Ask yourself honestly, in your heart of hearts: are you good at sex? Kitty Flanagan isn’t. “The only reason I know is that somebody told me,” she says. “At least I’m well aware. There are probably heaps of people walking around being terrible at sex and they have no idea. At least I know.”
Flanagan has been working in stand-up and TV (most recently as a show-stealing correspondent on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering) since the mid-’90s. Longtime fans will be surprised to hear that the comedian’s new show, Smashing, will include talking about her sex life, as she’s stayed well away from the topic in the past. Talking about sex doesn’t come naturally to her. “I come from a very conservative family,” she says. “If there’s a sex scene on TV we all get up and leave the room, or we are just very still and quiet and hope for it to be over.”
Why has she decided to tackle such an uncomfortable topic for Smashing? There are a couple of reasons. For one, she thinks young people today, who have grown up in the age of internet porn, have a very unrealistic idea of sex. “I’m here to set them straight,” she says. And for another, she’s ready to overcome her natural reticence, inspired by the true heroes of our age, reality TV stars. “Everyone on reality TV is on a journey these days – you no longer have to go from A to B, you just have to overcome your fears. So I decided to make my show a ‘jourrrrrrrney’ in the reality television style, in that I’m talking about sex.”
Flanagan says overcoming her fears about talking about sex has made her a braver comedian in some ways, but in other ways she is more cautious. “I look back at some of the jokes I used to tell when I was starting out and I think, ‘I wouldn’t have the balls to say that now.’” She reckons social media has made it harder for comedians to try out edgier material. “Back in the day you get up in front of a comedy club and you tell a joke, and if they don’t laugh you don’t do it again. No one tore you a new one on social media. Just don’t laugh, you don’t need to pillory [the comedian]. That’s how I learnt what was right and what was wrong on stage: I didn’t get laughs.”
Having said that, she doesn’t think there are any no-go areas for comedians, even in the age of Twitter fights and Facebook shaming. “My rule is so long as it’s funny, you can do it. The more sensitive a topic, the funnier your joke has to be. You can’t just get an ‘oooooh’, you have to get a laugh as well.”
What other shows should people see in this year’s MICF? Claire Hooper: All the Rage; How Good Are Pets, Though?; Jennifer Wong: How to Swim with Dolphins (By Correspondence); Daniel Burt: A Trip Down Memory Laneway; Adam Rozenbachs: Hold My Beer.
Kitty Flanagan’s favourite drink to unwind with after a show: “It could only be a Margarita, straight up with salt. Nice and sour. That is literally what I have after every show.”
Time Out recommends: If you want cocktails made with skill and precision head to the Gin Palace. They may have a deep love for juniper spirits, but that doesn’t mean they won’t mix you up a killer classic. 10 Russell Pl, Melbourne 3000.