“The Greta Thunberg of Depression”: Edan McGovern brings the laughs in ‘Ritalin Princess’
McGovern's style of storytelling endears you to her almost immediately. In anticipation of each punchline, she pauses to giggle to herself, meaning that, even in the weakest jokes, the audience is primed to laugh with her.
Edan McGovern is a breath of fresh air on the Sydney comedy scene. While debuting her stand-up show at the Factory Theatre for Sydney Comedy Festival, the 24-year-old explored themes of mental health, grief, and addiction without ever losing levity.
Before the show opens a pre-recorded message from the event organisers reminds audience members that photography and phone use is prohibited. Offstage, McGovern chimes in to tell us to ignore the message, “on the contrary! Who am I if not on your Instagram story?” she asks.
The stage was set with a string of lights interspersed by empty bottles of prescription medication — an apt metaphor for the lightheartedness with which McGovern approaches her subject matter. Indeed, her relationship with mental health provides countless punchlines and framing devices throughout the show.
In one moment she celebrates the social currency that her mental health brings, labelling herself as the Marie Antoinette of inner west house parties. “Let them eat dexies!” she proclaims. In another, she jokes that the trope of mentally ill women being good in bed is true, “they spend 18 hours a day in the damn thing….that’s their home turf!”
McGovern’s style of storytelling endears you to her almost immediately. In anticipation of each punchline, she pauses to giggle to herself, meaning that, even in the weakest jokes, the audience is primed to laugh with her.
The bits are tightly packed so the routine moves with pace, and McGovern’s skill with worldbuilding makes a mid-show segment about her mum confusing a kazoo for a crack pipe feel perfectly placed.
Much of the show follows McGovern’s relationship with her now-deceased father who had his own struggles with addiction and mental health. The picture she paints of him is deeply grounded, both sensitive and funny.
A highlight of the set is the description of McGovern’s bisexual awakening after her dad unwittingly took her to a showing of Black Swan as a child because he knew she liked ballet. “I do like ballet Dad,” she laughs, “and now I like Natalie Portman too.”
At her best, McGovern succeeds in revealing her life story as a housing commission kid turned Mosman local, balancing herself as both an outsider and complacent in the lifestyle of Sydney’s wealthy northern suburbs. By the 30-minute show’s end, the comedian had detailed so much about herself that audience members could be tasked with writing her biography.
This uniquely introspective brand of comedy means that the routine only falters when she deviates into big comedic swings about the culture at large, like an early attempt at a vegan joke which was quickly buried by a return to form seconds later.
This wit and breadth of McGovern’s act is only set to get better with time, I look forward to seeing what she brings next.
Ritalin Princess is on as part of Sydney Comedy Festival until April 30th.