From rehab to raw comedy

Comedian Aaron Jelley uses outlandish characters to explore the depths of human weirdness. Photo:...
Comedian Aaron Jelley uses outlandish characters to explore the depths of human weirdness. Photo: Toni Larry
After spending his adult life battling severe alcoholism, Aaron Jelley spent early 2017 in rehab, and the rest of the year making a firm impression in Christchurch’s comedy landscape.

Winning Best Newcomer at the Christchurch Comedy Awards last year, and just recently taking away first place at the South Island RAW Comedy Competition, Jelley now brings his first one-hour solo show, DABDA, to the Dunedin Fringe Festival this March 12th, 13th and 14th at Inch Bar.

The show’s name is taken from an acronym used to define the five common stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Failed careers, failed relationships, failed dreams, everyday disappointments throw us all into spirals of grief and despair- Jelley’s mould-breaking comedic style utilises surreal and outlandish characters to explore each step of this grieving process.

“I guess there’s a bit of me in all of them… maybe some more than I’d like to admit,” says Jelley of his cast of unconventional characters. “Particularly Denial. That guy’s basically just me when I used to drink… he’s disgusting.”

Jelley’s months in rehab served to build a stable foundation for his mental wellbeing, and to regain control in his life. He fast put this new control to use; less than a week after completion of his program he was on stage, embarking upon a comedy career that drew rapt attention from crowds and comedians alike. The 24-year-old comic stands out as a dynamic, unpredictable performer in an already explosive scene, and has quickly earned a reputation as a wildly original, must-see act.

Incorporating elements of improvisation, traditional stand up comedy and music, DABDA bounces around the unspoken, uglier sides of the human experience, and celebrates our capacity to come through the dark times with a smile and an inappropriate joke.

As the Fringe Festival approaches, anticipation is building for the young comedian’s debut hour.

“This will be the one of the best shows of 2018,” writes Cameron McLeod, Christchurch comedian and producer. “If Aaron Jelley is in a show, you go see that show!”

Veteran comic Justin ‘Rusty’ White called DABDA “one of the most hotly awaited shows in this year’s Dunedin Fringe.”

Tickets are available now at Eventfinda.

“It’s worth securing a seat now as I can honestly say he will have you in stitches with his unique, innovative approach to comedy,” writes RAW comedy place winner Ashleigh Blair.

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