Sunday Herald Sun - Body and Soul

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- Nikki Britton COMEDIAN

[US sitcom] I Love Lucy was staple viewing in my grandparen­ts’ house. As a kid, I didn’t fully understand why it was so funny; there weren’t even any fart jokes (my main wheelhouse at the time). I remember thinking Lucille Ball must have conjured some kind of tickling spell as I watched my nanna and grandpa advance from irrepressi­ble giggles to wild and wheezy snorts of hysterics whenever she was on the screen. It felt like magic. I was hooked. But she wasn’t just funny. Desilu Production­s, which she owned and ran with her husband Desi Arnaz, produced classics such as Star Trek and formed the foundation of the prolific Paramount Pictures. This was the 1950s, when women were encouraged to be contained. Lucy said, “I don’t really feel like ironing my husband’s shirts today. Reckon I might be the boss of a freaking television studio instead.” Swoon.

She was 40 when I Love Lucy first went to air.

And she was 42 when she was the first-ever openly pregnant woman on TV. What a trailblaze­r.

When studio heads told her to re-cast the role of her husband Desi, as there were no Cubans on TV at the time, she refused and gave them the finger. Well, I’m not sure about the finger part, but she delivered the refusal – and I’m sure it would have involved a tonne of sass.

She was one of the first in so many ways. At a time when beauty and social compliance were deemed women’s best attributes, this rubber-faced “housewife” defied convention. Her observatio­ns of human character were astute and, coupled with her sense of delinquenc­y and wildly irreverent spirit, she was always going to be my personal hero.

Britton performs at the Sydney and Melbourne comedy festivals;

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