WHILE moving to Darlinghurst in her formative years meant Gretel Killeen was close to Sydney’s famous Oxford St strip, it also meant the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival meant a great deal to her.

“I went to my first Mardi Gras Parade in 1981. The whole of Mardi Gras has been a huge part of my life for many years,” the TV star, author and comedian told Star Observer. 

 This year Killeen will bring one of her most iconic characters — the Minister for Men — to the Mardi Gras Rainbow Room at the Sydney Opera House in a show called Smart Arsing.

Since Tony Abbott’s fall from grace after being knocked from the top job in Australia, the Minister for Men has been out of work. In an attempt to revitalise her career, the Minister for Men has taken to putting together her very own low-budget TV talk show pilot.

The show has been described by Killeen as part comedy, part music, part “gobsmacking opinion”, part profound politics, part bad acting and part “completely and utterly winging it”.

For two nights only, Smart Arsing will bring together some of the biggest names in Australian news and entertainment including; Ray Martin, Charles Waterstreet, Beccy Cole, Libby O’Donovan, Joe Hildebrand, Jordan Raskopoulos, Bettina Arndt, local state MPs Alex Greenwich and Jenny Leong, and the lovelorn legend that is The Sandman.

The lineup will also include a mini monarchy of iconic yet top secret international drag queens and a male comic.


Australian heavy metal band Lillye will perform live, with a set list that’s more akin to Disney tunes than hardcore metal.

Some of the country’s best voice over artists will also lend their talents to read live commercials, much like a vintage radio show.

“The whole of Mardi Gras is about celebrating diversity and I was thinking what is diversity about. I wanted everybody to be up on stage with me,” Killeen said.

“It’s so beautiful to me. I’ve never done anything like this.”

Killeen told Star Observer her show came about after throwing the concept together and just hoping for the best. The independent performer had called on her friends and former colleagues to lend a hand and was relieved when they all stepped up to the challenge.

She said Smart Arsing was an example that “great artistry comes from sheer desperation”.

“I think community is everything and I didn’t know much about it for most of my life,” Killeen said.

“I know when I’ve spent time in the gay community, I’ve been astounded that there is actually a community.

“This show has made me realise what it’s like to have people to lean on, to share things with, because  the lows are not as low and the highs are much higher. Life is much better with other people around.”

Killeen said her show has no script and there was potential for it to get out of hand, or as Killeen described: “Imagine Ellen Degeneres as a right wing, drunk politician.”

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