How a David Guetta song from 2010 led Katherine Allan to her Comedy Festival debut
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29.03.2023

How a David Guetta song from 2010 led Katherine Allan to her Comedy Festival debut

Comedian Katherine Allan thinks that Akon might just be a better songwriter than Bob Dylan, and she’s written her Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut show to prove it.

We all know the song. Even if you don’t know the name of it, or the artists responsible, you know the song. Sexy Bitch is the late-noughties chart-topping banger of David Guetta’s, which upon one listen will move into your head and reside there for days, with the French DJ’s rhythmic beats playing incessantly on an involuntary loop.

As tunes go, it’s catchy af, but the song’s enduring legacy is not so much about the music, as the lyrics, and one very famous line in particular.

Katherine Allan at Melbourne International Comedy Festival

  • I’m Trying To Find The Words To Describe This Girl Without Being Disrespectful
  • Storyville Melbourne, 185 Lonsdale St
  • Tickets here

Explore Melbourne’s latest arts and stage events, festivals, exhibitions, productions and performances here.

Despite there being at least five people credited as songwriters, they faced what history has shown to be an insurmountable linguistic obstacle. Apparently, without so much as a dictionary, library card or even a basic understanding of how Google works between them, as guest vocalist rapper Akon famously reveals, they were “trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful”.

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Stand-up comedian Katherine Allan has been obsessed with these lyrics for more than a decade now. “I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition between Akon and David Guetta,” she tells me over the phone. “On the surface, it’s another forgettable club banger. David Guetta describes a woman as a Sexy Bitch nineteen times. Standard practice in 2010. Then Akon pulls out this single line about struggling to respect the woman that the song is about.”

”It’s one of the strangest lyrics I’ve ever heard,” she says. “It makes my jaw drop every single time I hear it. I love how vulnerable it is. It’s poetry. Bob Dylan could never.”

What does Katherine think the song is really about, beyond the central character’s sexiness? “Somehow, and I’m guessing unintentionally but it would be so great if it wasn’t, it manages to be genuinely misogynist and a critique of misogyny at the same time. When we’re taught to only see women as objects whose value relies entirely on their appearance, it does become harder to respect them. Akon was right!”

As a millennial growing up on the Gold Coast, it was against this pop cultural backdrop that she came of age, so when the time came to write her debut solo show, this seemed like a good place to start.

“Sexy Bitch came out when I was twenty and still living on the Gold Coast, going to nightclubs and hoping nobody would notice how miserable and insecure I was.” According to Katherine, Australia’s party capital isn’t the easiest place to grow up when you feel like you don’t fit in.

 “I distinctly remember being at a blue light disco when I was 14 or 15 and realising every girl on the dance floor was wearing Havaianas, except me. I was wearing a pair of my mum’s high heels.”

Allan moved to Melbourne and got her start in comedy in 2018, which she immediately fell in love with. “When I started doing stand-up comedy I really started to get to know myself for the first time,” she says.

That year, with co-producer Vicky Hanlon and fellow comedians Rose Bishop, Aurelia St Clair, Monica Martinez and Claire Hagan, Katherine launched the line-up show The Breast of the Fest. “At the time, and it’s definitely better now, it felt like women only got to perform on ‘all female’ line-up shows, so we decided to poke fun at that by drawing boobs on our shirts and giving the show a tongue-in-cheek name.”

The show has been such a success that Katherine and Vicky have run it every year since, although they now offer the same chance to gain experience to a different line-up of emerging women comedians each year and big-name guests occasionally dropping in, like Celia Pacquola, Becky Lucas, Geraldine Hickey and Anne Edmonds, just to name a few.

“It’s become a really cool launching pad for emerging women in the local comedy scene to perform at the festival in front of bigger audiences before moving on to do their own shows. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Over the past five years, Allan has made guest appearances on ABC’s National Wrap with Patricia Karvelas, Don’t You Know Who I Am? hosted by Josh Earl, and Channel 31 panel show staple The Leak. Last year, she did a split-bill show for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with fellow comedian Chris Demos, which gave her the confidence to tackle her first full hour for this year’s festival.

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Describing herself as “a comedian with big tits and a lot to say” she’s called her first show I’m Trying To Find The Words To Describe This Girl Without Being Disrespectful after the David Guetta song that fascinates her. When she started writing it, she thought it was going to be more of a “surface level” look at how pop culture shaped her and how she looks back on that.

“I was particularly interested in how we are living in a world where it’s okay to admit that you love quote-unquote daggy shit pop music. Like, there was a time when it was embarrassing to say that you’d love the Spice Girls and now you can buy a Spice Girl shirt at Cotton On,” observes Allan.

However, when she started to “actually really dig into that to find the comedy there, it took me to a much more personal place about my childhood and my experience growing up, so it’s become a much more personal show – which is terrifying!”

Katherine admits to struggling with body image her entire life, starting at a young age when she studied ballet. She’d dance every day after school and on the weekends; she’d travel for additional classes, to perform wherever she could. “I took it so seriously, I lived and breathed it,” she recounts of her teenage years. “The money my parents spent on costumes and shoes!”

But it all ended abruptly when an injury meant she could no longer go en pointe. Her life dream was over, just like that. “I was devastated,” she says, although her way of coping didn’t dwell on it, and did the best she could to put it out of her mind.

It wasn’t until she was talking about ideas for her solo show with stand-up Nicky Barry (who’s 2022 debut Allan credits as inspiring her) that she realised “there is a really interesting, rich tapestry of story in my life.”

“I started to realise why Akon’s lyrics had hit such a nerve. It was much more personal than I realised, going right back to my childhood, wanting to be a perfect ballerina, then wanting to be a Sexy Bitch. I’ve spent my life desperately seeking external validation that my body is worthy of being desired. That’s the heart of the show.”

I’m Trying To Find The Words To Describe This Girl Without Being Disrespectful has interwoven throughout her experience with ballet, but she’s quick to point out you don’t need to be familiar with that world to enjoy the show.

“But if you are someone who remembers the club bangers of the late noughties, you will definitely find a lot to relate to in the show; if you ever had a subscription to Dolly magazine; if you’re still traumatized by the smell of Lynx Africa, you will love this,” she promises.

While the form of the show is predominantly stand-up, Allan says she couldn’t resist breaking out the pointe shoes. “I think it’s safe to say there will be some ballet. Will it be good? That’s another question!”

Katherine Allan performs I’m Trying To Find The Words To Describe This Girl Without Being Disrespectful as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 11 to 23 at Storyville Melbourne. Buy tickets here.

This article was made in partnership with Katherine Allan.