by Ian Bell.

I know what some of you are thinking: ‘Tania Lacy… Tania… Lacy… where do I know that name from?’. If you were a ‘youth’ in the 1990s Tania Lacy was EVERYWHERE! Dancing on Countdown, choreographing Kylie Minogue’s Locomotion video, appearing on The Factory, co-hosting Countdown Revolution, appearing in commercials and was interviewed for Smash Hits magazine. She was ‘that funny chick’ who would do off-the-cuff comedy vox pops in the street, ambush unsuspecting popstars and Prime Ministers or create comedy characters that became iconic like Annette the Librarian and Carlos the Italian. Like Norman Gunston before her – and a legion of others after him – Tania Lacy was a pioneer of the ‘let’s just do it and see what happens’ school of surprise comedy. She was loved by a legion of fans and she upset a few people too.

A lot has happened since those days, having made a bunch of short movies, started doing one woman shows, had legal battles with a Hollywood studio, discovered she has borderline personality disorder, worked on TV, wrote two novels, got married, started a family, moved to Berlin, started doing stand-up comedy and recently moved back to her home state of Queensland. All caught up, now? Good!

We have a bit of a phone chat with Tania in the lead up to her Adelaide season of Everything’s Coming Up Roses, and suggest that people could be forgiven for not thinking of you as a stand-up comedian.

“Well I never was,” she begins. “I’d done a lot of TV doing both funny stuff and some more scripted shows, but that’s very different to stand-up. I stared doing stand-up when I was living in Berlin – which was great. Nobody knew me; there was no expectations, no ‘Tania Lacy’, so I could fail – which I did at first. It was kind of liberating in a way, and I soon got the hang of it.

“Y’know what, it really improved my mental health too,” Tania says. “I hadn’t performed in Australia for so long because I was too scared to. But, over there, I was just so much happier and kept at it. I think also it was partly because I knew it would be hard and I needed to get over the fear of performing that I had developed. Stand-up is a craft and requires technique, and I wanted to attempt that. The rewards are wonderful; the joy of performing, the instant feedback of people laughing and cheering and willing you on. It’s a joyous exchange.’’

How are German audiences for comedy?

“There are two scenes: the English comedy circuit where everybody performs in English, and the German language circuit. The English circuit is really healthy, there are a lot of ex-pats, and the English language suits comedy better. German can be a harsh language and the structure of the language isn’t often a good fit for jokes.”

That aspect of practising the technique and the craft of stand-up and getting back up again if you fall are all those beliefs crucial to being a ballet dancer – which was your original career path, yes?

“That’s right,” Tania agrees. “I spent so many years learning, practising and building on it and then once you have mastered that step you go to the next thing – which is harder and more complex. So comedy is another field where I can pursue my desire to seek perfection. To be a dancer you have to have an addictive personality. You have to commit to it and be dedicated. And comedy is like that too. You write all the time, and tweak, and work on word economy and what is the best path from this joke to the next one. It something that appeals to my….what’s it called? Oh yeah… OCD [laughs]!”

After Tania’s ballet aspirations were cut short by an injury, the changes in her life opened up new opportunities, experiences and paths for her to follow.

“I became a commercial dancer, dancing in clubs and on Countdown and also choreographed the Kylie video,” she says. “Then the Executive producer of Countdown asked me to audition for a new show – and that’s how I joined The Factory.”

The Factory was a Saturday morning show for ‘the youth’, with music, and ‘youth stuff’ like dancers, skateboarding, fashion and bits of pre-filmed comedy bits which largely involved Tania running amok in the streets of Melbourne, accosting teenagers, pop stars, anybody at all. Some of her hilarious interviews are still on YouTube: Cyndi Lauper and Monty Python’s Terry Jones are a couple of personal favourites.

There is also a legendary segment that never went to air where Lacy and her film crew dressed up as Mick Hucknall from Simply Red  and then attempted to get in the backstage of the Simply Red concert. The joke was intended to be them being stopped by security… and end of the skit. But they were waved through and ended up awkwardly walking the halls until they passed the actual Mick Hucknall – who had them removed and threatened to sue the ABC – who were forced to issue a public apology.

“The thing was, the ABC were more interested in the hosts of the show, the boys” Tania says. “They didn’t really give a shit what I was doing. So they gave me a film crew and no direction and I just had to go out and come back with…something. I’d write stuff and then we’d just go do it. They didn’t care what I did because they thought of it as filler for a three hour show. They never even watched what I did before it went to air.

“So, I’d have the executive producer coming up to me afterwards and saying ‘don’t ever do that thing you did in that bit again’. But, because of that it became really popular, especially with young women, because there were plenty of men on screen for them to admire, but they didn’t have female voice who was just running rampant and being a bit of a wild child,” she says. “Even now, I still get messages from women telling me ‘You helped me believe I could do anything I wanted to do’ – which are really powerful words.”

With Everything’s Coming Up Roses, Tania Lacy is plunging the deep depths of gags… it’s old school stand-up.

“I wanted to do a funny, light-hearted, happy and ‘here I am back in Australia’ show. So, it’s gags and jokes, and this is my life now. That is the point of the show really. I’m back and things are going pretty great now. I was rehearsing in a little community hall up my street. In Berlin I could do spots in four comedy clubs every night if I wanted to, but here there is one night a week, so it has been a process.

“I think being back in Australia has made me want to do something that was happy and fun,” Tania says. “This is a new beginning in some ways. Going to Berlin was refreshing because I didn’t need to worry about what anybody knew about, or thought about my past. But when I started doing comedy back here I realised people either didn’t know or care what I’d done previously. The twenty-year-old comedians have never heard of me, which is just fine.

“We had a guy come to our house do some work on the pool, and said, ‘I know your face’, and I thought, ‘Oh, here we go,’ and then he said ‘I saw you at that comedy night – you were fantastic!’ and I was wrapped!!! He only knew me as a stand-up!”

Tania Lacy: Everything’s Coming Up Roses performs at Hell’s Kitchen at Rhino Room (131 Pirie Street) from 5.45pm on Tue 1 Mar until Sat 5 Mar.

Book at FringeTIX on 1300 621 255 and adelaidefringe.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.


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