Tanyalee Davis expects there to be some shock when she walks on stage, but she also expects you to get over it. Quickly.
Standing at 3’6”, the Canadian comedian, who is in Australia performing her show “Actual Size” at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Sydney Comedy Festival, says that while much of her humour is derived from her height, she wants the audiences to laugh with her rather than feel uncomfortable.
“I get up on stage and talk about all the fun I’m having in my life – sometimes audiences find it hard to believe someone like me is travelling around the world, primarily on my own – they have a hard time wrapping their heads around it,” she said.
“I’m up there talking about how awesome my life is and that makes you uncomfortable?”
Davis, who grew up in Winnipeg, is currently based in the US, and will soon move to the UK, says she finds Australian audiences to be on the more relaxed side.
“I find Australians very similar to Canadians as far as quite welcoming and not so uptight about the little person thing,” she said.
“With Aussie audiences, I always get that initial shock when I walk out on stage, but then they tend to get over it fairly quickly.”
With her comedy being very personal, upfront and honest, Davis gives audiences a humorous look at her life and the challenges and situations it throws at her, while coming from a perspective many wouldn’t have heard or considered before. Having been born with a form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplasia which causes her diminutive height, her show is designed to force audiences to look beyond her condition and see a successful artist and individual.
“People just see the size, but little do they know all the travels I’ve done and the things that I’ve accomplished in my life and that’s one of the things I really like – sort of busting down the barriers and the perceptions with my act,” she said.
“I think with my outgoing personality, no holds barred, nothing holds me back kind of attitude, that really just in general is a good model not just for my little people community but anybody. That’s why when I’m out and travelling to new countries, I always like to do touristy things, and get out and try new things, because I don’t really write material, I live my material.
“If I have more experiences, I have more comedy and more things to talk about on stage and therefore breaking down more barriers.”
Davis says her show is about courage – not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.
“We live in a very vain society and I talk about body image in my show and how people are so insecure,” she said.
“I’m going up there in my push-up bra and shaking my booty, and just saying ‘work with what you’ve got people’.”
While Davis moved from Canada in 1997 and – besides a short stint in Vancouver in 2011 – has lived abroad since, she still considers it her home base.
“I try to get to Canada as often as I can – my Mum and my sister still live there,” she said.
“And I’ve done the Winnipeg Comedy Festival the last couple of years – that’s where I’m from, so it was nice go back to my home city and represent after all my world travels.”
When her Melbourne International Comedy Festival run finishes on April 17, Davis will make her way to Sydney.
“When I first came to Melbourne in 2001, I got some controversy and publicity around the show, but I didn’t have enough material to put on a full show, not as many life experiences as I do now so I think I’m more ready,” she said.
“This’ll be my first time in Sydney doing comedy and I’m really looking forward to that, because I’m doing some pretty high profile shows and I just hope it’ll lead to bigger and better things as well in Australia.”
Tanyalee Davis will be performing at the Sydney Comedy Festival in the Wild Oats Wine Bar at the Enmore Theatre from Thursday April 21 to Sunday April 24. You can find her on Twitter @TanyaleeDavis