Life in Rhonda land

Kitty Flana­gan tells AN­DREW FENTON why Utopia’s res­i­dent spin doc­tor is her dream role

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS -

ANY­ONE fa­mil­iar with Kitty Flana­gan’s TV work will recog­nise her modus operandi: turn up for five min­utes, up­stage ev­ery­one by drop­ping a few comic truth bombs, and then leave.

She did it on Ten’s The­P­ro­ject for five years, she’s ex­panded the rou­tine on ABC’s TheWeekly with Char­lie Pickering and even does it as an ac­tor in Utopia.

In the Work­ing Dog satire she’s gov­ern­ment spin doc­tor Rhonda, who ap­pears each episode just long enough to in­sist the Na­tion Build­ing Au­thor­ity stop work on what­ever im­por­tant multi­bil­lion-dol­lar pro­ject they’re do­ing in favour of a half-baked pub­lic­ity launch for the gov­ern­ment thought bub­ble mas­querad­ing as pol­icy that day.

“I know my lim­i­ta­tions – get on, get off,” laughs Flana­gan, adding she’s aided in that en­deav­our in Utopia by the fact no one seems to know what her char­ac­ter’s job ti­tle is or where she’s from in the NBA build­ing.

“I’m not even on the same floor … ev­ery­one else has an of­fice or a desk and all I do is walk in, walk out. Where is she go­ing? Where has she come from? I live in a fic­tional Rhonda land.”

The char­ac­ter is in­stantly recog­nis­able as one of those cor­po­rate or gov­ern­ment types who spouts com­mu­ni­ca­tions and busi­ness jar­gon in an ef­fort to make them­selves sound more im­por­tant: “Lean in” is a favoured ex­pres­sion in sea­son two.

“Peo­ple have said to me: ‘We call it do­ing a Rhonda now, when peo­ple start speak­ing in that ridicu­lous lingo.’ So she’s re­ally struck a chord,” Flana­gan says.

Rob Sitch, who plays Tony, the long-suf­fer­ing head of the NBA, calls Flana­gan “the quiet achiever of Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion”. The char­ac­ter was ini­tially en­vis­aged as a quite mi­nor role.

“When she came in to do the pi­lot she was so much fun as the char­ac­ter, and it was so much fun writ­ing for her, that we ended up writ­ing for her a lot – so our orig­i­nal prom­ise that it wouldn’t take up a lot of her time, we broke that prom­ise a bit,” Sitch says.

“In real life, I find her re­ally de­light­ful, and for a stand-up co­me­dian, al­most per­fectly man­nered – al­most shy. Then we said the char­ac­ter is an ab­so­lute a---hole bitch!” he laughs.

Flana­gan jumped at the chance to join Work­ing Dog, cit­ing TheD-Gen­er­a­tion as “one of the rea­sons I got into com­edy”.

“Per­haps stupidly I didn’t even say, ‘Yeah, what is it (the role)?’ I just said, ‘Please’. Dream come true.”

Flana­gan’s been a co­me­dian since be­ing made re­dun­dant from her job as a copy­writer in the mid-90s.

Suc­cess came quickly – six months af­ter her first stand-up gig, she was head-hunted for Full­Frontal (they scooped up Ju­lia Mor­ris that same night). De­camp­ing to Eng­land, she honed her stand-up skills, and wrote and starred in TheSketch Show be­fore be­ing lured back to Aus­tralia for The­P­ro­ject.

Af­ter five years and wor­ried she was be­gin­ning to re­peat her­self, she handed in her no­tice in the mid­dle of 2014, then made a spec­tac­u­lar crash and burn exit claim­ing Santa didn’t ex­ist on her fi­nal ap­pear­ance.

In­tend­ing to work on stage (she’s cur­rently tour­ing solo show Se­ri­ously?) she was of­fered a gig on fel­low Pro­ject alum­nus Char­lie Pickering’s new show.

She says she’s “still find­ing my way” on the show, but the pro­duc­ers give her free rein.

“I say, ‘Can I do it this way this week?’ and they’re very open.”

Like her re­cent sug­ges­tion to dress up as gi­ant in­flat­able penis with Bron­wyn Bishop’s face?

She laughs: “I go: I’ve got an idea! And they say, ‘Sure, if you’re the one will­ing to be in the suit, go right ahead!’” UTOPIA WED­NES­DAY, 9PM, ABC

Liv­ing the dream: Kitty Flana­gan was so ex­cited to work with the Work­ing Dog team on Utopia, she didn’t even ask what the role was; inset, Flana­gan do­ing the full Rhonda with co-star Sitch.

Pic­ture: Nigel Lough

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