Everybody Loves Lucy

11 July 2012 | 7:30 am | Baz McAlister

"It's my answer to Eat, Pray, Love. At this stage it’s called Drink, Smoke, Pass Out."

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On the morning Judith Lucy picks up the phone, the coffee's on the boil and she's in fine spirits despite a rather rough night being kept awake by the intermittent low-battery beep of a smoke alarm. “I tell you, Baz, I felt like I was in Guantanamo Bay,” Lucy says. Your correspondent discreetly inquires if she'll have time for a mid-afternoon nanna nap. “Probably not, but that's showbiz. I'm not 90 – I'll struggle on,” she laughs.

With her 25th anniversary in comedy on the horizon in the next couple of years, Lucy has tweaked her shows almost every way a stand-up can. But with this run of shows, under the moniker Nothing Fancy, she vows they will be no-singing, no-dancing extravaganzas. “I'm promising jack-shit!” she says. “I've done quite a few shows over the years and quite a lot of them have had narrative structure and I've often chucked a song or a dance in, despite the fact that I have no talent in either of those areas, and I just thought, 'Let's just do some good old-fashioned stand-up'. So it's going to be me, a microphone, maybe two props. There might be a turnip, that's all I'm saying. But outside of that it's just wall-to-wall gags, fingers crossed.” Lucy says after all these years she doesn't even really transfer her material onto paper, she just gets on stage and has a chat.

This show's subject matter, she says, is a combination of observations that catch her eye or make her angry – “stuff that's floating around in the flyblown shop that is my mind”, as she delicately puts it. It's also bound to include a fair few behind-the-scenes yarns from the making of her recent TV show for the ABC, Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey, a six-part odyssey into religious thinking in her own inimitable style. “The whole point of the exercise was getting free trips,” she says. “I got to go everywhere in this country, from Byron Bay to Alice Springs where I spent time with three female Aboriginal elders. Then I got to go to India. The only reason I'm trying to come up with an idea for another television series is I'm due for another trip.”

Today, when she puts the phone down, she's set to forge ahead with a book based on the show, which is the project she says is making her want to blow her brains out. “It's my answer to Eat, Pray, Love,” she says. “At this stage it's called Drink, Smoke, Pass Out. I like to think people will relate a little bit more to my journey than Elizabeth Gilbert's.” But that idea for another series is bubbling in the back of her brain. She says when she is ready to pitch she'll be leaving the topic of religion alone, in favour of perhaps the only topic that's deeper. “If the ABC is foolish enough to employ me again and I get another series up it'll be quite different. One day I'd like to do a series about death. There's a lot of material there and it's something none of us can avoid. We are just so ill-equipped for it. People don't know what to say or do about it. I think it's pretty much the only taboo we have left in society.” The other great taboo being the C-bomb, this writer suggests? “Not in my shows, Baz,” hoots Lucy. “Come along!”

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Judith Lucy will perform from Tuesday 17 July until Sunday 22, 8pm, Brisbane Powerhouse.