The Hilarious Sister Act Headlining Melbourne Comedy Festival This Month

"Not seeing enough women is always going to make people think that women aren’t funny.”

Heading up the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, award-winning musical comedy duo Nicola and Rosie Dempsey of Flo & Joan tell marie claire why laughter (and the Covid jab) is the best medicine.

MC: What’s your earliest memory of making someone laugh or being a performer?

Rosie: “I was pretending to be a cleaning lady and I went to suck up a big napkin with the [vacuum] and it got stuck. Everyone was laughing and I remember thinking, ‘I’m a clown.’ I’m meant to be a clown.”

MC: A lot of your material is influenced by news and pop-culture events, as well as your own life experiences. Tell us a bit about how your creative process takes form.

Nicola: “[We’ll often] hear a news story or even something like a turn of phrase. Recently, one of us said, “I’m gonna think about that for the rest of my life.” And so that became the hook and then we built the song around it.”

Rosie: “We’ve also got a song about drinking too much, which came about because we were rehearsing when I was hungover.”

MC: Many comedians poke fun and make light of darker subject material. How does this approach to finding humour in the darkness help you in life?

Nicola: “It gives you an outlet to laugh at it. Sometimes you feel bad or guilty laughing at something dark on your own, but when you’re in a room of people and everyone is laughing, it makes you feel better that you’re not the worst person in the room.”

Rosie: “The darker ones are my favourite songs to write. It’s nice and cathartic to hear it back as well, where you’re like, ‘OK, so we’re not insane for thinking this.’”

Flo and Joan
(Credit: Courtesy of Melbourne International Comedy Festival.)

MC: What’s your approach to self-deprecating humour and being the punchline of your own joke?

Rosie: “I think it depends on what you’re laughing at. Women [tend to] talk about our bodies as a way to get people on side, or if there’s something that you are self-conscious about you want to make the audience aware of it so you’re in control of it. I don’t feel like I need to do that anymore, and that’s probably the confidence of being older and not feeling like you have to justify yourself to people any more.”

MC: What are the biggest challenges for female comedians right now?

Nicola: “There are still people who just don’t think women are funny. You will still get people after shows who will say, ‘I don’t usually like women, but you were funny.’ I think the only way you fix this is to keep putting women on television and on stage.”

Rosie: “You often see females either edging towards something that feels a little bit more masculine or we see women going into very feminine [personas, and] talking about very feminine things. I think the more women you see just being themselves the more everyone feels more comfortable not having to live in this box of having to wear high heels because I’m a female comedian or not having to wear a blazer because I’m trying to fit in with the guys.”

Flo & Joan take the stage at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 31.

Related stories