Where there’s a Wil

By Adam Norris

Following its most successful year ever, the Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival is back! With a lineup stacked with the biggest names in books – and a smattering of famous special guests – the 2023 festival is set to be just as outstanding again.

Among its many headline guests, there is one face that is particularly memorable. Sure, you might best know the renown comic from his record-breaking live shows or multiple television projects.

But as Wil Anderson steps onto the Bellingen stage to share his debut book, “I Am NOT Fine, Thanks”, you’ll find an up-close (and hilarious) version you’ve never seen before.

Just don’t call him a man of many hats…

“I probably won’t be wearing a hat because my high hair is a trademark and I may as well show it off while I still have it,” Wil laughs.

“But to answer your question, I only really have one hat which is ‘comedian’ and that is what I bring to any role I have whether it be stand-up, TV, radio, podcasts or in this case a book. In some ways the book is the easiest of all as you don’t have the audience in front of you letting you know joke by joke if it is any good. If people hate it they can hate it behind my back, and I am fine with that.”

The chances of readers hating what they find in Wil’s manifesto-memoir are slim; notwithstanding the wry humour running throughout, it is a book that deals with the tangle of everyone’s daily life in the shadow of pandemics, extreme weather – even echidna genitalia. A common theme throughout is the importance of community, though Wil’s the first to admit that only gets you so far.

“I try to have hope but it’s pretty hard sometimes. The way we dealt with Covid doesn’t give me a lot of optimism about how we are going to deal with climate change. I assume one day we will just declare that climate change is over, and that we will just need to learn to live with extreme weather. It’s your personal responsibility not to end up with a cow on your roof after a flood.”

Wil isn’t the only comic appearing at the June long weekend festival. It’s a hugely varied program covering a lot of topics, but scattered throughout is a showcase of top-shelf comedians sharing their latest adventures – Tom Ballard, Zoë Coombs Marr, Mark Humphries.

Turns out though, the Great Council of Comedy didn’t pass a vote telling their members to swap comedy galas for writing festivals. In fact, it sounds like there’s no such Council in the first place.

“I enjoy your take on this, but let’s not lie to people: the pandemic happened and we were all broke and none of us have any other life skills that can earn us a living,” Wil quips.

“Actually that’s unfair, I have read Tom’s book which is excellent, and I am sure Mark and Zoe’s [projects] are too. I just know that I personally had no plans to write a book until the ways I normally pay my bills all became superspreader events.”

“If we are looking for comedians to make sense of the world, then the world is in even more trouble than I thought!”

WHAT: Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival
WHERE: Bellingen Showground
WHAT: 9-11 June
INFO: bellingenwritersfestival.com.au

Photo: Wil Anderson