You have to hand it to Tommy Dassalo – he set himself a challenge with his comedy festival this year.

At first Dassalo states that his show is about the trials and heartache of a long distance relationship, and it lives up to that. Tommy’s girlfriend moved to Disneyland to sell glowsticks, and this is something that proves quite challenging.

But before you think that it might be a depressing, self involved piece of scrawl better confined to a blogspot, he throws a curveball, delving into the comedy goldmine that is childhood cancer.

You see, Dassalo almost died when he was nine, after a long illness with a rare type of cancer called aplastic anaemia – ‘it sounds like I’m trying to shove a plastic bottle up my arse’ – and now as a kind of therapeutic practice he’s bringing a show based on those hardships to the stage of the comedy festival.

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It takes a special kind of comedian to successfully find the funny side in something so dark, and to some extent Dassalo achieves this. There are some big laughs at the expense of his ‘Make a Wish’ regrets, his childlike take on serious developments at the time, and his parents reaction to the situation. It’s worth pointing out though, that most of these laughs were out of relief.

Dassalo spent the first fifteen minutes getting to that point, wading through seemingly unrelated material of a long distance relationship, his parents selling his childhood home, and his family connection to Vegemite before meandering into the story of childhood illness for the remainder. Once it found its feet, it was a good, solid story, with a scattering of well won laughs.

Tommy Dassalo in Pipsqueak is on at the Vic Hotel, Tuesday – Saturday 6pm, Sunday 5pm, until April 22nd.

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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