QUEEN OF COM­EDY

A FEW YEARS AGO, AUS­TRALIAN STAND-UP COMIC CLAU­DIA O’DO­HERTY WAS POST­ING HER VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE. THEN ALONG CAME AMY SCHUMER AND NOW SHE’S HOL­LY­WOOD’S FAVOURITE FUNNY GIRL

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Words by SHEL­LEY SEDDON

How Clau­dia O’do­herty be­came the hottest new comic in Hol­ly­wood.

It’s the kind of ca­reer domino ef­fect ev­ery Aus­tralian ac­tor in Hol­ly­wood dreams of set­ting in mo­tion. First, you land a tiny but mem­o­rable role in a block­buster Hol­ly­wood movie star­ring Amy Schumer. This in turn leads to a high-pow­ered di­rec­tor cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter on his new TV se­ries just for you. Then Schumer in­vites you on a beach hol­i­day with her posse. After that? You join the writ­ing team of her tele­vi­sion show, and soon earn your first Emmy nom­i­na­tion.

Too good to be true? Not for Clau­dia O’do­herty, the Syd­ney-born stand-up co­me­dian whose rise (and rise and rise) is the end re­sult of hard work, old-fash­ioned tal­ent and sim­ply be­ing in the right place at the right time. A few years ago, the 33-year-old was post­ing her com­edy videos to Youtube. Now Schumer’s Train­wreck is an en­try on her IMDB page and she is the break­out scene-stealer on Net­flix’s quirky dram­edy Love.

O’do­herty first landed on the right per­son’s radar dur­ing the cast­ing of Train­wreck, when Schumer’s co-star Bill Hader showed her the on­line videos O’do­herty – who lived in Lon­don for a spell – had made for Bri­tain’s Chan­nel 4. Schumer’s re­ac­tion: “I have to work with this girl. She’s so funny.”

As O’do­herty tells Stel­lar, “Amy sent me a di­rect mes­sage. I was al­ready a fan of hers, so it shocked me.” A mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion so­ci­ety blos­somed. “We said we loved each other, she tweeted my videos and the next day I got an email ask­ing me to come to the ta­ble read for Train­wreck.”

Soon enough, she was sit­ting in a room with 300 other peo­ple, among them the film’s di­rec­tor Judd Apa­tow. O’do­herty was so new to the process she thought she had been in­vited merely to lis­ten and per­haps give an opin­ion of the script; she didn’t re­alise she was ac­tu­ally there to read for a role.

Once the con­fu­sion was sorted, O’do­herty au­di­tioned for the part of Dianna, an in­tim­i­dat­ing mag­a­zine edi­tor. “I’m sure they never se­ri­ously con­sid­ered giv­ing me that part,” she says. “They were just kind of like, ‘We’ll put her in some­thing, we’re not quite sure what yet, so just get her to read.’”

Tilda Swin­ton ul­ti­mately got the role, a de­ci­sion O’do­herty can look back upon and laugh now: “It’s nat­u­ral that Tilda and I are be­ing con­sid­ered for the same roles. We have a very sim­i­lar en­ergy.”

O’do­herty still left a last­ing, Swin­ton­style im­pres­sion – both on­screen and on set. She nabbed a brief ap­pear­ance as a baby shower guest who ini­ti­ates an em­bar­rass­ing par­lour game, and when it came time to cast Love, Apa­tow put her near the top of his list.

“There aren’t many peo­ple who are that gen­er­ous with their power where they’re, like, a ca­reer-maker,” O’do­herty says, “but he is. He’s quite good at pluck­ing peo­ple out of ob­scu­rity and say­ing, ‘I think peo­ple would en­joy you!’”

On Love, O’do­herty plays Ber­tie, a fresh-off-the-boat Aussie who ar­rives in Los An­ge­les and moves in with Mickey, the trou­bled main char­ac­ter played by Gil­lian Ja­cobs. Apa­tow wrote the part just for her; as with Train­wreck, she was not forced to put on an Amer­i­can ac­cent.

“I feel re­ally lucky that Judd and Amy were re­pulsed by the idea,” she ex­plains. “They were like, ‘Def­i­nitely, do your voice! We hate it when peo­ple do ac­cents.’”

After film­ing wrapped on the first se­ries of Love, O’do­herty went on that beach hol­i­day with Schumer. That’s when the star in­vited her to join the writ­ing staff of her hit sketch com­edy se­ries In­side Amy Schumer. Re­calls O’do­herty, “She was like, ‘Do you want to write on my show? You have to be in New York in three weeks.’” Her re­sponse? Pre­dictable. “I was like, ‘Yes, please!’”

WRIT­ERS’ ROOMS ARE known to emit heavy stenches of testos­terone, off-colour pol­i­tics and greasy food. Yet grow­ing up in the in­ner Syd­ney sub­urb of Glebe, they were the places O’do­herty most wanted to be. Her mother’s cousin was a tal­ent booker for Satur­day Night Live in the ’80s, and she dreamed of writ­ing jokes with its staff.

“A lot of peo­ple in my fam­ily are very cre­ative,” O’do­herty ex­plains, “so it didn’t seem like a re­bel­lious thing to want to be in com­edy. I pretty much lucked out.”

Her fa­ther is Reg Mom­bassa, the found­ing mem­ber of Aus­tralian band Men­tal as Any­thing who later turned to art­work and de­sign­ing for his sur­fwear com­pany Mambo. It was nor­mal for her to cross paths with the likes of Ewan Mcgre­gor or Johnny Rot­ten, who would drop in to pur­chase some of her dad’s art­work. “It was pretty cool hav­ing him as a dad,” she says. “He’s very sweet, sup­port­ive and kind.”

O’do­herty launched her com­edy ca­reer at the Syd­ney Univer­sity Arts Re­vue, and won the Best New­comer award at the Mel­bourne In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Fes­ti­val in 2010. At the Arts Re­vue, she met Nick Coyle and Char­lie Gar­ber, and the trio be­gan writ­ing and per­form­ing un­der the name Pig Is­land.

Coyle ex­plains O’do­herty’s ap­peal: “Her com­edy doesn’t rely on fa­mil­iar tropes or clichés, but it’s so ac­ces­si­ble, which is ex­cit­ing to watch. You feel you’re see­ing some­thing new. She’s un­apolo­getic. She’s not rude, but she won’t chat to you if she doesn’t want to chat to you. Which is why she has a very low Uber rat­ing!”

It may also ex­plain why the sharpest of sleuths would be hard-pressed to un­earth much about O’do­herty’s per­sonal life, be­yond her lin­eage. Asked why this is the case, O’do­herty tells Stel­lar, “I don’t have one, that’s why.” Pushed to ex­plain, she still de­flects: “It’s all se­cret, scan­dalous stuff.” That’s it?

“I’ve learnt from peo­ple who are much more fa­mous than me that it never does any­thing good to talk about who you are kiss­ing or who you have kissed. So I’m not go­ing to do it. I will just say I’m an in­cred­i­ble kisser.”

THE CAST OF Love was com­ing to the end of shoot­ing for a third sea­son when O’do­herty spoke to Stel­lar. De­spite Train­wreck’s suc­cess, she has not dab­bled much fur­ther in film. Well, save for The Cir­cle, a cy­ber-thriller head­lined by Tom Hanks and Emma Wat­son that is set in­side an omi­nous Face­book-like so­cial me­dia em­pire.

O’do­herty has an un­cred­ited role as “High Pow­ered Cir­cler” on the movie’s IMDB page, but she has yet to even see the film so as to es­tab­lish whether or not she ended up on the cut­ting-room floor. She does say it was “a thrilling thing to be part of” and re­calls shoot­ing with Wat­son. “It was very bizarre – Hermione her­self! She was… mag­i­cal.”

Crit­i­cal re­cep­tion to the film, not so much. The Cir­cle opened to bleak no­tices in the US, which ul­ti­mately scut­tled its ex­pected July 13 re­lease here. Re­gard­less, O’do­herty seems ea­ger to keep the blame for its fail­ure off her more fa­mous co-stars. “I’m very busy,” she quips, “but I take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the bad re­views.”

And if she never gets around to see­ing the film, she has a good ex­cuse. “My sis­ter [Lucy] won a Brett White­ley schol­ar­ship, so she will be paint­ing in Europe [this sum­mer].” says O’do­herty, who is on record about her ob­ses­sion with pasta. “So I’m try­ing to get my whole fam­ily to Italy. Be­cause I love spaghetti. I want us all to eat spaghetti to­gether in Italy. That’s the dream.”

“AMY SCHUMER SAID, ‘ DO YOU WANT TO WRITE ON MY SHOW?’ I WAS LIKE, ‘ YES, PLEASE!’”

NO JOKE Clau­dia O’do­herty counts Amy Schumer as a fan and a friend; (right) the comic (back left) as a teenager with her fam­ily, in­clud­ing her artist fa­ther Reg Mom­bassa of Mambo fame.

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