It must take guts – real guts. Guts to get up on a stage to try and make an audience laugh with your only prop being what comes out of your mouth. I have the greatest of admiration for them. Imagine starting off in the game – some bar adding another string to its bow in a crowded inner-suburban field by presenting stand-up; the audience already half-tanked and perhaps on the yobbish side. Yes, it takes real guts. And what if you bombed? Would you be able to pick yourself up for another go, or simply and meekly return to your day job stacking shelves at Woolies? It’s probably a moot point to raise as to whether or not it would be oh so much harder if you were of the female gender. I suspect, either way, you’d need the hide of a rhino.
‘She’s Having a Laugh’ is a compendium of anecdotes from what Affirm Press describes as ’25 of Australia’s funniest women.’ Of course you do not have to be a stand-up comic to be funny – some of the contributors did not come to notice along that path. But many or our best did – Julia Morris, Kitty Flanagan, Celia Pacquola, Fiona O’Loughlin, Denise Scott, Hannah Gadsby – and that’s just listing my favs. Alas, none of these were represented in this tome. Many have progressed from beer halls to civic centres – and then a further few make the dizzy heights of the television screen in panel shows, as well as into print for newspapers and magazines. A fabled handful now have regular gigs in some of our best comedy and light drama series, loved by millions. Others have written their memoirs and made the nation shed tears, along with the laughter.
And there is a goodly range presented here – some names I was very familiar with, others only vaguely and yet more were unknown to me. And who better to open up proceedings than the delightful Annabel Crabb. She cut her teeth as what somebody once described as ‘…the kindest political journalist going around’. Annabel is well known for humanising pollies with ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ and her weekly column for the Age – both bringing her humour to the fore. She has also recently published with ‘The Wife Drought’. Ms Crabb, in my view, is also one of the most watchable women in the land. In ‘She’s Having a Laugh’ she relates how she managed to bake her laptop in the oven and how her career was almost cut off at the knees before it really got going. The latter was caused by her ineptitude back in her Adelaide early days with a new-fangled innovation called ’email’.
It would be fair to say that some of the accounts of ‘…love, life and comedy.’ given here were somewhat underwhelming, but I was well-educated by another favoured scribbler for newspapers’ abject horror at the state of a certain part of her anatomy after childbirth. Monica Dux reported that, ‘I didn’t recognise what I saw between my legs as human or even mammalian. If you’d shown me a picture of it and told me it was the remains of a sea creature, dredged from a deep oceanic trench, I wouldn’t have flinched.’ She took a bit of convincing that what she espied wasn’t completely abnormal. Terri Psiakis’ piece on comparing the Bloke (her hubby) to her Dad (not all accountants are dullards) is infused with her love for both her fellas, even if neither are perfect in every way. It was a standout. Tracey Spicer’s tale of her early years in television demonstrates how that medium has changed. These days there’s very little seat of your pants stuff that’s worth watching and demonstrates that once upon a time the execs had a heart. One of those glorious ‘Agony Aunts’, Yumi Stynes, tells the yarn of how attacking the soft workings of the inner ear with a cotton bud dipped in aeons old perfume is not the wisest medical probing to engage in. That story also managed to involve Khaleesi’s boobs of GofT fame. For my money, that’s about the best of them. Other notables represented in ‘She’s Having a Laugh’ are Corinne Grant, Gretel Killeen and Tegan Higginbotham.
For me, though, I reckon better value for money would be shelling out the equivalent for one of these ladies’ memoirs. Several have been best sellers and would contain more literary merit. I’ve picked the eyes out of the offerings in this title – the rest were fair to middling.