From Cubicle To Comedy Club: Comedian Lizzy Hoo Has The Last Laugh

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Humour is, by its very nature, inherently subjective. So how can a comedian put together a stand-up routine that's hilarious and thought-provoking (but not too confronting) and still leave audiences wanting more?
Melbourne-based comedian Lizzy Hoo has often relied on referencing her family in her comedy material, but for latest live show, Lizzy HooWoo Hoo! she is now looking inwards.
"I gave them [my family] a break," Hoo laughs during a Zoom call with Refinery29 Australia. "I turned 40 at the end of the year, so it's [the show] a bit of a reflection on turning 40, through the eyes of a 30-year-old."
Everywhere we look — in pop culture, the beauty industry, the corporate world or family life, women are told ageing is something to fear, that appearing youthful is beautiful, that our 20s are our prime and that we should have our life all sorted out before turning 30. Like many women, Hoo faced somewhat of an identity crisis when she turned 30, but she shares that hitting the 40-year milestone has felt easier, as she's really come into her own.
"I feel like I know who I am and I'm happy with who I am," Hoo says. "I love my job, and I feel like I'm really comfortable in life. But turning 30 was like such a completely different story. I was so confused that I moved to Mongolia for a year to take [time] out, find myself, and do a crazy job. The show is reflecting on that, and ageing."
While material about her family may not make the cut this time around, Hoo still values feedback from her brother, who recently watched her perform at Melbourne Comedy Festival. "He's like, 'It's a coming of age story', and I was like, 'That's exactly what it is'," says Hoo.
Hoo comes across as natural, engaging and undeniably funny on stage, but she only gave comedy a crack when she was 32, and didn't go full-time with it until she quit her day job as an account manager in marketing at the end of 2021. If it weren't for the COVID-19 pandemic, she says she probably would have switched careers earlier.
"For me to quit my job and do comedy full-time, it had to be worth it," she explains. "Because you know, I'm in my late 30s and I'm used to certain things now," she laughs.
Like any job in the public sphere, being a comedian exposes you to greater criticism. Hoo constantly reminds herself that while it can get to you, it's "just one opinion" — from a stranger. Being a female comic poses its own challenges, especially due to the long-standing stigma that female comics aren't as funny as men. But when you add in the experience of being a woman of colour, the adversity is multiplied, with racial microaggressions and stereotyping no anomaly to Hoo. She has previously revealed that she's often mistaken for American comedian Ali Wong, but sadly the misidentification also happens on home soil.
@refinery29au Aussie comedian Lizzy Hoo with a reminder that she’s not Ali Wong #lizzyhoo #sydneycomedyfestival #aliwong #aliwongcomedy #beef #comedy #comedian ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim
"I joined comedy at a really fortunate time when they [the industry] were realising they should be championing new voices — different and diverse voices," she initially says of the progress that's been made. "There's a reason why we see so many women of colour now in comedy, and it's great."
But there are also moments that aren't so uplifting. "I've been speaking to some of the Asian female comedians here, and people are coming up to them going, 'Oh, I loved your set at the gala', and they're like, 'Oh, that wasn't me'," she says.
With Melbourne Comedy Festival coming to a close and Sydney Comedy Festival in May next on her agenda, Hoo's long-term career plans involve taking her sets overseas — and just continuing to make people laugh for a living.
"To keep working, it is one of those industries where you have to keep hustling, putting yourself out there and trying new things," she says.
"So, if I can still do comedy as a job in 10 years' time, I'll be pretty happy."
Lizzy Hoo: Woo Hoo! is at the Factory Theatre during Sydney Comedy Festival from May 10 to May 14.
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