Bev Killick is a Melbourne-based actress, comedian, writer, singer, mother-of-two and our Continence Champion. She talks to us about her experience of incontinence and how she deals with it.
Tell us about your background and what led you to become a comedian
I grew up in Townsville, and it’s one of those North Queensland things I suppose everyone’s a bit of a larrikin. I was a very quiet child and I didn’t say boo to a goose – to the point where my parents had my hearing tested. They thought there might be a problem but no, I was just one of those kids who was taking in the world, and didn’t have a whole lot to say. I think that’s where stand-up comedy comes into play – I’m an observant type of personality – which is something a lot of us comedians do have. We process the world. So I guess growing up in Queensland had a lot to do with it, and I hung out with Aboriginal folk and they have an amazing sense of humour - they know how to laugh, loud. And my father was fairly strict, but I realised once I hit high school that if I could make him laugh it stopped me getting into trouble. And I became the class clown – and once you become tarred with that brush, that’s who you are. So I was looked at for that. But my drama teacher could see that as well, and I started getting involved in school productions and drama and writing comedy from a very early age actually – from 12 or 13 – silly poetry and limericks and all of that sort of stuff. So I’ve always just had that in me. And I started hospitality and worked in that industry for many years and I kind of got lots of tips from being funny and telling a joke and making people laugh, and it just sort of went from there. I studied performing arts at James Cook University, which was very avant garde and quite serious stuff. To foot the bills while I put myself through uni, I worked at a vaudeville theatre – a theatre restaurant - the only theatre of its kind in Townsville, and I learnt the ropes from old Vaudevillian stars, and the timing and the one liners and different characters. So I was living this crazy sort of double life – learning about Greek Tragedy during the day and up on stage in the evening belting out songs.
My father was a butcher and he’d bring jokes home and I didn’t really get them because they were a little bit adult, but I just sort of learned how to tell them – especially the long jokes – I learned how to elaborate the story and be really dramatic – the good old fashioned jokes that you’d tell at the pub or around a fire. I’d make up characters as well and find costumes for them and I’d always be entertaining whoever was over for the show, and I’d make my little brother be the assistant. My mum was a seamstress, and she used to make all the costumes for the local ballet school and other theatre productions around town, so we had a pretty good costume stock to choose from. I was just that weird kid – I wasn’t happy unless I was showing off somewhere. I feel very blessed with this period that I’m in that I can do that, whereas my parents in that era would not have been able to pursue such a career so easily in the arts. I’m sure if my father was born at a different time he would have pursued other avenues – he used to love singing.
How did your role as the ‘Continence Champion’ emerge?
It’s pretty amazing actually because I’m the kind of stand-up comedian where I’m very outspoken and nothing’s off-limits, so if there’s something happening in my life I’ll talk about it, and then you find that so many people can relate, and so it’s almost about secret stuff, secret women’s business in a way. So I’ve had problems with incontinence all my life – I’ve always had a really weak bladder, even as a child, especially if I laugh – I really let go. I used to have to have a note at school saying that I was allowed to go to toilet whenever I wanted. I was a very quiet child and I would hold on for some reason. I was too scared to ask the teacher to go to the toilet. A lot of kids have that problem. And after I had kids it kind of got a bit worse – the pelvic floor and all that stuff – so I put it into my stand-up. I had quite a few routines ready to go. So when the Continence Foundation of Australia was looking for someone, with the idea of having a female stand-up comedian, they approached the Comedy Festival and I was the suggestion. I’m kind of known for it – I go on about super-soakers and nitty gritty wetting yourself type of stuff that a lot of women go through – and they already knew that I had that type of material so the fingers were already pointed in my direction. Plus I’m a friendly type of person – I talk with people after the show and people often write to me about they did actually wet themselves, and I have good chats with people, with women especially, about all that stuff, so I’m a fairly open kind of a person which is part of the campaign – to be able to chat with people after the show and talk about it.
How do you find inspiration for your new comedy jokes?
Just from living life. It comes to you when you least expect it. Or you’ll have the idea running on your brain and the next thing you know you’ll drop a line in and then you’ll just find other material around it, and just keep slotting it in until you’ve got a 5-minute routine on whatever subject comes in. A lot of my stuff is around parenting now, which is just obvious. I have an interesting parenting life where I’ve been a young mother and an older mother. I’ve got 14 years between my kids so there’s a lot of fodder there. And also just the travel I do and the places I go – there’s lots of interesting adventures I get to talk about. I’m in outback Australia right now and some of the characters you meet – it’s really funny – there’s so many different types of Australians from the cities to the home towns.
I used to sit down and write out a whole 5-minute routine and see how it went, but now I can just trust myself that I have a funny idea and that it’s going to work.
How old are your children? How has your continence problem affected your role as a mother?
My son Abel is 27 and my daughter Pepper is 13. I’ve always raised my children to not fear the unknown or to be upset about anything about the body. There are no taboo subjects about the body in my family. The other day my daughter said to me ‘Mum you smell like wee’ (she says laughing) and I said ‘oh yeah I sneezed’. And she said ‘oh go and have a shower’ and rolled her eyes. We’re all very open in our family. It’s not like a secret hush thing.
(Bev has sometimes invented some creative solutions to her incontinence problems in front of her children’s friends):
I had to do some shopping and pick my daughter up from school and I was busting. I had to try herd her and her friend home across the street without holding myself inappropriately – I had to find another way, so I turned it into a game and crossed my legs and pretended to play My Little Pony– to speed them up and make it a game somehow.
How often do you do your pelvic floor exercises? How is your pelvic floor these days?
Since I became the face of Laugh Without Leaking, the Continence Foundation helped me to do something about my incontinence for the first time in my life. Thanks to making pelvic floor exercises part of my daily habit I can now laugh or cough or sneeze without having to go into the ‘brace position’.
Whenever I’m on stage, I also do pelvic floor exercises because I get the audience to do them too – I’m not just pretending (she says with a laugh). When I did (the comedy show) Busting OutI used to put a pad on, and I find I don’t do that now. I would be onstage for 40 minutes at a time, so I didn’t have a chance to go to the toilet and it involved a lot of jumping around, so to prevent leaks, I’d put a pad on.
It happens to a lot of singers, you’d be surprised. Especially when you’re singing and you’re really using your diaphragm to belt out the songs, it kind of squeezes your bladder in a way. Apparently Hugh Jackman has wee’d himself on stage. And Chrissy Amphlett did as well. And when you’re really belting out a song and really feeling it, it comes with the emotions – it’s a really strange thing.
(She has had her own Hugh Jackman weeing on stage moment):
It was at the vaudeville theatre when I was 17 or 18 and I was running late for the show and I didn’t have a chance to empty out before I went on. I was singing and without any forewarning, I just wee’d. I was wearing a skirt and it just ran down my leg onto the stage. There was a wooden floor and suddenly there was this puddle. The audience was up really close. Everyone could see it. So I decided to ‘make a splash’ and started tap-dancing. People just started cracking up laughing. It’s amazing what you can make a song and dance out of.
The most difficult part would be when you’re in a costume, because it’s the wardrobe department’s job to launder the clothes, so I’d have to sneak mine out somehow to take them home to wash them.
I understand your job as a comedian sees you travel on P & O Cruises. Are there some funny moments you can share with us about comedy on the high seas?
I know a lot of the crew and a lot of the guest entertainers. There’s usually about seven comedians. It can be really strange when it’s rough out at sea. The audience don’t feel it because the chairs are in a fixed position, but onstage it’s a totally different story. There was one night where I got one of the production guys from backstage to gaffer-tape my feet to the floor but then I couldn’t reach my wine, so he had to come back on and bring my wine closer, and it just kept going and going. And then when I started talking about peeing myself he came on with a mop and a bucket and a toilet roll, and it just kept going. By the time I finished the show there was so much stuff on stage.
Do people share their own incontinence stories with you? What’s been the most memorable? Why do you think it is that people find toilet humour so funny?
Because it’s naughty. You’re not supposed to. It’s just not polite. You don’t talk about wee and poo – that’s not polite. That’s not a subject that you’re supposed to talk about to anyone – it’s private.But I think that pertains to having issues around it – much like sexuality – if you keep it all hidden and secret you start thinking that you’ve got a very, very big problem when you probably don’t. I think that’s the nice thing about humour is that people realise that they’re not alone. They’ve been there done that, they’ve pooed themselves, they’ve had an accident, they’ve done a big wee and left a puddle. You start talking about this with friends and I tell you what the stories are just hilarious. Everyone’s had an accident. For my hens night for my first marriage there were about 12 women sitting around and we all had a loo story. It was very funny. We just went around the group telling stories.
What are your favourite continence lyrics that you have written as parodies to well-known songs?
Bev’s lyrics set to the tune of YELLOW by COLDPLAY
Got out my seat,
And turned around to see,
A puddle left by me,
And it was all Yellow.
Bev’s lyrics set to the tune ofOops I Did It Again, by Britney Spears
Oops I did it again,
I wee’d while I danced,
It ran down my pants,
Ooh Baby baby.
They think it’s spilt beer
But it came from here (hand movements)
I’m so incontinent
Bev’s lyrics set to the tune of We are the Champions by Queen
Pee’d at The Grampians my friend,
Wish I’d have packed some ‘depends’,
Pee’d at The Grampians,
Wee’d at The Grampians,
I make no excuses,
My socks have new uses,
I’m the high moisture Champion Of The Wooooooorld!
How do you feel about being the ‘face of incontinence’?
I was wondering if I’d ever be approached to be the face of something – a product – ever. And it’s interesting that it’s turned out to be this! (she says laughing). So I could possibly be known as ‘that wee woman’. I once did an ad for Coles about tuna and I became known as ‘the tuna lady’ – kids would shout out ‘mummy that’s the tuna lady!’ or when I did the Berlei bra ad a year before Busting Outit became ‘there’s the Berlei woman’. Now people stop me and say “you’re the lady who leaks when you laugh”.
To get help for bladder, bowel and pelvic floor health:
- Call the free National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66
- Go to continence.org.au
- Or talk to your doctor