Australia's Celia Pacquola started comedy in 2006, winning the prize for best first-time entrant in the Raw Comedy open mic competition at that year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival after only a handful of gigs. The following year she performed as part of the festival's Comedy Zone showcase.
In 2008 she traded in her waitressing career to write for Network Ten's Good News Week, write and perform for The Comedy Hour on ABC radio and broadcast her weekly radio show Red Hot Go on Fox FM.
In 2009, she performed her first solo stand up show Am I Strange? At the 2009 Melbourne International Comedy Festival where she won The Age Critics Award for Best Australian Show. The show then transferred to Edinburgh.
Her follow-up Flying Solos, played the 2010 Melbourneand Edinburgh festivals, after which she moved to the UK.
However, she continues her career in her homeland, too, with one of the main parts in ABC's 2011 series, Laid.
Celia Pacquola Videos
Celia Pacquola: Delayed
Two years ago, Celia Pacquola packed her bags and moved to London to better herself – even though the upheaval would involve trying to maintain a long-distance relationship.
Despite the intense stand-up scene in the UK, her comedy hasn’t come on by any great leaps and bounds from being exposed to it. She was always affable and engaging – a personality which shines through Delayed – and while the show includes some strong routines, it hasn’t quite got the distinctive sparkle that made her previous festival shows such stand-outs.
She says she is going to do the impossible and make stories from an overseas trip interesting – which she does, even if it’s by only loosely sticking to the theme of whether her adventures have made her a better person. She says wanted to change her timid, klutzy yet optimistic persona, without acknowledging it’s quite an adorable combination for a comic to have. To do so would ruin the self-deprecation that’s her strongest weapon.
There are some strong bits of stand-up here; the image of her picking fights with boxes of hair dye is a fantastic one, and she even finds some witty and distinctive material in that hoary old topic of air travel. Ugly dancing is a familiar comedy subject, too, and her demonstrations here are well-observed and physically funny.
Delayed is well-structured, too, with a couple of very nice, unpredictable callbacks and a climax which, although clearly contrived to give a relatively minor showbiz encounter life-affirming consequences, nicely pulls together the ideas she set up earlier.
It’s all very smooth. Perhaps a little too smooth? There seems an astute awareness of all the elements you need for a successful, celebratory show, from making a big cause out of a small act of kindness (high-fiving) to the will-they-won’t-they hook of whether the transcontinental relationship will hold out. Even the delivery is well-measured, such as the way she holds her cheeky smile after a wry line to signpost that’s where the laugh goes.
There’s no sense this is cynical – that would be far out of character for Pacquola’s easy charm and good humour – but the show does fit a template. A little more ambiguity (there is the slenderest of suggestions in Delayed that Pacquola has an inner bitch fighting to get out) and less blatant slickness would work wonders, without spoiling the obvious assets of this charismatic and accomplished comedian.