Interview: Michelle Brasier

When the stand-up encountered a scammer in the wild, she chose to take the unexpected route. Michelle Brasier tells us why it's worth reframing your priorities in life

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 4 minutes
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Michelle Brasier
Photo by Nick Robertson
Published 30 Jul 2023

In the run up to the Fringe, I’ve found myself uttering the phrase ‘it’s not life or death’. Because it’s true; all the stress that comes with the festivals we all love, and work so hard for, is temporary. And what’s more, it’s cyclical – September comes and all the sins of August are forgotten, before the process begins again. But what if you know you’re not guaranteed that annual cycle? 

"I think having a potentially limited lifespan makes me take more chances," Michelle Brasier tells me from her home in Melbourne. This subject matter is especially poignant for her. We learnt, during last year’s solo show Average Bear, Brasier's moving story about living in the shadows of a hereditary illness. Following the passing of both her father and brother, she has been told she has a 97% chance of developing cancer herself. 

"I'm not afraid of being vulnerable," she says, "I want to try as many things as I can. I want to get over there and share things with people and just enjoy as much time as I have. It's a real gift. I mean, obviously, I'd love to live until I'm very old. But the knowledge that I might not is one of the biggest gifts that I could ever have been handed because it means that my priorities are right there in front of me all the time."

Brasier’s new show Reform is largely about priorities; about choosing to take a different path in a situation and seeing the best in people – even when they don’t necessarily deserve it. "It's all in how you frame," she explains. "This story that I'm bringing to Edinburgh this year is about reframing this guy who scammed me."

Reform is based on a true story. During lockdown, when she attempted to buy a Pilates reformer online, the seller turned out to be a scammer. But Michelle chose not to call the police. Instead she befriended ‘Jacob’ (not his real name) and gave him the opportunity to open up about his life and his decisions. 

"I think that everything that happened to me – that you see in Average Bear – all informs my worldview, and the way I conduct myself. Reform is an example of me living that way that I told you I was going to live. Here's what can happen when you do that. It's kind of a cautionary tale and it's also kind of a fuck it, why not? But it's still comedy as philosophy and true story as comedy."

The show is a joyous and uplifting musical experience. Brasier uses her trademark fusion of comedy and musicality to offer some levity around a tough situation and subject matter that many will find some solace in. "It helps you to connect more," Michelle says when asked why it’s important for her to be able to use her art in this way. "There is a tendency in comedy to not always be vulnerable, because you're making yourself available to be laughed at. But the most special work is when you can still be funny, even though you're being vulnerable, even though you're talking about sad stuff. That's the pinnacle, for me, of what I love seeing and was unlucky enough to have enough heartbreak in my life to talk about the big issues."

Returning to Edinburgh, backed by her partner Tim Lancaster (who also plays Jacob), a full band and some catchy songs, Brasier hopes that Reform will encourage people to take an alternative stance, freeing them from the monotony of the tiny, boring things in life. 

"I hope that people enjoy it and that they feel like their outlook on people has turned a bit for the better. I try to convince people for an hour that we can't categorise people as good or bad and that we are all trying our best even if our best is not that good. And that we should remember that; that it does well to assume the best of people."