Australia

Here's the funny thing about stripping

Two pivotal events changed the life of Australian stripper and comedian Chase Paradise.

The first was leaving the Gold Coast after graduating from film school and meeting a "an amazing woman with a double degree" who smashed all her preconceived notions about stripping.

Stripper Chase Paradise discovered she has a talent for comedy.

Stripper Chase Paradise discovered she has a talent for comedy.

"She had worked all over the world with NGOs and done aid missions and was stripping to pay for her lifestyle," says Paradise. "So I started doing it. She was my roommate at the time."

The second revelation was realising, through making her stripper colleagues laugh by telling jokes in the dressing room, that she had a talent for comedy.

"And it just grew from there. Strippers gave me my first job. I started hosting Baby Got Backa, which was a show at Perth Fringe that was a sell-out show and it just kind of started from there."

Now Paradise shares the bill with emerging and established comedians such as the Umbilical Brothers, Aaron Chen, Cassie Workman and Michael Hing at Sydney Fringe Comedy.

Fresh from working with an all-female cabaret called Seen And Heard in Edinburgh, Paradise will perform her debut show, Ho Life Or No Life, which sold out at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

"I think the show is like a colourful and unapologetic expression of female sexuality without shying away from the brutality that women, particularly sex workers, face," she says.

It promises to take you backstage into a world of stripping, celebrity encounters, personal stories and more during a night of what has been called "sex-positive comedy".

"It's writing jokes that take pride in sexuality, as opposed to from a position of shame," explains Paradise. "So, rather than slut shaming or, you know, making fun of people from the LGBT community or women or whatever.

"It's important that people take pride in their sexuality and they can come to a show where they see themselves, rather than being the butt of every joke."

Chase will make several costume changes, ranging from authentic stripper attire with Swarovski-encrusted eight-inch heels to catsuits and sequin dresses.

She will also subvert the myth of the lapdance, showing "the reality of me doing the lapdance and showing the reality of what is running through a stripper's head while it is happening".

So what things do strippers find funny? The clients?

"Yes. Such as the way that we're perceived in the club versus the reality … and I suppose the expectations of men and just their behaviour in regard to sexual entitlement and having to pay for something that they think should be given to them freely.

"I've had a lot of really positive feedback from male audience members. I even had one cry, saying that he was so moved by it."

Paradise says she was more nervous performing comedy for the first time than stripping.

"Absolutely. I was never nervous up on stage at the strip club. I think it's because I really, really care about how my mind is perceived, whereas I don't really care how my body is perceived."

Interacting with strip-club customers has also made her bullet-proof to hecklers.

"I think one of the things that prepared me the most for comedy is there's nothing a person could heckle at me that I haven't heard before. If anything, I would welcome somebody to say something new, honest and surprising."

Ho Life Or No Life, The Factory Theatre, Marrickville,September 19-22.

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