WE often see strident performers on stage claiming to have “no regrets”. You may even remember Edna Everage’s notorious translation of Edith Piaf’s “Je Ne Regrette Rien” as “I don’t mind if I do”. But it takes a truly idiosyncratic mind to create a whole show around just one regret.
“That’s just what I do,” Melbourne comedian Denise Scott tells me. “It’s all based on an event that didn’t happen… it was when I was 16 and didn’t shag a boy called Robbie Buckle.”
Scott claims she hadn’t thought about it much since then, until the fickle finger of fate intervened and, when she was performing at a “chook meet” (something like a chook rodeo) in the fire-threatened town of St Andrews, who should turn up but Robbie Buckle.
“Let’s just say Robbie came to my rescue, in a sense.” Scott will say no more.
I plead, what’s Robbie like now?
“Look, I’ve been with my partner 32 years and there was no romance when I came into contact with Robbie,” she says.
I get further when we talk about chooks. Scott reveals that her story has something to do with knitted chooks. “I will say no more.”
So, surely, she has other regrets, sufficient to fill up a whole evening.
Yes, Scott regrets her youthful “leftie” days when she made endless stand-up jokes about people who voted Liberal, later realising that she had no idea what she was talking about.
These days she sticks pretty close to the day-to-day horror experiences, “like that dreadful ‘scrunch perm’, and the miracle pants that cost $260 and were supposed to make you look a size smaller.”
“I also regret offending people… I’ve got many stories of offending people in my work… I’ve done a very good job at it,” she says.
It is alright when she’s talking about her daughter, an installation artist she credits with artworks such as “The Smoking Vagina”, but even the family tires of being exploited for laughs.
And there was a really serious recent regret when she was speaking at the centenary of her alma mater, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Secondary School.
Scott had dared ask how many of the fellow pupils had lapsed – “out of hundreds of women there, I was the only one,” she reports ruefully, “a very deep silence followed.”
The nuns didn’t seem to mind Scott’s use of a four-letter word, but quite a lot of the women found it offensive.
In this area, Scott doesn’t have too many regrets. “I specialise in inappropriate remarks – I think comedians should,” she says.
Though she started doing comedy at the ripe old age of 34, it’s been a terrific earner for her, with accolades such as the 2011 Melbourne Comedy Festival Directors’ Choice Award and the 2011 Helpmann Award for Best Comedy Performance. “Australians like to get information and emotional depth, with a little bit of comedy on the side,” she says.
In a way, we agree, all of her chooks have come home to roost.
Denise Scott in “Regrets”, Canberra Theatre, 7.30pm, Saturday, November 17. Bookings to 6275 2700 or www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au