The Menopause… and why it can be a laughing matter

When long-time friends Judith Lucy and Kaz Cooke decided to present a live comedy show about menopause combining jokes, stories and ‘useful chats’, they had no idea it would be embraced with almost evangelical fervour.

Apr 29, 2024, updated Apr 29, 2024
We'll drink to that: Kaz Cooke and Judith Lucy have been friends for more than 30 years. Photo: supplied

We'll drink to that: Kaz Cooke and Judith Lucy have been friends for more than 30 years. Photo: supplied

In our household, we refer to it as THE Menopause.

Found yourself burying your head among the frozen peas to avoid spontaneously combusting in the supermarket? It’s THE Menopause. Tried to make a phone call using the TV remote or had a little cry when someone’s choux turned soggy on MasterChef? Blame THE Menopause.

This emphatic use of the definite article turns something that can be extremely discombobulating into a bit of a joke to be shared with fellow sufferers. Because if you didn’t laugh, you’d have to smash something… and it might not be an inanimate object.

Comedian Judith Lucy and author Kaz Cooke know this all too well, which is why they’re inviting audiences to join them in a Menopausal Night Out.

“Women weren’t allowed to say anything about the menopause for decades and then suddenly people started talking about it and everyone just got really freaked out about it,” Cooke tells InReview.

“And then it became a marketing opportunity for people to sell us stuff – most of which, frankly, doesn’t work – so I think that just like their health, women need to take control of the story about menopause, to be able to laugh at the symptoms, to be able to be inclusive. Because everyone’s going to have a different experience and a different group of symptoms.”

Cooke’s most recent book, It’s the Menopause, combines advice from doctors and other experts with insights gleaned from a survey of thousands of Australian women to give readers “the lowdown on everything you need to know about menopause” ­– all delivered with a healthy dose of humour. Her comedic night out with Lucy promises a similar style of infotainment, but with even more laughs.

Lucy doesn’t think any topic is off-limits when it comes to humour – especially something as “ludicrous” as perimenopause and menopause.

“So I will be hosting the night and cracking a lot of bad jokes about dry vaginas and lube – let’s just take that as a given,” she says.

“Then I will bring out the wonderful Chris Ryan, who is a fantastic stand-up comedian, and then I will bring out the marvellous Kaz Cooke and have a chat to her about her incredible book… then we’ll take questions from the audience.

“So in amongst all that I’ll probably have a bit of a chat to the audience, I’ll do a very sexy dance to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ while reading out a list of menopause symptoms, and really, there will be something for everyone.”

Entertaining double act: Kaz Cooke and Judith Lucy. Photo: supplied

Kaz & Jude’s Menopausal Night Out begins its national tour at the Brisbane Comedy Festival on May 4 and 5 before travelling to eight locations across the country – including Adelaide on May 31 and June 1. The pair previously presented a couple of shows at the end of last year in Melbourne, where they say the response was riotous.

“I don’t think we realised until we were in front of an audience just how much menopausal women want to bloody talk about being menopausal and to have a laugh about it,” Lucy says. “Someone said to me afterwards: ‘Oh my God, that had an evangelical feel to it.’ So, you know, we’re almost setting up a Hillsong event for menopausal women.”

Cooke says people at the Melbourne show were “laughing, falling off their chairs, they were getting teary”.

“It’s like a party. It’s a girls’ night out; nobody is laughing at you or being mean to you. Nobody is getting that feeling that society gives a lot of menopausal women, which is that ‘Your time is done, we’re not interested in you any more’… It’s so positive.”

And while it might be a “girls’ night out”, the pair are quick to add that they want men to come along, too.

“There isn’t a bloke who will come and get nothing out of it,” Cooke says. “Every relationship that’s got menopause in it can also be improved by everyone knowing more about it. You know that if a man comes to this thing he’s a good bloke!”

Lucy and Cooke have been friends for around 30 years – dating back to an awkward incident (recounted here) involving the ABC’s The Late Show, Single Living magazine and, uh, haemorrhoids ­– and have previously worked together in radio. If their double act is as entertaining on stage as it is in interviews, audiences at their live show should be in for a treat.

“It’s great to be doing it with Jude, a friend of such longstanding,” Cooke says.

“We know we have each other’s backs. We know we can make it funny but we also know we can be careful of people if they’re having a rough time… I wouldn’t do it with someone I didn’t know very well or who didn’t get it.”

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To which Lucy responds drolly: “I would, actually… I would do it with anyone if the timing was right.”

I thought, wow, we have only just scratched the surface of what can happen to people’s lives

Both women are happy to talk about their own experiences of perimenopause and menopause, with Lucy saying that for her, it happened “virtually overnight” when her brother died.

“Because that was such a dreadful, hideous time in my life, I actually put a lot of what I was experiencing down to that.

“A lot of my worst symptoms involved insomnia and chronic anxiety – two things I’d always suffered from but I’d just got to the point of thinking they were completely under control… [but] they got so much worse and it took me a while before I realised what the hell was going on. And thank god I did have a fantastic female GP who was able to help me out.”

In Cooke’s case, she just found “everything and everybody was making me furious”.

“And I remember realising – it can’t be everybody else, it must be me.

“The other thing that surprised me was when I did the book about 9000 women responded to the survey and told me all sorts of really private and also interesting things about their perimenopause and menopause experience, and I had kept to myself something that I had no idea was a menopausal symptom – and that was that I started getting really scared about driving to places I’d never been to before.

“About five women in the survey said, apropos of nothing – I didn’t ask a question about it – ‘I suddenly became a nervous driver and didn’t want to drive to unfamiliar places’. And I thought, wow, we have only just scratched the surface of what can happen to people’s lives.

“So many women said they just didn’t feel themselves. And that happened to me – I just didn’t feel right. And it was such a relief to realise I wasn’t going crazy and there was a hormonal reason for all of that.”

Cooke says the Q&A sessions at the live show will be “wild and uncensored”, with audiences invited to ask their hosts anything and everything. One of the most common questions at events promoting her book has been: When will it end?

“And the last chapter of the book, after all the medical and emotional information, is about what it’s like to be on the other side, to get through menopause, and all the positive stuff about that, which I think surprised me and Jude when we started talking about menopause… I think you get the idea that the symptoms are it forever, and that’s not how it is.”

Meanwhile, for those still suffering symptoms of THE Menopause, Lucy passes on an anecdote shared by comedian Dave O’Neil.

“His grandmother used to call her time after menopause the glory days – so we’ve all got the glory days to look forward to!”

Kaz & Jude’s Menopausal Night Out is at the Brisbane Comedy Festival on May 4 and 5, Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre from May 10-12,  and the Adelaide Festival Centre on May 31 and June 1. It is also going to Sydney, Newcastle Canberra, Wollongong, Hobart and Perth. See full tour dates here.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original articleInReview is an open access, non-profit arts and culture journalism project. Readers can support our work with a donation. Subscribe to InReview’s free weekly newsletter here.

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