Kara Schlegl’s life seems like it was plucked straight out of an HBO comedy. For just over an hour, I forgot that I was packed into a sold-out Enmore Theatre backroom. Instead, I was a phantom observer watching young Kara (Wolf Comedy, SBS Comedy) live through the best and worst moments of her life.
The stories were intensely personal. Kara started by explaining how her relationship with her vagina changed between age 17 and age “nearly 30”. We heard about the boy who gave Kara her terrible, awkward, cringe-worthy first kiss, and then sat bolt upright in shocked silence when we heard he died in a car crash two days later. This sudden jump from laughter to shock occurred in most of Kara’s stories, but thanks to her skill as a writer and performer the transition never felt uncomfortable. Genuinely emotional moments lent depth to what could otherwise have been just another funny story, and the audience was always back to laughter within a couple of lines.
Similar jumps between thought and laughter occurred often in Kara’s other stories. One was the story of Kara’s uncomfortably white family – as in, “relatives were in the Nazi party” white – and the other, her experiences writing about domestic violence in the Sydney comedy community. Kara’s stories were aimed directly at her audience, mostly people very familiar with Sydney’s predominantly white and male cultural scene. These genuinely confronting issues of race and gender forced us to look at the ugly side of our culture without glancing away. Kara knew exactly how long to let the audience ponder before pulling us back in with great jokes. I particularly liked how she explained misogyny in Sydney’s comedy scene through an homage to Disney princesses, complete with fluttering eyelashes and talking birds. Kara’s stories let me think and laugh, which was far more satisfying than an hour of mindless comedy.
Each night, Kara invited a different guest comedian to tell one of their own stories. Sydney staples Bridie Connell, Rebecca Shaw and Bish Marzook told stories on previous nights of That Kind of Girl. Elizabeth Duck-Chong was guest reader the night I saw the show. She took us through the highlights of her dating life as a trans woman and lesbian living in 2016, proving that no matter what your gender or sexual identity, everyone gets anxious over seen receipts, Tinder and dating your way through an entire friendship circle. She must be applauded/condemned for the best/worst Isaac Asimov pun I’ve ever heard (her first OKCupid username was AsimovFangirl9 because “literature is the Foundation of a good relationship”).
Kara’s writing and performance was superb. She gave the audience food for thought without compromising laughter. She occasionally stumbled while losing her place on the script she was reading from, but her excellent comedic timing and audience rapport helped her recover from any fumbles. She made me laugh myself to tears and also reflect on the culture around me. Kara Schlegl is that kind of girl – hilarious, intelligent, and worth seeing in her next show.