Manly raised Kitty Flanagan surfaced on top of the comedy scene in her early 20s. With several university attempts and a wave of unfulfilling marketing jobs trailing in her wake, it was a deep-rooted love of performing that ultimately swept her onto the stage. Yet, it took some years of persuasion before she genuinely considered a career in comedy.
Attending school at North Shore based Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College, Kitty received constant encouragement from peers and teachers to join the drama club and embrace her underlying talent for onstage performance. Surprisingly for some, but unsurprisingly for those who know her well, the future comedic star opted for the unexpected by taking up art class instead. Something she admits in hindsight that did not come quite as naturally to her.
“Everyone thought I would do drama so I did art, mostly because I wasn’t going to be predictable. I did art for four years and I was absolutely rubbish at it. I was terrible! I punished everybody – my teacher, the class, and even myself. I should have done drama but I remember thinking, ‘I don’t think you can tell me what to do!’. It’s my biggest schooling regret.”
After finally realising her unique flair for stand-up comedy, Kitty landed a job on the popular sketch show Full Frontal. From here, it was only a matter of time before she relocated to London and began fine-tuning her comedic talents on the international stage. She toured the globe, performing in Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa – just to name a few. But, it was her time in the Netherlands that truly made the most memorable impression on her.
“The Dutch audience are probably my favourite in a perverse way, in that they don’t really laugh. They come up at the end and tell you it was brilliant and what they liked about the show’s observations. I did enjoy working in Amsterdam for that reason, because the first time you do it you don’t know what’s going on and don’t understand why they’re not laughing.
“The best thing is when you go back with a comedian who hasn’t performed there before and you get to sit and watch them sweat.”
After eight years abroad, Kitty’s international success prompted Australian television heads to lure the star back home. Kitty began making regular appearances on Channel 10’s The Project with her popular segments that comedically addressed topics ranging from religion to Australian democracy. More recently, the comedian has taken up residence in Melbourne where she’s taken on a co-starring role in ABC’s The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, which she finds a new challenge.
“I certainly work harder and in more concentrated bursts on television. I have to have new material every week. To be honest, it probably takes longer than it should to put together my segment.”
Despite her various media gigs, Kitty’s first-love of stand-up comedy is still very much alive. Viewing stand-up as being similar to a sport that must be practiced, Kitty can be regularly found taking stages across Australia in what she calls “work in progress shows” to practice her skill.
“Now that I do these longer shows and I tour them, I’ve started doing a try-out process where I book a little room for 60 to 80 people and I do 3 or 4 weeks of shows. I go on every night with a whiteboard and try new material out. I cross it off if it doesn’t work and just refine from there.
“They turn out to be incredibly fun shows. I feel incredibly nervous and sick before I go on stage but then I always really enjoy it.”
Currently, Kitty is on the road again with the tail end of her third national tour. The successful 2015 show Seriously?is back for another round of laughs in a special series of encore performances next month.
“It’s the most personal show I have done to date. I didn’t mean to but I ended up talking quite a bit about a relationship I had with a cop and the interesting things you learn when you’re dating one.”
When reflecting on her career, Kitty can barely believe she had the “guts” to try stand-up comedy even once.
“Honestly, if you came to me now and said, ‘You have to go and be a stand-up comedian’ I’d refuse. I actually couldn’t, and the other thing is I don’t know how the younger generation gets started in this day and age with social media how it is.”
On the topic of social media Kitty, one of the few entertainers without a bevvy of social profiles, finds it to be a damaging force within her industry.
“Social media has made it a lot harder for comedians. Comedy shows used to be a safe place, now if someone takes it out of context and has a phone to tweet it, all of a sudden you can be pillaged for something you were trying out or may never have done again anyway. I don’t think it’s fair to them.
“Tom Gleeson said it best when he was pulled up for something and his attitude was ‘If you don’t understand the joke, I can’t help you’. But, thankfully more people still ‘get’ it!”
Kitty’s consistently sold out shows across Australia act as testament to this.
Kitty Flanagan’s show ‘Seriously?’ comes to The Enmore Theatre Friday 6 May at 7pm and The Concourse, Chatswood Saturday 7 May at 7pm.