Lots of comedians talk about sex on stage, but none do it quite like Alia Vryens and Colin Craig. The duo are currently performing #PickUp at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. A wild combination of song, audience participation and truth-telling, #PickUp is a sex-positive pop punk show where the audience can text in any awkward questions they need help answering. Alia answered Colin kindly answered some of our own awkward questions…
You check your phones on stage! Outrageous! Where did the idea to have the audience text you come from?
A: Originally we wanted to have audience interaction in the show, and we knew that the whole texting/messaging someone for a date was a thing, so that’s where it started. But as the idea grew, it became a really great non-confrontational way to interact with the audience where they could ask questions and participate without feeling put on the spot or confronted. Now it’s one of my favourite bits of the show – we’ve had some serious gold come about because of the text line. My favourite gig is when the audience is funnier than we are!
What’s the most bizarre text you’ve had come through on stage (or off stage, if you’re willing to share…)?
C: Someone asked us what the circumference of the sun is… that’s what happens when you say “Ask us anything”.
A: There was one night where we were being peppered with a bunch of chemistry questions… and we answered them all. I couldn’t tell you that we answered them TRUTHFULLY, but we answered as honestly as we could (considering neither of us know much about chemistry…)
C: Someone sent in a text one night that said “Do you like whales?” to which I had no answer… I was stalling for time…
A: And right as Colin was about to think of something to say, the phone buzzed again and it just said “Want to humpback at mine?” That’s what I mean – when your audience is funnier than you, it’s the best.
What’s the most common question you get?
A: We get a lot of questions about polyamory. This show isn’t about poly stuff really, but Colin and I are partners off stage as well as on, and we’re poly – and we let our audience know that at the top and tell them they can ask us about that if they want. So there’s lots of stuff about jealousy and what my other partner thinks of the arrangement, if we’ve ever been monogamous – that sort of thing. I love that – because it lets me share with people something that’s really important to me. (We’ve been talking about potentially making that the topic of another show…)
C: We also get asked a lot about our sex bucket lists. We sing a song about it – so people want to know what the weirdest thing we’ve done is, or what’s still on our lists. In case you’re interested in my answer… I think sex parties is still the one I need to check off – I don’t know for sure that I’ll enjoy it, but it’s something I’ve got to experience at least once!
How did the two of you meet? And then how did the two of you decide to form a sexy musical rock comedy duo?
C: We initially met at uni but then we really became friends playing a two-year long Dungeons & Dragons campaign, because we’re super cool. The decision to do music comedy came one drunken night at the end of 2016… We’d been playing some music together and doing some theatre together and we were going to be heading over to Perth Fringe to do a couple of other shows, and we thought “Why not do a music comedy show? How hard could that be? What could possibly go wrong?”
A: Colin and I have always had a lot of love for people like Tim Minchin and Tripod – we’ve geeked out about those guys for years – so getting to try our own hands at music comedy was new and scary and exciting… but the great thing is we’ve turned out to be pretty good at it.
What does ‘sex positive’ mean to you personally? How has it impacted or changed your perspective?
C: For me it’s about de-mystifying and de-stigmatising the act of sex, making it less scary, trying to remove the sense of shame that sometimes comes with it. For me there was a real turning point in the last few years where prior to that I really didn’t much enjoy sex. It seemed a lot of hassle for very little gain. And then somewhere along the way, someone kind of opened my eyes, and it was very much about a change in attitude from my perspective and a change in how I communicated and talked about sex.
A: Who was that?
C: It was you, you idiot!
A: For me, this show hasn’t changed my perspective on sex positivity as much as it was born from it. I don’t want to sit here and say that Colin and I are perfect sexual beings – we’ve totally got a bunch of our own hang-ups, but I think we’re probably a bit more open about this stuff than your average Joe…
C: “Average Joe-Blowjob”
A: If nothing else this show has challenged me to think more inclusively about what other people out there are doing with their lives and how they’re having sex – and that’s awesome, because I find that stuff incredibly interesting and exciting.
You’ve mentioned a lot of the questions you get asked are about being poly, so here’s a couple. What does that look like for your relationship(s)? How did you come to the realisation that poly was for you?
A: I think I’ve always been poly – even before I really knew that that was an option. When I was a kid and there was a “will she pick this guy, or will she pick this other guy” kind of love triangle on TV or something, I always thought “Why can’t she just pick both guys?!” So then when I found out that some other people thought the same thing I was very excited.
C: Alia has a second long-term partner, but for me at the minute it’s more of an open-relationship situation where I’m dating Alia and have the option to sleep with other people when I can. But honestly we’ve been so busy lately I haven’t really had the time.
A: Our show about sex makes us too busy to have sex.
C: That’s a sad story.
You’re clearly both talented musicians! What drew you to comedy?
A: At the risk of sounding like a complete wanker… I love making people feel things. (I know… sorry) So when I’ve done theatre shows and people have connected to it emotionally, that means the world to me. And when I’ve been in bands, singing serious songs and people have gotten misty-eyed, that means so much. But there’s just something about making someone feel joy and happiness that’s just so wonderful… Plus I’m totally silly and cheeky most of the time… so even when I’m trying to be serious the clown bit of me usually pops out.
C: I don’t think I was drawn to comedy. I think I woke up hungover one morning lying next to comedy. That first season in Perth was a lark – just wish-fulfilment stuff. I thought I was going to go there, suck at it, have a good time and that would be it. It still feels weird to me that I’m a comic now.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you during sex?
C: Jizzed on my own face. By accident.
A: …that’s the whole story?
C: Yep. That’s it. I think a little bit went in my mouth…
A: I don’t have so many thigh slappers as I have awkward encounters… How about this – the first time I was EVER with a guy – I was sweet-18-and-never-been-kissed (I was a late bloomer) and I had no idea what I was doing. And… well… I broke his cock. But I didn’t know it at the time. I just was doing my thang and then felt some wetness in my hand – figured that he had finished and we went to sleep. Then in the morning I wake up and look down and my hand was covered in blood…
C: Holy crap.
A: it turns out it wasn’t anything major and everyone was fine… but… that was a hell of a first morning after.
C: Glad you got that out of your system before we met.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on stage?
C: I’ve had my pants pulled down by Alia a number of times.
A: You were not embarrassed by that. You love showing people your undies.
C: I was asking for it, huh? I shouldn’t have dressed that way if I didn’t want to be dacked?
A: umm…. Well…..
C: (yeah, I loved it) Oh – snapped a string at our first night in Perth this year right in the first song. The backup guitar that I take with me to gigs had broken earlier in the day so I had to run backstage and change a string and come back on and tune and keep going all in the space of 3 ½ minutes while Alia covered.
A: I mean… being able to do that is kind of impressive, more than embarrassing. But listening to you trying to finish that song a string down and not sure where to put your fingers on the guitar was pretty funny.
Of course, who else are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s MICF?
C: Clara Cupcakes.
A: We’ve been trying to see her show for eeeeeverrrrrr but she seems to always clash with us or be performing in a city when we’re not there. I’m looking forward to seeing Matt Kilpa – he’s another musical comedian.
C: He’s awesome. Very clever lyricist and one of the nicest guys in comedy.
A: I’m looking forward to partying it up at Haus Party with Otto & Astrid. They’ve been doing that show for 10 years now! And Colin bought me tickets to see Lano & Woodley for my birthday… they don’t need the plug but it is so exciting to see that they got back together. I can’t wait!
C: For a bunch of other great acts – we totally want to give Lisa-Skye a shout out – she’s put together a new initiative called the Safety House Guide which is a digest of the MICF full guide that only includes acts that are inclusive, positive, accessible comedy – basically, none of these shows kick down, they only kick up.
#PickUp is on at Tasma Terrace at 9:15pm from 27 March – 8 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available online via the MICF website, and at the venue. If you want to hear some of Alia and Colin’s songs or need a bit more reassurance before you buy those tickets, head to their website, Pick Up Comedy.