Can comedy help communicate climate change?

By Australian Geographic 14 May 2019
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ASMR, comedy AND climate change? You have to see it to believe it.

MEET ISSY Phillips, a young Australian comedian who believes she can harness the power of comedy to make people listen to the stories of climate change, with the help of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) – sounds that evoke a visceral reaction in people, like fingers scraping down a blackboard.

Last month, at the TedX Youth event Issy performed her new show, Could ASMR be the Answer to Climate Change? She’d been approached by TedX, who were interested in her ASMR work, but she wanted to make the performance meaningful.

“I’m passionate about climate change,” Issy says. “And I thought by framing it as a talk, but making it into a performance, would catch people.”

For her, it was risk. “Whenever I do stand-up or ASMR people are prepared to laugh, but I thought how is this going to go down with an audience that’s ready to have their thoughts ‘disrupted’?

The audience loved it.

“People switch off if it feels too big,” she says. “So picking things that wouldn’t isolate the audience and then presenting them through the lens of ASMR, that’s how I wanted to represent those ecological issues. The way it sounds, the crunching, it gets people.”

Issy’s hoping more comedians catch on. “It’s a part of a broader consciousness of people who know we have to do something and we have to act.

“For me I’m a comedian, so if I can use my tool set to get people to recognise that we have to do something and then they use their tool set, it kind of tumbles.

“We don’t have time to sit on our hands.”

You can see Issy perform at the Sydney Comedy Festival on Wednesday 15 May – 7:00 pm and Friday 17 May – 7:00 pm at the Factory Theatre.