VIP mum Nelly Thomas

Nelly Thomas is not a "yummy mummy." The Melbourne comedian despises the over-used term and instead prefers the phrase "funny mummy." Mercedes Maguire discoveres it is a more appropriate moniker, after all, the first-time-mum was able to turn her gruelling 36-hour labour into a comedy routine.

Nelly's comedic star began to rise five years ago when she won the national Raw Comedy competition. Since then she has toured the country appearing at four Melbourne Comedy Festivals, two Melbourne Fringe Festivals and two stints at the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Nelly lives in Melbourne with her partner Lachlan MacDowall and their nine-month-old daughter Rose.


Your comedy show is based on the birth of your first child, Rose and a labour that lasted 36 hours. How did you find any humour in that event at all??

The gas. No, seriously, I wouldn't say I was laughing that much at the time! However, looking back, what can you do but laugh? Who would have thought that a day (or two in my case) consisting of two- minutely contractions with your head over a toilet bowl and your V-JJ on view to about 15 people would be the happiest two days of your life?

What is the one parenthood gag that gets the best laughs every time?

The one that probably resonates the most is "I never thought anyone could make me feel more guilt than my mother ... then I became one". I think everyone can relate to both the intense and profound joy and love of parenthood, as well as the sometimes crippling guilt. Mothers in particular are guilt-tripped constantly - anyone would think if you didn't read your kids 10 books a day, teach them violin, feed them organic chickpeas, talk to them in seven languages and breastfeed them until they're 25 that they would all turn out like the Mansons. You do your best and if you love and nurture them, it's usually enough.

You apparently despise the term "yummy mummy." What is it that you hate about that over-used phrase?

For a start, women are not foodstuffs! Secondly, women should not have the expectation of looking, let alone feeling, attractive while pregnant or in the months after. I just created a human! Isn't that enough? Now I've got to think about whether my shoes match my purse?

For many new mums returning to the workforce is a tough time. How do you manage what would be fairly odd hours as a comedian and how well do you juggle your work/life balance?

I drink - a lot. No seriously, it is a challenge. Luckily for me I can be home all day and just get things done when Rose is asleep (ha! sleep!) and most of my gigs are at night when my partner is home and Rose is in bed. It is a struggle though. I am very good at hanging out nappies, while singing Baa Baa Black Sheep and answering emails at the same time. Multi-tasking! Should be called multi-miracling.

Do you find that humour helps you through the tough times of motherhood?

It helps on the days you think you're the crappest mother in the world. Like the first time I dropped Rose (yes, I have done it again). She rolled off a table and I have never felt worse about anything in my entire life. When I tell the story about it on stage I always get knowing nods from parents in the audience and it makes me feel as though I mustn't be so awful after all. Their kids look alright. Hey, maybe I'm even good at this mother thing!

One of your shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a "cry baby session" where parents can bring along their little ones. Do you think crying (or screaming) babies could be worse than hecklers at your show?

The worst heckle I have ever heard was a kid at a show who stopped the comedian by putting his hand up and saying "excuse me sir but when will this get good?" Devastating! It's one thing for some drunk idiot to yell something out about your big hooters, it's quite another to be politely told by a five-year-old that he's bored. The Cry-baby session is certainly en experiment but I know how hard it is to get out and see stuff when you've got a little baby so I wanted to do it for new parents. Hopefully they'll all cry at once and I'll get some jokes out in between! My baby will be there too so that will be interesting!

What is it that you love most about being a mum?

Without wanting to sound like a complete twat, almost everything. It is hard work but wow, I have never felt such joy and such love. I think the best thing (other than kisses and cuddles and baby farts - hilarious) is getting things into perspective. If I have a bad gig - so what? I feel bad for an hour and then Rose sticks a rusk up her nose and I fall about laughing. Nothing seems as important and for someone like me who thinks too much, that's a good thing.

Who does most of the domestic chores at home? Is your partner 'hands-on' around the house? What chore do you simply despise?

Lachlan is very much a snag and definitely does his fair share. I do most of the cooking but that's because I like my own food better (hopefully he won't read that)! Don't get me wrong, the way he hangs out the washing drives me bonkers - dude, don't peg from the shoulders!!! - but I have deliberately told myself to let it go. It will dry. If I want him to hang it out I need to keep my mouth shut. Ok, once or twice I have re-hung it (eeek), but I feel dirty when I do. As for chores I hate, probably vacuuming. It's too loud. I like to whistle while I work.

Life with children can be fairly chaotic as you would no doubt learnt by now. How do you and your partner keep the romance alive?

Ha! Is that a trick question? Let's just say sex-drive can be an issue for lots of new mums and I'm no exception. Mine drove off. I'm hoping it will come back when I get some shut-eye.

Have you had any embarrasing incidents out in public with your baby?

Not with my baby yet because she can't talk but a friend of mine told me recently that she was in a restaurant with her daughter and a very large woman walked in. Her daughter pointed at her and said "quick mum, hide from the big fat monster lady". Mortified! The worst thing is, my friend works in women's health promotion. Awful.

What has been your greatest personal sacrifice since becoming a mum?

Probably time but I do try and do many of the things I used to but just take Rose with me. You know those cafes and places like that that turn their noses up at kids? I don't avoid those. I get all my friends with massive prams and invite them there for coffee ... at lunch-time.

How often do you take time out for yourself?

Every day at 4.30pm I catch up with Ridge, Brooke and Taylor. The good thing is, if I miss a day, month or even a year, I know they'll still all be sleeping with each other. And Lachlan takes Rose shopping on Saturday mornings to give me some time to myself.

If there was something you would change if you had your time over - what would it be?

I wouldn't assume I could just breastfeed. I had a terrible time with that and was quite devastated to "fail" at it. I thought with my ample rack there'd be no problems - how wrong I was! If there's a next time I'll try to prepare for that beforehand.

If you had just one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st century parent, what would that be?

I would give all women 12 months paid maternity leave. Everyone says it costs too much but many other countries do it. Secondly, I would ban pictures of Demi Moore pregnant - that's just not normal. At the very least I'd draw stretch marks on her.

Nelly will perform her hilarious show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with previews on March 19 and 20 followed by a season from march 21 to April 12. She will perform a special "cry baby" show where parents can bring along their little ones on Sunday April 6. To find out more about Nelly Thomas visit her website at www.nellythomas.com
 
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