, who uses Silly Boy to analyse his desire to self-harm which he says “goes against logic. We all learn ways of coping – and I learned bad ways.”

And comedians do sometimes forget, says Lulu Popplewell. “They’ll joke, ‘This is basically therapy now!’ And sometimes I’m like, ‘Yeah – stop it!’ That’s not comedy and that’s not fair on the audience.” Popplewell first saw standup as a teenager but it took her many years to try it, partly out of fear but also because of her addictions to alcohol and cocaine. “I told myself I wasn’t going to do it until I was at least one year clean and sober. There’s a rule in 12 Step where you mustn’t date in your first year. I ignored that. But I kept it for starting standup because I felt that was more vulnerable.”


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