Byron Writers Festival | Elements of Byron | 3–5 August
It’s all in the Kitty
For comedian Kitty Flanagan, writing a book wasn’t second nature.
‘It took me forever!’ she laughs. ‘The really odd thing is you think you would write it how you say it but it’s just too colloquial on the page and it sounds too written. It isn’t a matter of doing a transcript of what your standup would be. If that’s what people think I’ve done in this book than that’s a good thing!’
Kitty is a featured writer at the Byron Writers Festival next week, talking about the memoir Bridge Burning she published with Allen & Unwin.
While the book is spectacularly funny and self-deprecatory, and written with the ease of someone who writes in the memoir form all the time, it’s not something Flanagan would do again in a hurry.
‘It was a nightmare; I don’t think I could ever do it again! They didn’t even give me a year to do it. I signed the contract in May and they wanted it back in November.’
Flanagan isn’t idle. As one of the country’s most in-demand performers she is touring regularly with her live show and in production with the ABC’s The Weekly.
‘I can’t do two things at once,’ she declares! ‘I am not a multi-tasker. I had to wait for The Weekly to finish to start writing. I can do standup and one other thing. Writing for The Weekly and writing the book are very different; one you have to be so succinct and get your point out quickly, and with a book you have to give a lot more detail.’
The book is dedicated to Flanagan’s sister Penny, her closest ally, supporter, and when it’s required, critic. Only a sister can really tell you what she thinks about your work. Kitty showed the early draft of her book to her sister, who gave her some straight-shooting feedback.
‘My sister said to take the jokes out; I was enjoying the book and then I got stuck on you trying to be funny.’ She was right. So I went back and took out all those little puns and silly jokes. Whenever I got stuck I went back and read a bit of David Sedaris and got involved in the stories, I realised to write a funny book it’s not laughing every sentence.’
Being funny is as natural as breathing for Kitty. It’s in every sentence she speaks. It’s who she is.
‘I want to be funny. I don’t feel that I have to – I want people to read the book and find it funny. I don’t want an insight into my soul.’
Flanagan’s book isn’t about comedy. When she set out to write her memoir she didn’t want to pen a warts-and-all account of the comedy industry. It’s a random collection of recollections, moments, reflections and stories from Flanagan’s life. Her writing style is so natural it’s like she’s sitting on your bed telling you a story that just has you rolling around in stitches.
‘I didn’t want to write about comedy. The publisher said can I have more stories about the first time you did standup, and I said no, it’s not that interesting, my best gig my worst gig, and all that stuff. Although I did write about my stint in Singapore. I thought I had really cracked show business but it was just so horrific on so many levels. You don’t realise what those gigs do for you at the time!’
While Flanagan has been working the comedy circuit both here and abroad for considerably more than 15 years, it was her work on The Project that really brought her to the attention of everyday Australians.
‘Once they see your face they’ll come and see your show,’ says Flanagan, who regularly sells out shows all around the country.
Now a featured contributor for The Weekly, Flanagan doesn’t shy away from controversy, although she never wants to be seen as someone ‘who gives a lecture or a point of view. I essentially just make jokes.’
Although it was her piece on the anti-vaccination movement that really brought her some interesting feedback.
‘It was unparalleled. It came from the people who claim to want the best for people – they wanted to stab me 1,000 times, said I should should be killed in a bath of hydrochloric acid, it seems very reactionary…’
If you don’t like what a comedian says, Kitty has a very simple non-violent solution.
‘Don’t laugh at them. If you don’t laugh at me, well there’s the lesson. I won’t do that stuff again. I don’t need abuse or the video on Facebook. There is nothing worse than silence in a room.’
Although when Flanagan is onstage it’s absolutely impossible not to laugh. Delightful, a little outrageous and totally unfiltered, Kitty Flanagan is a refreshing voice in comedy and is sure to be the star of this Byron Writers Festival.
For tickets and program info go to www.byronwritersfestival.com