"I think people are quite afraid to think about heavy things because you worry if you do then it'll slope into absolute despair."
Alice Fraser has just returned to Melbourne from Perth after performing her show Savage at Fringe World 2016, a show she's been touring for three-quarters of a year in festival terms. "It's been really good, it's been one of those rollercoaster shows where I don't think anybody goes to a comedy show thinking that they want to cry but I think people do sometimes when they can think about things in a safe, interesting and engaged way that's funny," she says of the show.
"They can relax a little bit. It doesn't feel dangerous to think about those kind of ideas. I think people are quite afraid to think about heavy things because you worry if you do then it'll slope into absolute despair."
"He'd tap on your window in the middle of the night and pass a carrot through the window before that wasn't allowed."
Savage is an exploration of love, anger and belief. The idea for the show was sparked when Fraser met a true believer. "I had a guy who decided he could tell me something that would fix my problem," she says. "And it made me think why do people do that? Why do you think there's any easy answer? Why do you need there to be an easy answer? And that's the show."
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Fraser's comedy tends to ask questions that audience members may have never asked themselves. Bold and intelligent, she encourages audiences to encounter new ideas — her new show The Resistance is nothing short of that. "I grew up in a very strange house, falling-down mansion block of flats, holes in the floor and cockroaches on the walls, electrical sockets that spontaneously caught fire," she says. "And full of these crazy people.
"My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and she would take in all these strays and all these people who were mad in various ways. They always had these kind of crazy stories and histories. As a kid, they were just these colourful figures in my life — there was the manic depressive gardener who would go downstairs and do landscaping in the middle of the night and you'd wake up in the morning and the garden would have changed and he'd tap on your window in the middle of the night and pass a carrot through the window before that wasn't allowed.
"There was a guy who never went outside, there was a lady who was schizophrenic and she just wrote whole books but she was completely illiterate so she drew what looked like writing for hundreds and hundreds of pages. This is the show that is about their stories. I found out much later that they had really interesting kind of hero stories that happened before this, so it's about that. It's about people's stories and our ideas of people, what happens after the end."
Fraser brings The Resistance to Adelaide Fringe shortly before taking it to MICF and Sydney Comedy Festival. "Then I'll be doing Savage in New Zealand and then taking both of them to Edinburgh and London and I'll do a tour of Scandinavia too," she says. "I hear the audiences don't laugh [in Scandinavia], they just sort of nod... so we'll see," Fraser laughs.