SCUM INTERVIEWS: CLAIRE SULLIVAN

Hi, we’ve decided to start interviewing great people, because why not? Today, Sian Campbell interviews comedian Claire Sullivan, ahead of her upcoming MICF show, I Wish I Owned a Hotel for Dogs, which runs from the 28th of March to the 8th of April at Belleville in Melbourne.

24-year-old surrealist comedian Claire Sullivan (VICE, Triple J, PO PO PO CO) seizes the audience via dogs, feminism, the inner-monologues of joggers, a dog show, gross poetry, absurd short stories, dads, dogs and more dogs. Please note: sadly, there will not be any actual dogs present in the show. Not quite stand-up, not quite theatre, totally madcap joy: the audiences are entering Claire’s world.

 

Scum Mag: Hello. First of all I’m sorry we had to cancel doing this in person with caffeine. I was jogging and I fell and hurt myself and in your show description I see you make fun of joggers so I feel like this is almost a karmic thing to have happen? Anyway, tell us about your show! I’m very curious about how you’re going to have a dog show without any actual dogs.

Claire Sullivan: Oh no! what a horrible accident! I don’t actually make fun of joggers, i have a bit about the ‘inner monologue of joggers’. quite different. I don’t really make fun of any group of people, i guess except the patriarchy. But the patriarchy is really asking for it, aren’t they? in charge of everything, looking like that, all dressed in clothes, they’re just asking to be made fun of.
So my show. It’s very good. And weird. And surreal and funny. It’s about dogs and feminism and life and everything. It’s not really ‘stand-up’ per se, and it’s not for kids. Definitely not for kids. Like, i’m sure if some teenagers over 15 want to come and their parents are like ‘Okay. Since you love surreal comedy and dogs and feminism, you should go.’ then they can come, but even then, I’d call the venue – Belleville – I’m unsure if they’d be allowed in. anyway, IT’S NOT A KIDS SHOW. people are always taking their kids to my shows, but they really shouldn’t.
I’m glad you’re curious about how i’m going to have to have a dogs show without any literal dogs. Because you’ll have to find out, and to find out you have to come to the show, but let me just say this one thing: I couldn’t do anything without the ~**magic of theatre**~ heh heh

 
SM: Do you have a dog? If you have a dog will you tell us about your dog and also send us a photo of your dog to run in this interview? Otherwise I’m just going to run a photo of my dog, and everyone who reads Scum has almost definitely seen way too many photos of my dog already. Fuck it, I’m going to put a photo of my dog in anyway. There’s no limit to how many photos of dogs can be in this interview, I’ve decided.
CS: Yes I do have a dog. He lives with my parents in Hobart and his name is Connor Patrick Sullivan. (Editor’s note: Claire did sent a photo. It’s the feature photo. Enjoy!) We gave him a full name. He is a very good dog and I miss him because I only ever get to see him when I go home (Hobart). The more dogs the merrier!
 

Sian’s dog, Patti.

 
SM: Would the hotel for dogs be exclusively for dogs or would people/other animals be allowed to stay there too? Or is this part of the show and I’m ruining it?
CS: Well, theoretically any good animal could stay there. And good humans of course too.
 
SM: How do we get men to stop doing comedy? The people need solutions.
CS: The people do need solutions. My friends Claire Hagan and Vicky Hanlon (who run comedy nights Rookie Nights and Commit to Your Jokes) are going to start selling T-Shirts that say ‘Phase Men Out Of Comedy’. So i think buying and wearing those T-Shirts is a start haha
But also maybe we should start saying to men who are ruled under the star sign Patriarchy ‘You’re pretty funny for a boy.’ and ‘girls don’t like funny boys’ and ‘you’re very pretty’ and ‘noone likes a bossy boy’
But seriously, it’s not getting men to stop doing comedy, but creating spaces for female-identifying, queer, trans, GNB, LGBTQIA+ people to feel funny and empowered. Because that’s all about visibility.
No matter what people say about Joan Rivers, she was out there, pretty much one of the very few women of her time doing comedy. She was up in the limelight representing her entire gender, which must have been so tough.  Little girls saw her being funny in public, being loved by the public for being funny and saw themselves in her. Which created more comedians who are women.
But then you know, Monty Python were all men and any women in it were there as sexual beings, and not as solely funny people.  But then more weird comedians who are women started getting traction, and weird comedy because not just for the men anymore.
Like, at the moment in our own groups of friends, messenger chats and things we still secretly talk about lineups where it’s one or no women and all men. When you are that women you’re still representing your entire gender.
People do say ‘oh, funny is funny, and if you’re funny enough you’ll get on at the right gigs.’ But also, sometimes the ‘right’ and ‘good’ gigs are run by intimidating people and asking them for spots is weird and frightening. And so they end up with this crazy bad amount of comedians who are men and a really small amount of comedians who are women. So then people in the audience don’t see themselves represented on stage and don’t have the thought that that’s a place for them, so they don’t even start doing comedy.
Like, what am i trying to say? God, I’m a bit worried that what I say will annoy some people, or offend some (people involved in comedy I mean).
So it’s not good enough just to just expect female-identifying and GNB and LGBTQIA+ people to just come up and ask the room runner for a gig, especially when they didn’t see themselves represented on stage that night. And it’s not good enough for room runners to be like ‘I only programme funny people, so if you’re funny then you’ll get on’ Like, duh. But (nearly) everyone who is involved in comedy is funny. I think it’s also up to the room runners to go out and approach people and book people across all spectrums of genders and sexualities as much as they can. Because they’re the ones with the power, the room runners, I mean. Like, imagine being the only GNB comedian in a scene. heaps of the time when they get introduced onto the stage the MC’s are going to be like ‘He is super funny…’ or ‘you’re going to love her…’ and then they’d just get sick of having to explain to the room and the MC and everyone to stop introducing them with that gender. and also if they’re the only one, then they would feel like they would have to be the representation, and it would be harder to find solidarity with other comedians because noone else would be going through the same things.
God, this is probably waaay too long for you to use, but this is stuff that i think about and when i’m drunk I talk about endlessly to some of my friends about.
But, actually, a lot of room runners do try to go out of their way and book gender equal lineups, and also there’s this thing called Gaggle, which is like a safe space for female-identifying and GNB people to kind of start out. Like it’s run by (some of my friends Kimberley Twiner and Lauren Bok) a stand-up comedian, a clown and an improviser and I think they’re running more sessions soon, so hopefully there will be even more of an influx in the scene of comedians who aren’t just cis-men.

I suppose I could also go out and start my own comedy room, but holy shit. Talk about an almost-thankless task with so much work and no or very little money. I’m already too busy as it is.

 
SM: How do you get brave enough to do live comedy? Is it like an extroversion thing? How did you get started but also what are your tips for someone reading this who thinks they’re kind of funny but also knows they’re definitely a coward? (Men, don’t read this and get any ideas.)
CS: Ha, the men who don’t think they need tips in how to start comedy stopped reading long ago.
Well, for me, I’ve always done drama classes and been attracted to being on stage, and having everyone’s attention. And also making large groups of people laugh is extremely addictive. There’s also a lot of introverts in comedy, but I guess I am an extrovert. I don’t know my Frued/Jung type because my mum is a psychologist and hates Frued because he didn’t believe his patients when they said they’d been abused. Anyway, i don’t know my type but i assume i’d be classified as an extrovert (i’m sure all my ex’s would say that I am definitely an extrovert).
How I go started, well like i said, I’d always done drama and from when i was a kid i used to say i always wanted to be a writer, an actor and an artist. And I guess comedy combines all those things? Also with theatre, i kind of got sick of seeing Tom Holloway-type plays. You know, there’s a bath on stage and 4 NIDA-graduates are showing the domestic violence that occurs in working class Australia. Not that those plays aren’t good and important. But you know, i just got sick of them. Very wanky. Everyone standing around congratulating themselves saying how clever they are. And also with plays, even though as an actor you make the role your own, you’re always riding in the shadow of someone previous, or just the shadow of how the character was written. I got sick of that. I wanted to write my own stuff.
All comedians are weirdos and losers and nerds anyway. Super fucking weirdos. ( mean those things in a good way, nearly all my friends are comedians, and i love them)
So tips. Hmm, go to lots of comedy. Go to heaps of gigs. see as much comedy as you possibly can. Find out the rooms where you can get up and do your first bunch of gigs. Bring one good friend with you to your first gig. Not your entire group. ONE. Someone who, in four years time, will still come to your gigs and shows, because they didn’t judge who terrible you were when you started.
Know you’ll be terrible for ages but keep going anyway.
Make sure your skin is thick, and you have a good level of self-awareness. Because heckling isn’t as common as you think, but your own self-doubt and the silence, and the low-leveled sound of a bored/distracted audience will eat you up if your skin isn’t thick enough. it will eat you up and you won’t ever love anything again. (joking, but not joking)
So whether or not you’re an extrovert isn’t quite the thing, because in front of a crowd of strangers, you can kind of group them into a blob and talk at them. But having a thick skin, and the inner knowledge that you *are* funny, and at least ONE good noncom friend is VERY important IMO.
 
SM: Your new glasses are pervy as hell and I love them. Where did you get them? I’ve been thinking about getting new glasses. This is a horrible interview, I’m sorry. I hate doing interviews. Send me a photo of you in your cute pervert glasses. Not for the interview, just for me. (Kidding.) (Maybe.)
CS: Ha! I got them from where so many great things come from: Hobart! More specifically the Newtown Shopping Centre’s Island Optical, which is next to the 24hr Kmart. The shopping centre is, of course, across the road from the All-You-Can-Eat Pizza Hut. <3 <3
ALSO YES.  GET THE PERVY GLASSES. I LOVE THEM.
 

Photo of Claire by Theresa Harrison.

 
SM: If you could open a hotel, for dogs or otherwise, anywhere, where would it be? Isn’t there a Kurt Vonnegut book where the protagonist goes somewhere and they’re opening up a crappy hotel in the middle of nowhere/maybe a war zone? Because I feel like I’ve read a Kurt Vonnegut book like that. Anyway that second question was just for myself (unless you know the answer? I just tried to google it and got nothing. I’ll ask Patrick Lenton, he’ll know.)
CS: Probably in Brunswick, because that’s where I live, and i’d want to be close to pubs and my favourite cafes.
 
SM: What question do you wish I asked you but I didn’t? Then pretend I asked you it and answer it.
CS: I’m also in a comedy troupe called PO PO MO CO which is a queer, alt comedy troupe. We perform monthly at the queer haven that is Hares & Hyenas. We’re doing a show during micf from April 18 (MY 25TH BIRTHDAY!!!!) to April 22. It’s freaking weird and great.
Yes, I am recently single, so if any guys or gals wanna pash on with me after they’ve come to my show, slide into my DMs, or tell me how funny i am after they’ve come to my show (I may or may not be joking. I’m a very thirsty bitch atm. hahaha)

SM: Who else should I go see at MICF?
CS: Rose Callaghan (or as I call her Clag-hands. I’ve only ever called her that on the internet.) Alice Fraser. Arielle Conversi. Sarah Jones. Lisa-Skye. Zoe Coombs Marr (Her show Trigger Warning is the best show I’ve ever seen). PO PO MO CO. Clara Cupcakes. Suren Jayemanne. Aaron Chen. Burn the Witch. Timothy Clark. Wank Bank & Pussy Play. Megan Mckay. Laura Davis. Michael Williams. Erin Hutchinson. Brianna Williams.  Alex Ward. ME – CLAIRE SULLIVAN

God, there are actually so many. I think maybe people should just, after they’ve seen my show, come up to me at the bar and ask me to go through their copy of the guide and circle every show i’d reccommend. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone that I really want people to go see. Also that list is quite a variation of comedy genres too.Okay, sorry about how I practically wrote an essay for each question.

my dates are March 28 to April 8 at 6pm. No Sunday.
Also if people are really too pov to come, just hmu, I have a few free tickets i can give out. I want people to see comedy and not feel self-concious about not being able to afford it. Comedy shows are expensive, that’s because they take a lot of work and money to create, but i’d rather have people there for free who want to be there, than people who paid who don’t want to be there. although i’d much rather both those things than noone there. haha

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