She’s an A-list celebrity in Australia. She was the funniest act on last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. So how long before the world wakes up to the genius of JULIA MORRIS? Words: Maureen Ellis
icture the headline: ‘Iulia Morris Flees Australia With
Anorexia‘. Or the reporter who asked if she was
‘Australia‘s answer to Calista Flockhart‘. It’s widely acknowledged. and an all too sad fact. that you can measure a woman's celebrity by the level of media obsession with her appearance. Sadder again that weight gain doesn‘t sell just as many newspapers. but that‘s beside the point. The fact remains that Julia Morris had lost weight by the sack-load. shrinking from a size sixteen to a size eight. but the two-year transition period was forgotten in the excitement of sensationalism.
Such media frenzy is reserved for the truly famous and in Australia. Julia Morris is a household name. Starting out as the general manager and compete of the Comedy Store in Sydney. she began television work by presenting Just Kidding. Australia's answer to Candid Camera. before starring in comedy sketch show Full Frontal. Live entertainment show In 1W(’H)()lll')l(’ Tonight raised her profile through trading air kisses with the likes of George Clooney. until her big break on network television with daytime discussion show Beauty And The Beast. which. she confides. ‘rated its arse off'.
Consequently. it wasn‘t just her weight loss that raised eyebrows when. in 2000. she swapped the highlife of Sydney for complete obscurity in Britain. although her gaunt frame was pictured ‘fieeing‘ Sydney airport. fuelling the health speculation in New Idea (He/lo for Aussies). As an unknown in Britain. the 34-year-old has returned to stand- up. intent on making a name for herself over here. And that's just what she’s doing.
In the flesh. Julia Morris is a doll. She's petite. newly blonde. and has that very charismatic quality of being laid—back and intense simultaneously. She takes me to a little artspace cum cafe for lunch. The waiters don't know who she is. but they are completely beside themselves serving this loud. yet charming Australian woman.
‘I had all my privileges revoked the second I touched down here in London.‘ she says. ‘Anything. from going into restaurants and getting a lovely seat or waiting staff being nice to you automatically because they‘re excited to have you there. When that‘s cut off. the frustration for the first six months for me was: “You can‘t treat people like that. you can‘t pack people onto a tube like that.“ It‘s made me take an excellent step back. review and start again. which you don‘t have a chance to do very much in your life. It‘s unreal.‘
L'nreal indeed. and a dangerous career gamble which appears to be paying off. Show And Tell was the comedy show of last year's Iidinburgh Fringe. A clutch of sensational reviews. a Herald Angel award and an enthralled public meant that even her visiting friends couldn‘t lay their hands on what transpired to be one of the most elusive tickets in town. The ensuing run at the Soho Theatre in London confirmed her status as coinedy‘s hottest female property.
In spite of the public and critical acclaim of the diminutive motormouth. it wasn‘t just the Perrier panel who developed Julia Morris-blinkers. 'I did get introduced to Steve Coogan three times up in Edinburgh last year.‘ she says. ‘And then I passed him one night at So You Think You‘re Funny. and he wiped me. like he‘d never seen me before. So I went up and tapped him on the soldier and said: "Hi. I'm Julia. Do you want me to go away and get someone to introduce us again?" He said: "Hello." still looking like: “Move away from me you total psycho." Very funny. but. you know. it was a big week. maybe he was a bit tired.‘
It seems ridiculous that anyone can forget Julia Morris: she
16 THE LIST 255 May—(i June 200?.
‘I was introduced to Steve Coogan three times and then he wiped me, like he’d never seen me before’
doesn‘t exactly cut the figure of your average stand-up. Clad in a different frock every night from the Anna Sui/La Perla racks. you could say she dresses for the job she wants. ‘With the way I dress. I reckon I'm given the first two or three minutes.‘ she states. “People subconsciously take in. well. you‘re nicely dressed so you either know what you‘re talking about or you‘re successful in some other area of your life that you can afford nice clothes. So it‘s an automatic respect.‘
And Morris is only too happy to take advantage of that respect. 'It‘s excellent: like lulling people into a false sense of security and then saying: “Boys don’t really respect a lady these days. what they want to do is slide their cock into the front of your head. Since when is that an interesting prospect?" So people hear “cock” and “the front of your head" and “does she mean blow
job‘.’ That‘s a bit rude." But it’s nicely packaged.‘
It‘s a paradox that is winning Morris a legion of fans. She may talk about rude subjects. but never in the vulgar or crass manner adopted by many a run—of—the-mill female comedian trading on shock factor to elicit awkward laughs. Routines on blow jobs and golden showers are just 'dinner party stories' executed in inimitable Julia Morris style.
Promisingly. her class act has sparked the interest of a growing number of British television producers. After only two months in Britain. Morris was chosen by Iidinbm‘gh 02' Bust to have her progress followed at 2000‘s festival where she supported Californian comedian Karen Loftus. Stints in Paul Whitehouse‘s Happiness; and later in Chambers and Liquid l\"en's followed. but it is her work with BBC 'sitcom sensei‘ John Ploughman which is most exciting. The producer of .»lbsolutely fabulous has optioned Morris to write a sitcom all about herself. Things are most definitely looking up. ‘It‘s all in the pipeline. but there seems to be lots of things in the pipeline] she says. ‘This happened at exactly the same point in my career when I started in Australia. Now I can see those things all falling into place that‘s fine. There‘s a lot of talk about me wherever I seem to go. so things are on the move: they're just not quite connecting yet. But that‘s all right. they‘re not far.’
In the meantime. Morris is happy to lead the hand—to-mouth existence of a circuit comedian. earning a relative pittance for her travels around the country. Mind you. that does facilitate weight loss. ‘I‘ve always earned a more than adequate wage and I‘ve pissed it up against the wall. But in the last two years I‘ve had to be so frugal. and I remember in April last year eating tuna and Ryvitas for six weeks. I tell you what. I lost some weight. I was looking fab.‘
I get the feeling that Julia Morris doesn't like doing what's expected. In the same way she dumbfounded audiences in Australia by leaving for a parallel anonymous universe in Britain. the Terrigal-born star won‘t be returning to the Iiringe this year for a second bite at the Perrier cherry. As far as she‘s concerned. that ship has sailed and with a still buoyant career in Australia to fall back on. Morris has no regrets. ‘There‘s so many performers at home who I've been on the television with for years who would rather see their career go down the drain than change in any wav.‘ she says. 'I think that change is the hardest thing. but the bi risks pay off. Sometimes.‘
No doubt about it. Julia Morris~ pay day is on the horizon.
Julia Morris plays the Stand, Glasgow, Thu 30 May; the Stand, Edinburgh, Fri 31 May-Sun 2 Jun.