It’s a rare opportunity when you find someone with whom you can talk about sex for an hour in a Brunswick coffee shop and write it off as work – but this is exactly the chance that presented itself when I had the chance to talk to Honor Eastly about her new game show That Sexy Show, doing four shows through the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. “The idea of the show is for it to be accessible for everyone” says a bubbly Honor, sipping a frothy milkshake. “I used to be a team captain for another show, “We Should Know Better” … we had a queer themed show and it was just around the same time as the Comedy Festival last year and the show went so well, it made me realize that there really was an audience for a show like that.” Whenever I hear of a comedy show – let alone a comedy game show – that’s going to talk about sex I become apprehensive. Sex based comedy can be anything from awkward to gross to downright offensive and I was really hoping that That Sexy Show wasn’t going to follow that tradition. Fortunately, That Sexy Show aims to do the exact opposite. From the get go I realized this wasn’t going to be the standard show that talks about sex for its shock factor. It was interested in being far more interesting, entertaining and inclusive than that.
“A lot of my friends that were queer were afraid to go to shows during the Comedy Festival because they were afraid that they would get really offended, that like someone would say something really, you know, homophobic or racist or particularly like kink shaming, like saying, “how weird are those people who do that stuff”… so a few friends of mine would just not got to events because they were afraid that they would be the victim on a ‘lol-hate-crime’, I think is the official term. So then yeah, I started doing the show.” At the risk of sounding incredible pretentious, comedy has the power both to facilitate and begin discussions around minorities, the oppression they face and their generally invisibility in society. While this is something that That Sexy Show definitely seems to achieve, that’s not really what it’s aiming to do. The show, above all, just tries to be a lot fun for everyone there. “I understand that they’re important conversations,” she says, looking thoughtful. “…There’s lots of serious, discussion-y type of panel things out there, so I thinks that hold is filled. This hole is… the fun one.”
So, fun and wild That Sexy Show promises to be. As the tag line warns: ‘We go there, to completion’ and after hearing of anecdotes and guests from previous shows I really don’t doubt it; it’s venturing where no comedy show has gone before. But, just like the act itself, talking about sex can be complicated, scary and kind of polarising, especially if you find out that your normal is someone else’s idea of a crazy, drunken adventure, someone else’s ‘don’t go there’ and another person’s yawn fest. When researching for this interview, I saw that Honor shared her passions between both sex and creating safe spaces where people could express whom they truly were, free of any of the judgment that they would usually be faced with. So, with the interest of ensuring that the show is such a space, I ask if there is anything she says to the guests to keep them out of territory where they really shouldn’t go. “We do definitely have a little shpiel before the show, not to the audience, but to the guests back stage just talking about a few things. One in particular is kink-shaming, which is just like ‘Hey look, if someone is talking about something they do or something comes up about something that someone did, it’s ok to have your reaction, like ‘whoa’! But being like ‘the person that does that it absolutely horrifying and deserves to die’ is NOT ok… Sometimes our audience members will like call out the guests. Like, if someone says something that they don’t agree with, they’ll be like “that’s shit!”…And I definitely tell the guests before that if you do say something pretty out of line you will have someone tell you… Our other main piece of advice is ‘don’t be an asshole”. That itself speaks volumes about the kind of show That Sexy Show is. It’s pretty rare that you’ll find an environment, let alone a comedy show, where the guests feel like they can safely call out the performers. It’s pretty remarkable, but Honor seems to just take it in her stride and focuses on what she does to try and make the show as inclusive as possible.
“I think one thing that we definitely try and do is be sex-positive, queer friendly whatever you want to do friendly, without necessarily saying that, as in just doing it. So, at the start of the show I won’t go, “Hey! Welcome to the queer show or the sex show” because that is actually excluding to what is the majority of the population…” “People who are queer and kinky or whatever don’t want to be queer shamed or kink shamed and people who are ‘mainstream’, people who are not those things, people who are vanilla – these terms are so fraught with disaster!” – she says, wringing her hands, “it makes sense that they would be afraid of looking like they don’t know anything. That would be scary. So we really try and make sure that it’s a place where you can ask questions and it’s ok to not know, because I definitely don’t know everything.”
So at the end of the interview, I was pretty sure of a few things. One: I needed to get to every performance of That Sexy Show I could because it sounded like a freaking good time. Two: I was developing a friend crush on Honor and three: this is how comedy and sex should meet, in a way that is fun, irreverent and, above all, accepting of all the strange and wonderful things people do to get off with one another. But most of all, I was certain that a show such as, this and anything else that may come from it, were all very safe in the hands of its quirky, thoughtful and intelligent creator:
“I would like the show to be bigger, just… more people, more variety of people coming then I feel like it would be… I think it already feels like a celebration of sexuality and all the weird things as in like the things that have been invented because of human sexuality is just been incredible. So yeah, I just love seeing other people celebrate that.”