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Claudia O’Doherty: bringing the lols back to Oz

Claudia O’Doherty on the webseries that led to Trainwreck and Netflix’s Love, and the Australian show that’s bringing her back home.

Claudia O’Doherty / Photo by Ramona Rosales © augustimage.com (USA) ravenandsnow.com (AUS)

Australian comedian and actor Claudia O’Doherty credits a webseries she made for UK’s Channel 4 for leading to roles in Trainwreck and Love.

O’Doherty had moved to the UK in 2012 and the series, funded through the Comedy Blaps programme, saw her making promotional videos for her family’s (fictional) travel business. It ended up landing on the screen of one Amy Schumer.

“It actually ended up being more useful than anything else would have been – because it was a webseries it went on YouTube, so it meant people in other countries could see it and it was from those that…. Amy Schumer saw it and she DMed me, which was very shocking and exciting,” O’Doherty says.

“And then suddenly I was in Trainwreck… and then that led to my job on Love which led to me moving to America (in 2015).”

And now a new webseries – Sarah’s Channel – is bringing O’Doherty back home for the holidays.

Written and directed by O’Doherty’s old Sydney Uni buddy and theatre playwright Nick Coyle, it follows a beauty vlogger who’s reanimated after an apocalypse.

“I've known Nick through university and we were in a sketch group (called Pig Island) together… And he had told me about this idea about a year ago,” she says.

“I thought it was very funny but it was also incredibly ‘Nick’ where it was a combination of a very grounded idea that's very accessible – like a beauty vlogger – with this bonkers twist, which is that it's set in this dystopian future.”

Coyle sent her a script and O’Doherty filmed the proof-of-concept video that would form part of their successful application to Screen Australia.

“I just filmed it in my bedroom here in Los Angeles and I found as many ointments that I could use. I do find watching those beauty bloggers such a funny combination of incredibly boring, but soothing – you can watch them forever. So it was very fun and also bizarre to be crouching on the floor in my bedroom, making one of those videos.”

Sarah’s Channel also marks Coyle’s first foray into the screen industry after years carving out a name for himself as a writer, director and performer of comedy.

“I'm so excited to be directed by him, but also to see what he does because he loves movies and television, so I have no doubt in mind he's going to be so good at it,” O’Doherty says, adding that there are a lot of benefits to working in the online space.

“You have more control over a webseries because it's a much more direct line between the people making it and the finished project, so you can do what you want… and also there's no limit on length, so if it's going to be at its funniest at five minutes that's how long it can be... you don't have to stretch an idea to half hour if it doesn't warrant that.

“And also Nick's obviously come up with an idea that makes sense for a webseries format because it's sort of parodying something that lives on the web and is short form (already).”

O’Doherty thinks there’s been a shift in terms of Australia’s comedy output since she moved overseas back in 2012 to pursue her comedy career.

“When I left Australia there wasn't really many opportunities in terms of making stuff for TV, or in that kind of world of comedy, but from what I've heard, there is more happening now, and of course I would love to be back there.”

Sarah’s Channel began filming in December 2018, less than two months after O’Doherty filmed a part in Squinters series 2.

“It was exquisitely timed for maximum plane travel,” she laughs. “It was too far before Sarah's Channel to stay in Australia. But very close enough to feel like it was annoying to go on a plane again.”

But it worked out well for Australians, with Sarah’s Channel  and Squinters series 2 both set to release on the ABC next year. Happy 2019, indeed.