Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

Stand-ups Ju­dith Lucy and Wendy Harmer sit down for a lively chat.


ENDY HARMER: The first time I per­formed stand-up on­stage is im­printed in my mind. Can you re­mem­ber your first time? JU­DITH LUCY: Yeah. I talked about it for a year be­fore I got up and did it. Over the year I saw a lot of try-out nights and thought, “I can­not pos­si­bly be as bad as some of these peo­ple.” Sure enough, I was, be­cause I de­cided that props were the key to suc­cess. I walked on­stage with my laun­dry bas­ket and, oh golly Wendy, the things I had in there. There was a toi­let roll – I wrapped the au­di­ence in toi­let pa­per at one stage – I had wa­ter pis­tols that I got them to fire at each other. I even had deli goods, be­cause I’d seen a doc­u­men­tary on fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tians in the Amer­i­can south who danced with rat­tlesnakes and rou­tinely got bit­ten. I thought this was hi­lar­i­ous. So I tried to re-cre­ate that with the help of a me­tre-long dried sausage that I twirled above my head, which promptly dis­in­te­grated. I would say most of my act was met with mys­ti­fied si­lence. WH: I had no idea you were a prop comic. JL: It lasted for one time only. The man­ager of Le Joke [at The Last Laugh Com­edy Club in Mel­bourne] said, “We don’t re­ally en­cour­age props, so how about next time you get up on­stage and talk about some­thing you know about?” And that’s when I started talk­ing about my per­sonal life and I think we both know I’ve never looked back. WH: The only time I used a prop was a Vogue mag­a­zine. Years ago, I went drink­ing with Mel Smith, Peter Cook and

Tory Mcbride, who ran the Mel­bourne In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Fes­ti­val. We got roar­ing drunk, and Tory said, “Let’s go on to The Last Laugh – they’ve got a late-night club with great co­me­di­ans.” So we’re all stand­ing at the back, and the MC said, “I’m go­ing to in­tro­duce you to a fab­u­lous wo­man comic. She’s re­ally won­der­ful.” I turned to Mel Smith and Peter Cook and said, “This will be great, we’ve got some fab­u­lous women comics.” And then they an­nounced my name. JL: Oh, sh*t. WH: I was just pissed enough to think I’d be bril­liant. So, I got up there with my Vogue mag­a­zine. Of course, I had to turn the pages – I couldn’t man­age it at all. The whole act was a com­plete dis­as­ter, ut­ter si­lence. Yep. That’s my one ef­fort with a prop. You’re an ac­tor, you do shows on the telly and write books – where do you feel you’re at your sparkling best? JL: Oh, I’m fairly medi­ocre at all of them. I love what­ever medium I’m not cur­rently work­ing in. I’m do­ing the stand-up think­ing, “Gee, I’d like to write an­other book.” But when I start writ­ing a book, I’ll be think­ing, “F*ck! Why can’t I do some stand-up?” I think I’m for­tu­nate to do a lot of dif­fer­ent things, be­cause I get to whinge about all of them. WH: As you get more ex­pe­ri­enced in com­edy, you get bet­ter at judg­ing what’s go­ing to work on­stage. How’s your hit rate from page to stage? JL: I think I’m like a fine wine and my writ­ing skills just con­tinue to im­prove. Yet it’s al­ways sober­ing when an au­di­ence re­minds you how wrong you are. Still, when I try ma­te­rial out, jokes I think can’t fail, do. But my miss rate is cer­tainly a lot bet­ter than it was 20 years ago – as co­me­di­ans, we’ve got the best ed­i­tors in the world and they’re the live au­di­ence. I get a bit an­noyed that I think com­edy is down the bot­tom of the lad­der in terms of the arts. It’s be­cause it’s pop­u­lar – every­one has some ex­pe­ri­ence of com­edy. So it’s anti-elit­ist, which is great, but means peo­ple don’t take it se­ri­ously. You have to get the per­for­mance right, you have to get the writ­ing right, and the rap­port with the au­di­ence. There’s a lot go­ing on. WH: Are you more men­tally re­laxed now? JL: I still get anx­ious, es­pe­cially when I’m start­ing a new show. Denise Scott and I both wept [just be­fore the first per­for­mance of their re­cent joint show]. Scotty did some power weep­ing – we only had half an hour be­fore we had to get to the venue, and she said, “Right, I’ll cry for 10 min­utes.” I’m much more re­laxed when I’m ac­tu­ally on­stage. WH: And what’s the phys­i­cal toll? JL: I’m on the very merry dance that is menopause, so I’m not sleep­ing. And Scotty is deal­ing with arthri­tis and her knee has swelled up to the size of a bowl­ing ball. But out­side of those things we’re hav­ing a mar­vel­lous time. WH: Peo­ple say, “Why aren’t there more older women on­stage do­ing com­edy?” and you’ve nailed it – be­cause we fall apart. How do you feel about new young comics’ ca­reer paths? If I’d had to come up through the ranks in the days of so­cial me­dia, with peo­ple tweet­ing through my per­for­mance, I don’t think I would have coped. JL: I’m de­lighted there’s no ev­i­dence of the first four or five years of my stand-up ca­reer. When I first joined The Late Show, I got some hor­ri­fy­ing mail, but peo­ple still had to sit down and write it and go to the post of­fice. If they’d been tweet­ing, I would’ve never left the house again. WH: When you look back at your ear­lier ex­ploits, what do you think about that young lady? JL: I think a lot of my early stand-up was sim­ply a cry for help. I spent a lot of my early years try­ing to work out my child­hood. I reached a point where I stopped be­ing an­gry and started be­ing cre­ative in ways that were bet­ter for me, and were more about me ac­tu­ally hav­ing things to say, rather than try­ing to work things out. WH: I love Phyl­lis Diller and Joan Rivers, who kept do­ing com­edy for­ever and ever. Do you hope to be do­ing this for a long, long time? JL: I love that doc­u­men­tary, Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work. It’s fan­tas­tic and heart­break­ing at the same time, be­cause Joan Rivers was ex­tra­or­di­nary and I love that she kept work­ing, I love that she had so much en­ergy and loved what she did so much, but you got the feel­ing she only ex­isted when she was on­stage. Without that, she had a hole in her. So, my fan­tasy is to do it un­til I drop dead, but be­cause I’m still en­joy­ing it, not be­cause I’m look­ing for some­thing it’ll never be able to give me. Ju­dith Lucy stars in One Night Stan, which pre­mieres on March 24, on Stan. Wendy Harmer hosts Morn­ings on ABC Ra­dio Syd­ney.


FUNNY LADY Ju­dith Lucy on­stage dur­ing last year’s Just For Laughs com­edy fes­ti­val.

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