Alcoholism, a coma and the African jungle: Fiona O'Loughlin's journey back to the stage

Fiona O'Loughlin: The comedian can laugh about her recent experiences now. Photo: Supplied.

Fiona O'Loughlin: The comedian can laugh about her recent experiences now. Photo: Supplied.

From the brink of death to a "human zoo" - describing Fiona O'Loughlin's past few years as merely eventful would be putting it lightly.

The comedian will visit Mannum's Pretoria Hotel on November 29 with her show Gap Year, which she described as proof that "tragedy plus time equals comedy".

Her battle with alcoholism was thrust into public view when she collapsed on a Brisbane stage in 2009.

She described her relationship with booze like a "reverse allergy": as soon as she tasted a drop, she would scream for it "like mother's milk".

"I was convinced that if I didn't go on stage without two mini vodkas, the gig was up - everyone would know I was a fraud," she said.

Her children had been telling her she always seemed vacant, not really present.

Ultimately her addiction to alcohol took her every penny, her marriage and nearly her life.

"If life is a game of poker then I was out - I ended up homeless and had to go home and live with my parents," she said.

"I was in the back seat of my parents' car ... it was one of the worst days of my life, driving 50 kilometres to the nearest town to sign up to Centrelink."

In June 2015 came another blow: carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty heater put her in a coma doctors said she was unlikely to survive, with just a 14 per cent chance of returning to normal.

Yet it was not until 2017 - after years of confessions, counselling sessions and relapses - she finally spent several months in rehab.

"Happy as a clam but poor as a church mouse" on her release, she agreed to appear on a season of TV show I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here.

So began her climb back to stardom - if not to the same place she was before.

"Our job is still to be funny - if people want to pay for a life-changing experience they'll get someone smarter than me," she said.

"But it's a game in which you never stop learning or improving ... you get a bit ribald, which comes with the territory of being 56, and I swear more than I did.

"My goal was always to transport the dinner party me to the stage ... it has taken a long time."

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