Judith Lucy is fighting women’s poverty with laughter

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Judith Lucy is fighting women’s poverty with laughter

Judith Lucy
Words by Fergus Neal

Frocking Hilarious will see Australia’s funniest comedians stand in solidarity with women fighting poverty and injustice around the world.

The all-female bill promises to be a celebration of women’s laughter in the face of adversity, with all proceeds going to ActionAid Australia’s work in places such as Cambodia, Kenya, and Vanuatu.

Frocking Hilarious is ActionAid’s comedy extravaganza – a plethora of Australia’s funniest female comics unleashing the power of laughter for women’s rights. From humble beginnings at the 2013 Sydney Comedy Festival, the event has grown into an unmissable fixture on the comedy calendar that has sold-out across three capital cities.

ActionAid represents a movement of women standing together to claim their human rights and campaign against injustice. These women are brave, resilient and, despite their struggles, often draw on the strength of laughter.

The likes of comedy veterans Claire Hooper, Geraldine Hickey, and Libbi Gorr will set the tone for up-and-coming acts such as Annie Louey and Gabe Hogan to shine. Long-standing ActionAid ambassador Judith Lucy is eager to return to the event after visiting poverty-stricken countries through her ambassadorship.

“About eight years ago I got involved with ActionAid. It was part of my mid-life crisis where I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I need to start helping other people’, which, as a performer, is always a shocking revelation to have,” Lucy says.

“I agreed to be involved and the next thing you know I’m off to Uganda. Last year I went to Haiti – boy, talk about becoming more aware of how privileged you are … ActionAid are at the forefront of helping women deal with natural disasters. They go in and train women so they know how to prepare for a disaster but also what to do when a natural disaster strikes. I certainly didn’t know that things like sexual assault and domestic violence only get worse after a natural disaster.

“When I landed in Haiti,” Lucy says, “I discovered that they’re still recovering from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. One of the things that strikes you is that there are half-finished buildings everywhere, but having said that, I was also amazingly struck by the dignity of the people I met. We would go to these communities and we would visit these safe spaces that they’d set up for women and everyone was incredibly generous and welcoming.”

When asked why laughter is such an effective catalyst for alleviating trauma, Lucy takes a deep breath and alludes to the power of storytelling in uniting women, regardless of what part of the world they find themselves in.

“With ActionAid, another very important part of that organisation is women coming together and sharing their stories. The women I met in Haiti would talk about their situation and then they would be eager to talk about women in Australia.

“It’s a night of female comedians telling their stories, talking about their own experiences of being a woman and turning lemons into lemonade kind of thing. On a more practical note, comedians are very cheap,” Lucy says.

Lucy has been in cease-and-desist mode after an online petition targeted towards her becoming the next Bachelorette received 15,000 signatures. Initiated by fellow comedian and friend Nelly Thomas, Lucy laughs when the topic is brought up. She views it as inadvertently demonstrative of a desire for older women to feature more heavily on mainstream television.

“Nelly said to me, ‘Do you mind if I set up a petition?’. I thought five people would sign it, maybe four friends and a relative – Nelly thought it would be 500 people tops. I’ve kept a dignified distance, but I am happy that it’s gotten some conversations going about older women on television.

“I don’t think Channel 10 is going, ‘What we need right now is a 51-year-old, menopausal, feminist comedian – that is what will turn the Bachelorette around’, so, to be honest, I’m not holding my breath,” Lucy laughs.

Judith Lucy performs as part of Frocking Hilarious on Saturday November 23 at Alex Theatre in St Kilda. For tickets and more information, visit actionaid.org.au.