The lesbian comedian on funerals, LGBTI culture, and her very real and serious marriage to Rhys Nicholson.
When did you first realise you had a knack for making people laugh?
I don’t think it was ever a realisation or a ‘knack’, more an inability to take things seriously. If I may use the inspirational words of the Barenaked Ladies, I’d say “I’m the kinda guy who laughs at a funeral”. Well okay not really, but I suppose it depends on the funeral doesn’t it?
If you weren’t a comic right now, what do you think you would be instead?
Well I couldn’t be an undertaker, could I?
It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes comedy is about being ‘relatable’ or finding the status quo, and I was always pretty rubbish at that. But the comedy I like is about finding things that people haven’t thought of before, locating the unsaid or taboo or unarticulated.
I think queer people exist on that plane all the time, and that area is so rich for comedy. It’s like the ‘Upside Down’ in Stranger Things except instead of demigorgons we have drag queens and wimmin’s poetry nights.
Two years ago you and Rhys Nicholson were ‘married’ in a mock ceremony to highlight marriage inequality. How important is comedy in raising political issues?
Mock?! I’m not sure what you mean. Our wedding was a serious commitment to each other and the sacred institution of marriage.
Some people would say that comedy is perfectly placed to highlight political absurdities, and so SOME people got the impression that we were marrying each other as some sort of ‘statement’ about the ridiculous idea that we couldn’t marry who we wanted… for instance, our partners. But those people are wrong. I’ll have you know Rhys and I are very happy in our heterosexual union. Everyone knows that, just ask Rhys’ very good friend and housemate Kyran.
Do you think queer comedy can help audiences connect with and understand LGBTI people better?
I think comedy is essentially about connection. So the more that happens, the more we understand each other, the better. That said, it’s okay for people to be different, and I don’t know if we all need to ‘understand’ each other in order to respect each other. Like do you really need to hear someone make a funny joke to accept they’re a human?
I don’t think LGBTI culture is for everyone. It’s not a product, and the endpoint isn’t actually about straight people at all. I mean, some of my best friends are straight, but those guys can sort themselves out.
What has been your career highlight to date?
Oh I can’t pick a favourite! I’ve been such a lucky little idiot and I’ve been allowed to do some amazing things. The Wedding was incredible: somehow getting Judith, Denise, and Celia to do a ribbon dance to “True Colours” as sung by Ofa Fotu from Hot Brown Honey before Hannah Gadsby smashed a sugar glass bottle over my head and Rhys vomited on me was pretty good.
But also crying into a bush with a mouthful of Hungry Jacks at the end of a rough festival was bordering on the sublime too. It’s all relative.
What message would you send our current government, in relation to LGBTI issues?
Oh those numbnuts… buck up or butt out buddies. And leave those kids alone. Seriously. They’re with us.
Zoe Coombs Marr will be performing at Midsumma Extravaganza on Tuesday 29 January at 8pm, Hamer Hall. For more information visit: midsumma.org.au/program/midcom19.