Stillbirth isn’t funny. Dead babies are not generally known for their comedic potential outside of punching down cheap ‘edgy’ gags that pretend to push the boundaries but in reality are no more sophisticated than a snickering school child trying to shock their mates. That, or in games where they are literally reduced to all purpose punchline.
While taboos still exist they will always be fodder for cheap gags. But then along came Lou Conran.
“Baby loss is something which so many experience and we need to talk about it, to acknowledge those babies,” she says. “Comedy can make things more accessible. If you can ease people in with a laugh, you can say more. You have them listening.”
Many of us in the club no-one wanted to join work hard to raise awareness. We tell our stories to those that will listen (and even to those that don’t) to try and erase the horrible stigma and harrowing loneliness it brings.
Few of us do it with jokes. Maybe to each other but generally we tell our sad stories sadly. We may edit out the funny moments because it seems obscene that anything could be funny about such soul crushing loss.
“That’s the thing with tragic situations – most of the time they’re fucking hilarious.”
Not for Lou though. She said bollocks to that. She has been telling a sad story with comedy and in doing so raises awareness by opening people up to hearing those stories. By all conventional (i.e. wrong) wisdom the shows should have been empty of all but the most ghoulish but they have been packed. The reviews glow.
“From the excruciating cringe-comedy of her friends’ attempts to cheer her up, to her plan to lighten the mood in an operating theatre by accusing a gynaecologist of fisting her, she finds the belly laughs throughout.
It’s a brave, honest hour that keeps the tears at bay with wicked punchlines. At one point, Conran mentions wanting to challenge taboos around the loss of a child. This show doesn’t so much break those taboos, as smash them into pieces while telling bawdy sex stories, making loud fart noises, and cracking gags about shitting yourself at a funeral. Go prepared – but for God’s sake, go.“
There’s no denying this is a tough topic, but Conran makes it much easier to approach. That is part of the aim, to erode the expectation of silent stoicism among women who’ve experienced such loss. But also she never loses sight of the fact that the primary goal of a Fringe show is to entertain, even if moments of quiet sadness are allowed too.“
We’re told by so many people that our stories are too sad to be told to a wider audience. Lou’s show blows a hole in that argument and goes beyond. I, and so many others, are hugely grateful not only for raising awareness like this but also showing us we can talk of the funny amongst the horror without guilt or shame.
“The tragic event wasn’t funny and never will be, but the events surrounding the build-up, and afterwards were”
It’s not just about raising awareness but also money for baby loss charities like Saying Goodbye. You can donate to help her raise £50,000 here. If you want to know more about her story you should read her excellent blog for the Writer’s Room.