Em Rusciano is the Evil Queen of 2018’s MICF
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Em Rusciano is the Evil Queen of 2018’s MICF

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Podcaster. Australian Idol. Television and radio raconteur. Comedian, mother and sequined storyteller. Call her what you will, Em Rusciano can now add Evil Queen to her repertoire. It’s a performance that would make Maleficent proud and, much like the classic Disney villain herself, has its roots in personal tragedy.

“It’s pretty morbid, but I’m not afraid of those topics,” Rusciano explains. “At 2am the night before I had to have my baby removed after a miscarriage, I was Googling ‘where should I bury my foetus?’ That’s so dark, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. I was online and felt so alone, and I remember being on forums and realised that there are hundreds of thousands of women who’ve had to Google this thing, and why did I feel so isolated?

“And I realised it’s because we don’t talk about that stuff, even though one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. I think the genesis for the show kind of started then. When I was so caught up in grief and frustration, but knew in the back of my mind that I needed to get these women together, to make them feel less alone.

“I think my job as a comedian is to find the humour in that to soothe the soul. The title came easily, because I’ve always loved the evil queens. I mean, Malificent was a wonderful person until she had her wings hacked off. You can have that one catastrophic event that makes you hate everyone. And I’m camp and like a dramatic sequin and have been called all manner of things. So it was a natural fit.”

It also doesn’t hurt that Rusciano is a natural storyteller, and her ease with keeping conversation sprightly and hilarious is clear. That’s no surprise after honing her skills across radio and television for years, though it was never a path she had intended to take.

“I’m a storytelling comic first and foremost … which probably evolved most fiercely when I was on breakfast radio in Perth. I did Australian Idol in 2005, and was a good enough singer that they asked me to do a radio show. I had never been in a studio, I’d never been into broadcasting. But they realised I had a bit of a knack for storytelling, and I think it was born there!

“I didn’t take up stand-up until I was 33, and that was because I’d been on The Project and Charlie Pickering commented that he thought I was really funny, so I started working on my first stand-up show with no idea what I was doing. I put in some singing, because I knew I was good at that, and that led to my first solo show for a ten-seater in South Melbourne. Some nights there were more people on stage than the crowd, but I had so much fun that I kept growing it, practising, and now I’m playing the Palais! I can’t believe it, so I’m trying to just enjoy it in case it all ends tomorrow.”