Judith Lucy has experienced quite a bit of change recently. But what has remained constant is her position as an icon of Australian comedy. After a two-year break from the stand-up circuit, she’s back on stage with her first new solo show since 2012 Ask No Questions of the Moth.
When it comes to explaining the obscure reference that makes up the show’s title, the comedian is quick to display her trademark irony. “You’re obviously not familiar with the 12th century Sufi mystic poet Farid ud-Din Attar – more commonly known as Attar of Nishapur – and his masterpiece Conference Of The Birds,” Judith declares. “To be honest, I didn’t have a clue either. I just wanted to come up with a title that seemed deep and yet at the same time a bit ridiculous. So I came across this 12th century poem as a quote. ‘I have no questions of my coming or passing away, the whole thing happened quicker than a breath, ask no questions of the moth’.”
The quote touches on themes of change and impermanence; themes she has experienced first-hand in recent times. 2014 was a difficult year for the comedian with the onset of early menopause and, tragically, the death of her brother, esteemed writer and scholar Niall Lucy. Like any good comedian, she mines tragedy for comedic gems. She’s quick, however, to stress that the show isn’t an exercise in morbidity. “When bad things happen, it means you’ve got shit to talk about,” she points out. “But it doesn’t actually make up a whole lot of the show to be honest. My brother only died less than a year ago so I’m not really up to talking too much about that yet. I get some laughs out of menopause but, let’s face it: I do want people under 50 to come, so it doesn’t get a huge mention,” she asserts. “It’s a comedy show, so obviously the most important thing is there are lots of jokes.”
Judith has enjoyed an enviable 27-year career. Since her break-out as a member of the cult 90s TV series The Late Show, the Perth-born, Melbourne-based humourist has become a household name in Australia – particularly after the success of her latest ABC TV show Judith Lucy Is All Woman with the DVD now also available exclusively to the ABC. But she’s modest to a fault when accounting for her remarkable longevity, and instantly defaults to self-deprecation. “I have a lack of anything else to fall back on, so I just keep throwing myself against a wall,” she states. “But I’ve done a lot of different things: books, television, radio and live stand-up, which means people don’t get too sick of me. I hope this is because I mix it up and also because I’m not completely shit. I’ve been doing it for such a long time and audiences have been coming to see me for a long time so, without sounding like a bit of a dick, I feel like we’ve got a bit of a relationship,” she claims, acknowledging her fans. “I guess I’m just really grateful that I have kept going after all these years.”
And she’s certainly looking forward to bringing the show to the sunshine state. “I can honestly say I’ve had some of the most stoned audiences in Brisbane and it’s the only place where audience members have left me gifts of marijuana,” she recalls. “I’ve performed at quite a few different places in Brisbane, but the Powerhouse is a bloody great venue so I’m always happy to be there.”