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Luke Ryan is a Melbourne-based writer, comedian and two-time cancer survivor. His first book, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo, is a comic memoir about growing up and getting cancer that grew out of his critically acclaimed 2009 Melbourne Comedy Festival show, Luke’s Got Cancer. Inspiring, engaging and with a unique comic edge, Luke brings years of stand-up, storytelling and speechmaking experience to bear on topics as diverse as handling adversity, bullying, discovering perspective, getting the most out of life and finding one’s vocational direction.
I was born in the Perth suburb of Subiaco and lived there until the age of 21, when I decamped to Melbourne. I attended a Catholic school named John XXIII College from Years 1 through to 12 before studying Law-Arts at the University of Western Australia, an institution conveniently located five minutes from the family home, a house I lived in from the moment I was born until the day I moved to Melbourne. In short my upbringing was what you might describe as ‘painfully unremarkable’. Oh, except for getting cancer when I was 11. And 22. That was certainly something.
As someone who took eight-and-a-half years to finish their undergraduate studies (across three universities!), my non-writing, non-comedy resume is depressingly scant. I idled around in bookshops in Perth and Melbourne for a while, did a bit of tutoring and worked a whole bunch of data entry jobs while traveling through the UK. On occasion, the fact I have made it to the age of 29 without having ever held down a real job unnerves me greatly.
Cancer. Comedy. The unexpected point in the Venn diagram where those two things meet. Finding your passion and making something good out of the worst in life. I also write extensively about politics and culture and very much enjoy the experience of being given a topic I know nothing about and transmitting that information in an entertaining, accessible fashion.
Selling out most of my run at my first Comedy Festival with Luke’s Got Cancer. Convincing a reputable publishing house to let me write a funny book about cancer and then actually putting it out into the world. Managing to write a book about my family without offending them. Oh, and winning my Year 12 Chemistry Award. That was definitely a high point.
The power of comedy to render uncomfortable topics accessible. Sharing my story with people in a similar situation, or those otherwise facing difficulty in their lives. Making people laugh and think at the same time. Chow chow puppies.
I have never been able to burp on cue and remain convinced my childhood suffered because of it.
I have had fabulous feedback from the team about Luke’s presentation. His personal experiences and insights really helped to build greater understanding at our end and we very much appreciate his generosity in sharing that which is not necessarily easy to share. Do thank him again from us for making the session such a worthwhile one.