Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Interview with Catherine Deveny

Catherine Deveny's latest book Free to a Good Home has just been released. The book collects the best of her television and opinion columns from the Age in 2009.

For readers who don’t know you, how would you describe yourself and what you do?

I am a serial pest and professional pain in the arse. I swing between stand up and sermon, cultural therapist to cultural terrorist. I come from a stand up background and write columns, do radio, knock up books, talk rubbish and swan round Melbourne flirting and glassing people. Mostly I feel like the little girl saying “The Emperor’s not wearing clothes.” Then flashing my undies.

I’m dyslexic, an atheist (no jokes about the dyslexic atheist wondering if there really was a dog, heard them all. Although I did find out I was dyslexic when I turned up to a toga party dressed as a goat) and the mother of three boys 6, 8 and 11. That’s their ages not their names. Living in an all male household does make me want to get a tee-shirt printed that just says WHERE HAVE YOU LOOKED?

What were some of your most controversial columns this year?

Chadstone (abattoir of souls). Two And A Half Men (the drink the date-rape drug is slipped into). Hey Hey It’s Saturday (it’s about time someone exhumed and resuscitated the festering corpse of Hey Hey. Something had to be done about the staggering deficit of blokey, cobbled up, camp-concert style content on television and the shortage of middle-aged white men with relevance deprivation on our screens. Daryl Somers is the host. Host as in organism that is invaded by a virus on which parasites thrive.) Marriage (Not married. Obviously because I haven’t found the right owner. Or the right dress.)

Which columns did you most enjoy writing this year and why?

The “You know you’re from Melbourne if…” columns. (Lanes full of people sitting on milk crates eating breakfast at 3pm seems normal. You think a massage with a happy ending means when you’re finished they give you a cafĂ© latte and a Readings voucher. You’ve read The Slap and hate every character in it. But they remind you of your friends. And you would have slapped the kid too. When holding a dinner party, you know the point is to serve food no one has ever heard of, from a country people didn't know existed, bought from a little shop they'll never be able to find. The fact there’s a Chardonnay Crescent and a Champagne Road in Chirnside Park reinforces your suspicion Kath and Kim is a documentary. Your wife grows the hair under her arms but waxes her growler. Partner. Whatever. You know Sunshine, Rosebud and the Caribbean Gardens are not as good as they sound. You consider yourself a socialist yet you drive a European car and have a cleaner.)

Where do your ideas come from?

Probably from not working in an office and being incredibly socially promiscuous and a huge sticky beak. The best ideas I get are when I am hanging out with my kids, drunk, avoiding work or all of the above. See AUSTRALIA’S MOST BADLY BEHAVED MOTHERS Gallery of Shame for more details.

What’s the best show on TV right now?

Seriously good? The Wire, Nurse Jackie, Rockwiz or anything on GO! Seriously bad? Rock Of Love, Deal Or No Deal, anything on Channel Nine involving Sam Newman, Eddie McGuire or Livinia Nixon. Or anything with the words ‘Gone Wild’ on the end of the title.

If you had the power to cancel any show on TV right now, which one would you cancel?

What do you mean, “if I had the power?” Big Brother? Axed. Hey Hey? Boned. Macleod’s Daughters? Gone. One call from me baby, that’s all it takes. Or a word into Harry Connick Jr’s ear….

What’s the best thing about being Catherine Deveny?

The other day I did an interview and the first question is “Why are you such a bitch?” I wet my pants laughing! Because people find my writing voice is so noisy, bossy and rude people expect me to be an arsehole. So they are surprised that I’m friendly, aggressively helpful and inappropriately affectionate on first meetings but it does give me a licence to get away with murder at times. The best thing? Not scared of anything. Incredibly happy. I feel I have escaped from social convention and been released back into the wild.

Who should receive your book for Christmas this year?

Who will or who should? Who will is latte swilling lefties, house husbands, Crikey subscribers, Monthly readers, people who vote Green, old trade unionists, 16 year olds whose parents want them ‘fighting the good fight’, firebrands, blue stockings, metrosexuals and hippies who ride bikes with baby seats on the back.

Who should? Uptight white honkies, Christians, middle-aged middle-class white men suffering relevance deprivation, private school fans, women who change their name when they get married, shopping tour trolls and climate change skeptics. Why? To watch them recoil when they rip the wrapping paper off hoping to receive a John Howard biography, a new bible or something from Chadstone.

What books will you be reading this Christmas?

Anything with a centerfold of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins or the Virgin Mary in it. That’s right. You heard. I’ll be chilling out over the festive season writing my one woman show for the 2010 atheist conference and the Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival; God Is Bullshit. That’s The Good News.


  1. I also suggest looking at www.slanderyou2.blogspot.com

  2. Beautiful piece, laughed the whole way through from start to finish and wondered if I too avoid work (trying very hard to do so at present), hang out with the kids, get drunk a lot and stick my nose in others' business if I'll ever be so funny (or happy). Probably not, but worth a try, definitely! Go Catherine.

  3. Just bought it. Love her columns!

  4. Anti-Christian. Ho-hum.

    "latte swilling lefties..."

    Isn't that what she is?