I’m a comedian based in Perth. You may have seen me on the ABC’s Raw Comedy 2006 broadcast, in which my five-minute set was cut down to about ninety seconds, mainly because it was rubbish. I made the fatal error of shoehorning into my Raw Comedy National Final set a largely untested, surrealist bit about Pablo Neruda, thinking that the cultured hipsters in the Melbourne Town Hall would love it. I was wrong. Jokes comparing one’s penis to a fun size Mars Bar were the order of the day.
I’ve been performing stand-up comedy for just over ten years. I’ve had jokes published by Penguin, I have a podcast called Once Were Zombies, and in 2014 and 2015 I performed in the children’s show Mr. Snotbottom, which was nominated for Best Comedy at Fringe World last year.
What’s the show about?
The show is a celebration of women, and an exploration of my evolving attitudes when it comes to matters pertaining to the ladies. For example, the TV shows Orphan Black and Orange Is The New Black were revelatory for me, because they helped me to realise that women’s stories are interesting. I know, I was an idiot. It wasn’t so much that I used to dismiss women’s stories as being inherently uninteresting; it was more that as a guy I just didn’t think that I would be able to relate to them. Now, however, I can’t get enough of women’s stories. I certainly prefer them to the kind of stories I used to like: existential, angsty tales about angry young men who can’t get laid and are at odds with the world. I mean, The Catcher In The Rye is a classic and all, but enough already. Holden Caulfield has his place, but these days I’m far more interested in what the women have to say. Women are fascinating to me.
How does feminism fly in comedy these days, especially coming from a male comic?
You can make anything fly in comedy as long as it’s funny. Some things are ostensibly funnier than others. Dick jokes: funny. Feminism: not that funny. You just have to work a bit harder to make something like feminism funny. Adrienne Truscott did it brilliantly in another Fringe World show worth seeing called Asking For It: A One Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy And Little Else! She takes down rape culture and rape jokes in the most joyful and outrageous way possible.
V For Vagina is partly an attempt to reconcile my latent feminism with my sensibility as a politically incorrect male comedian. I realised recently that many edgy male comics I look up to, such as Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal, and Jim Jefferies, have a tendency to say edgy things against women. This isn’t a criticism necessarily, as most of the time those bits are hilarious and involve irony or an absurdist insight or a deliberate provocation followed by some kind of comedic justification, but recognising this trend forced me to question my own choices. I started thinking, What if I tried to say edgy things in favour of women? What if I started using my comedic powers for good rather than evil, even if it’s only “ironic” evil? Deep down inside, Travis, I have a heart of gold and I’m kind to puppies, and I’m tired of hiding behind this veneer of bad-assery.
This seems a long way from Mr. Snotbottom…
Haha. It is indeed. I loved performing Mr. Snotbottom. There’s a very pure joy in making children laugh. Now I want to make the ladies laugh.
Is there a message here? A thesis?
No and yes. The last thing I want this show to be is an earnest, unfunny TEDTalk. A major reason I called it V For Vagina is because I wanted to banish all sense of earnestness. If I called the show Jeff Hewitt Thinks Women Are Fantastic And Have Copped A Raw Deal And It Is High Time That Society Acknowledged It, that would have been the worst thing ever. My only agenda is to deliver a pro-woman show that makes people laugh. If people take something away from the pro-woman elements of it, awesome, but I’m not here to proselytise.
What else you got coming up?
The birth of my first child in March. I’m hoping this won’t overly disrupt my routine of gigging around Perth, producing my podcast, and trying to write the Great Australian Novel. One of my biggest fears, apart from parenthood itself, is becoming one of those comedians who tells boring stories about their kids. I might have to start reciting as my mantra Bill Hicks’ infamous line: “Your children are not special.”
Jeff Hewitt: V For Vagina is on at the Noodle Palace from Wednesday, February 18, until Saturday, February 21, as part of Fringe World. For tickets and session times, head here.