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Abigoliah Schamaun on the relationship between ADHD and comedy

Abigoliah Schamaun on the relationship between ADHD and comedy

UK-based American comedian Abigoliah Schamaun shares how her ADHD diagnosis has helped change her life and the impact it has on her comedy

How do you think ADHD impacts your comedy? 

ADHD means I have a lack of dopamine in my brain, so people with ADHD often say they're "chasing the dopamine". In other words, by nature, we're thrill seekers. I think that's why I love performing comedy so much; there's no better dopamine release than performing in front of a crowd and absolutely storming it. It's all about being in the moment, which is where ADHD people thrive.

I think what makes me a great comedian (if I may be so bold as to call myself that) is my ability to be in the now. But ADHD also makes other aspects of my job hard. I find admin tedious and boring and have trouble planning ahead. Such things as sending invoices and filling my diary with gigs often get put off until I realise I have no work the following month and my bank account is empty. Then I sit down and do it all in a huge flurry and pull it off by the skin of my teeth.

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Finishing everything like that is very stressful, and I always promise myself I'll plan better next time. But also, doing everything last minute gives me a dopamine hit. So, the cycle continues. I'm working on putting skills in place to mitigate that, but it's not an easy shift.  

Looking back, have there been any funny “lightbulb moments” that you now attribute to having a differently wired brain?

One time I went to the store, and after, I couldn't find my tampons anywhere. I had put them in the fridge. Another time I had made plans to meet a friend for dinner. I told her I'd book a reservation, and I got a call from her asking where I was; I had booked it for the wrong day and was at home wrapping birthday presents for my niece. I rushed out to meet her, and she was totally cool about it. She also has ADHD, so if anyone got it, it was her.  

"One time I went to the store, and after, I couldn't find my tampons anywhere. I had put them in the fridge"

When I got diagnosed, my doctor said ADHD was the reason I had trouble doing administrative tasks, like booking travel. I thought that was ridiculous, I may be bad at invoices, but I'm a boss when it comes to booking my travel. As soon as I got out of my session, I saw a notification on my phone saying my train to Glasgow was leaving in ten minutes. I was supposed to go to Glasgow the following day but booked it wrong. I was sceptical that I even had ADHD, and I feel like that was my brain going, SEE!!! IT'S REAL!  

You have been inspired to start the Podcast Neurodivergent Moments; how did this come together? 

I co-host Neurodivergent Moments with my buddy Jo Wells. It was his idea. We were at a gig, and he said he was thinking of doing a podcast about neurodivergence that was less clinical and more light-hearted. More about the day-to-day silly things that can happen as we move through the world.

I leapt at the chance to do it with him. And it's been the most fun working with Joe. We make a good pair. He's Autistic. I have ADHD. He records and edits the podcast, and I book the guests and do social media. I couldn't do the podcast without him. He's so understanding when I'm running late on things. And he always offers to take on some of my duties when I'm overwhelmed.  

We've had some great guests and a growing Patreon. It's one of the most rewarding projects I've ever worked on, and that's because of Joe.  

Neurodivergent Moments includes listener experiences—what have been some of your favourite funny stories? 

Oh my god, so many. I think my favourite was our live episode at Latitude Festival with our guest and amazing poet Luke Wright. Because it was live, we thought it'd be good to get audience members. We were so nervous because we didn't know if anyone would show up or if anyone would want to share stories. The tent was packed! And we had so many good stories.  

"We were so nervous because we didn't know if anyone would want to share stories"

We had a young person stand up and say for years, he would tell people he was Harry Potter (hilarious). Another very young chap talked about how he got so overwhelmed at school once he threw a chair. And Luke and Joe's advice to him after gave me all the feels.  

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions around ADHD or something you would like people reading this to be aware of?

That the meds don't fix everything. I'm on ADHD meds, and they've helped me so much. But they don't get rid of my ADHD, and it doesn't mean I'm cured. I still get task paralysis. I still have trouble writing invoices. But it makes my life more manageable.  

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I think the best part of getting diagnosed is now I understand WHY certain things are hard for me. I no longer beat myself up. When I'm having a low-functioning day, I no longer spend the whole day upset because other people can do it. Why can't I? Instead, I think, OK. My brain needs a rest. Take today so you'll be ready for tomorrow. I'm much kinder to myself now I understand what's going on.  

You recently finished a successful run at Edinburgh Fringe with your show Legally Cheeky—what's next for you?

Haven't you been listening? I have ADHD; I can't plan ahead. I'm only sort of joking.  

"I'm so proud of myself because I actually planned ahead and am booked until the end of the year"

Joe and I are about to launch the second season of Neurodivergent Moments. We also started a Twitter and Instagram for the podcast, so you can follow us on both platforms @ndm_podcast. I'm also working on building up and staying consistent with my TikTok @abigoliah.  

Other than that, gigs! gigs! gigs! And I'm so proud of myself because I actually planned ahead and am booked until the end of the year AND have put the gigs on my website.  

Visit abigoliah.com for tickets and information 

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