by Katie Hodgett


This performance at Melbourne’s Fringe Festival showcased the life and times of Luke Ryan, who endured two cancer diagnoses at the ages of 11 and 22, and was subject to a year-long trial of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Perhaps not the traditional prescription, but Luke Ryan and his comedy show, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo provide a stark reminder of comedy’s medicinal properties.


Though a tricky subject, through the medium of humour, Ryan successfully denuded cancer of all its social taboos and tensions. What followed was a brilliantly hilarious hour, with the ebb and flow of light and shade. The audience was taken on the journey through Ryan’s life and the most hilarious aspects of his two rounds of trauma. With a little help from a slideshow montage and some outrageously adorable baby photos, you were enthralled by Ryan’s life and decent into the unimaginable. The audience was regaled with some fantastic anecdotes along the way, ranging from awkward one night stands to the demands on Make-A-Wish-foundation. But if toilet humour and frozen-semen doesn’t tickle your funny, then maybe this one’s not for you.


It seems somewhat insulting to brand this merely a “comedy show,” and such I coin it, comedy-with-substance, because you leave the auditorium with far more than just aching stomach muscles.If this guy can find the humour in two spouts of cancer, then can’t we all find comedy in those darker shades of life? Ryan is a storyteller, a comedian, a survivor and a human all at the same time. His appeal to the audience via the path of laughter rather than sympathy challenges social preconceptions of cancer patients and provides a refreshing lesson on dealing with the inevitable woes of life. If you weren’t warmed by one of the many hilarious anecdotes from Ryan, then you were warmed by the sight of a man who came face to face with cancer, kicked its butt (twice!) and then paraded this victory on stage like some comedic matador. Take that, cancer!


Bravo Ryan.


Catch this one at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, at the Fringe Hub – The Ballroom, Lithuanian Club. For the full program, and more information, visit

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