Thao Cao talks about her life as a comedian and a refugee for World Refugee Day

Tue, Jun 20 2023
Thao almost died on a bus, almost died on a refugee boat and almost died of embarrassment after drinking seven ciders on an empty stomach. Sydney comedian Thao talks about her work and her life as a refugee.
A comedian stands on the stage with purple stage light in the background.
Tell us about yourself as a Comedian?

As a comedian I am dry, self deprecating and occasionally inappropriate.

You are going to Edinburgh Fringe this year! What are you most excited to share with Edinburgh audiences from your show Marmalade?

Just excited to see how my joke works with an international audience. It’s nice to know whether your jokes can transcend cultures and relate to audiences from different backgrounds and I find Edinburgh audiences are not just locals attending but in most cases it’s people from all over the world.

When did you first realise you had a talent for comedy?

My third grade teacher Mrs Redman predicted I was going to become a math teacher or a comedian. I had no idea what a comedian was at the time and didn’t even realise I was funny. It was also strange that she thought I was funny because I don’t even remember ever cracking any jokes when I was 9 years old. It wasn’t until my 30’s when I joined Toastmasters to overcome a fear of public speaking when it was suggested that I should try open mic comedy that I developed an interest in stand up comedy.

As a Comedian what themes do you most enjoy including in your work? 

I don’t think I make a conscious effort to explore any particular theme. I find a joke comes to my head, or a funny conversation, or something I observed that could be turned into a joke and I just make note of it and see if I can write something funny about it.

How did you arrive at the point where you decided to discuss and reference your lived experience as a refugee within your comedy? 

When I started doing comedy I mainly focused on writing one line jokes and avoided writing anything personal but the last couple of years I wanted to challenge myself and write more personal stories such as the story of me and my family being on a refugee boat. And also explore how I can add elements of humour to what would be considered a heart wrenching story of struggle and adversity.

What does an open access festival like Adelaide Fringe mean to you as a performer?

It means opportunity, it allows many artists like myself to showcase their work to audiences and those in the creative arts. Also a great place to network and meet other artists.

What other projects are you working on as an artist and comedian? 

I’m constantly thinking about new jokes and how to fix some old jokes which hopefully leads to just being better at the craft. I like to continue travelling and seeing where it takes me and what experience comes from that and what jokes can be created from those experiences.

Are you doing anything at Adelaide Fringe in 2024? If so, what can we look forward to?

I would like to bring my show Marmalade back. I didn’t feel like I was there long enough. Towards the last couple of days people started saying they came to the show based on word of mouth, that my show was recommended by a friend and I think if I had done a longer run last year perhaps there would have been a chance to make more of an impact and my show would have reached a bigger audience.
Get tickets to Thao's show Marmalade at Edinburgh Fringe here.