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Pop CultureMay 24, 2024

Kids or no kids, Don’t Lick That is ‘masterful’ mum comedy you need to see


Lana Walters’ new show is playing in Auckland for the NZ International Comedy Festival. Madeleine Holden (a parent) and Liv Sisson (not) went along to review. 

I hadn’t heard of comedian Lana Walters until a colleague posted the following message in one of The Spinoff’s Slack channels: “Has anyone been to see lana walters in the comedy fest? appears like she is doing purest mum comedy in that people are able to bring their babies / even changing em in the theatre lol.”

I’m a mother of a toddler and I’m broadly aware of Arj Barker-gate, so that was enough to get me through the door. Good on you, Walters, I thought, and got two tickets to the show. One for me, and one for… anyone other than my Tasmanian devil toddler. 

Sorry! The show started at 7pm, and I wanted to enjoy it.

I privately suspected most parents would feel the same way I did: grateful to be welcome to bring our kids, and grateful to politely decline. This was confirmed when Liv and I were awkwardly bustled by an usher into last night’s show, a couple of minutes after it had started. “Sorry, sorry,” I muttered, scanning the theatre and clocking a total absence of children. Walters gave us good-natured shit for being late, and asked if either of us were parents.

“I am,” I said.

“Ahh, that’s why you’re late.” Chuckles from the crowd. “What’s that you’re holding there?” I was clutching the printed-out show tickets. “Were you doing some colouring in?” More chuckles.

So far, so normal. Walters launched into a series of warm-up gags, one of which had a wine-mum flavoured punchline. I groaned internally. Is this what we’re in for? I thought. An hour of, “Oh fucky fuck, my sweatpants are on backwards, go the f**k to sleep baby gurl so mommy can have her riesling” drivel? 

No. Walters was much fresher and sharper than that. Her show recounted a family trip with her husband and two-year-old daughter to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. With solid comic timing and effect, she relayed all the surreal and hilarious ways her toddler brought down the tone in a Stalin museum, tense airports, a traditional Armenian wedding and, in a masterful climax, an insane Georgian petting zoo.   

So, the million dollar question: how funny was it?

We live in an age of gross digital exaggeration of how hilarious we’re finding things at any given time. I work in a modern creative office where we primarily communicate on Slack, and all day I watch people type “lolololol” and “🤣🤣🤣” and “lmaoooooooo” in an eerily silent room, and when I look up at their faces, their lips are curling up ever so slightly at the sides. 

This is just the modern condition. I’m not laying blame. But when I say this show was so funny it made me cry hot, blurry tears, my stomach tense with the repeated onslaught of giggles, you need to understand that’s not digital hyperbole. I was the physical embodiment of the cry-laugh emoji. 

Don’t Lick That is on again at the Basement Theatre in Auckland tonight and tomorrow, and at the time of writing, there are still tickets left. Whether or not you’re a parent – and Liv will give you the non-parent take below – you need to see it. / Madeleine Holden

‘I did a literal knee slap twice.’

I did not know what to expect from a show about mum life. Because I’m not a mum. And also because I saw the show on my 29th birthday. I’ve only got six years left to make a call on the kid thing if I want to avoid a geriatric pregnancy. Would this show put me off the idea? I wondered.

In the end, I fucking loved Don’t Lick That. I did a literal knee slap twice. Both times I felt kind of lame, but Lana really is that funny. And original, too. Her mum show mentions wine just once. There are no digs at sad-beige mums and zero jokes about useless dads. Rather, Lana offers tales of smouldering playgrounds, aniseed lollies, pro-Stalin Stalin museums and how monkeys can help get your kid off the dummy.

Don’t Lick That is basically about what happens when you take a two-year-old to Azerbaijan by way of a traditional Armenian wedding. There’s an illegal border crossing, terrifying puppets, some gentle waterboarding and a lot of heavy breathing. Lana is currently pregnant with her second.

The audience was SO into this show. The parents among us were, in a non-annoying way, super keen to share their own war stories. And Lana knew it. As she recounted her family’s first long-haul trip she polled us: could anyone top her story? One audience member’s kid threw up on their entire family on a flight to the UK. In hour seven of fourteen. There were no spare clothes.

The peak moment of crowd-sourced comedy though came when someone’s alarm went off mid-show. “Get your shit together people,” Lana said. “What are you doing waking up at this time?” The audience member replied, “No it’s not that.” Lana wondered aloud what it was actually for, and the audience member replied, “For getting my kid.”

Lana’s humour dredged up memories (mostly funny) that I’d lost touch with. When my brother was two he pissed his pants in the Newark New Jersey airport. There were no spare clothes. Thinking on her feet, my mum marched into an airport gift shop and bought the smallest T-shirt she could find which happened to be a women’s petite ‘FBI’ top. She chucked the piss clothes in a bag and put my brother in the tee, which he wore as dress for the rest of the trip. A few years later, we took a family trip to New York. On a walk through Central Park, my brother kept lagging behind. He was picking up cigarette butts and shoving them in his pockets. “They’re artefacts,” he said.

I learned a lot from Lana’s show. Namely, if you see a parent carrying their child while pushing an empty pram, the worst has happened. Getting pregnant can take ages. But you can get a doctor’s note for boning. How good. Kids or no kids, go see this. / Liv Sisson

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