This interview contains adult concepts. Please visit other pages of this blog if you donât like hearing or reading about sexually explicit comedy.
Does Humour Belong In Music?
âIt all started with âThe F*ck You Songâ.â Nikky assures me. âI didnât know that I was a comedian. I had to have several friends and loved ones â including my grandfather â tell me, before I decided to start singing my songs in comedy clubs. Although my grandfather would lose it if he heard the content of the current songsâ¦â
Nikki Lynn Katt is a gorgeous American woman who sings songs that are rude, clever and â best of all â funny, in the sweetest voice you can imagine. Indeed, that is part of how and why her humour works, at least to begin with: the âSarah Silvermanâ effect, if you will. The disjunction of those words coming out of that face (and, if Iâm to be honest, on top of that bodyâ¦) with that voice.
But, as she explains, Nikki didnât start her career as a singer of ribald songs. Thatâs a destination you can only arrive at, really, via an interesting detour, having set out for somewhere else entirely. Music was always her first love, of course, and thatâs why Nikki attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she set out to be âa regular songwriterâ. But the âregularâ songs she wrote proved to be âsuper-sadâ.
âIf theyâre not dirty, silly, funny songs about sex, theyâre all songs that would make you want to slit your wrists. Nobody wants to hear sad songs, so theyâre just for me. I used to record and perform the sad songs but now I stick to making people laugh.â
Sad songs and funny songs have a similar origin â itâs just a matter of how the songwriter choses to document the inspirational event. Consider, again, âThe F*ck You Songâ, written when Nikki was still a singer/songwriter rather than a comedian. The lyrics are something like,
This is my big f*cking âf*ck youâ song to you
You f*cking bastard, and your little slut, too.
âIt was sung really sweet and pretty,â Nikki says. A hate song done up as a love song is the perfect source of comedy and proved to be everyoneâs favourite whenever she included it in her set. âPeople started to tell me to write more stuff like that because thatâs what people like to hear. Thatâs how it started.â
Rest assured, Nikkiâs path to comedy was âa
little awkwardâ to begin with. Doing âThe F*ck You Songâ as part of her set at the Hotel CafÃ© in Los Angeles â âprobably the premiere
place for a singer/songwriter to performâ â wouldnât always prove popular.
âSometimes people was it as a breath of fresh air in an environment
where youâd just hear sad songs all the time. But some people thought it was
totally out of place. Theyâre the ones who directed me to comedy clubs.â
The humourless singer/songwriting milieuâs loss is comedyâs gain, clearly. Although the comedy songwriter has to work harder.
âWhen you hear a great song you say, âthat song was so great, I want to hear that againâ. When someone tells a great joke, you donât say, âI want to hear that joke againâ. To write a great song, you have to repeat something memorable, but in order to tell a great joke, you canât repeat that thing because they already know it. Iâve learned over the years that anything you can do to repeat a hook in a song with some kind of variation that makes it new, is the way to keep it going.â
This is true of two songs that immediately
come to mind: âWhen Iâm With Youâ, and âDonât Forget About The Ballsâ, both available on Hello, My Name Is Nikki Lynn Katt, Nikkiâs recently released EP (for
sale at gigs, on Nikkiâs website and via iTunes). The former song is a
not-quite-able-to-break-up ballad, the latter, a song of instruction aimed to
better educate young people about sexual health.
Well, thatâs not quite how
Nikki introduces âDonât Forget About The Ballsâ on stage. She says she wrote it as a form
of sexual health instruction for a school audience, but she wasnât allowed to
perform it in front of said audience. Itâs clear why: âDonât Forget The Ballsâ gives kids more information than theyâd really need or want â which makes it all the funnier. But thatâs not the only time Nikkiâs provided perhaps more information than the audience requires. Straddling music and
comedy as she does, Nikki can still occasionally find herself placed, if not on
the âwrongâ bill, certainly a âbadâ one. Like the time she opened for a Christian artist.
âI didnât know,â Nikki insists. âI opened with a song called âJewish Girls Donât Do Analâ. I was experimenting with survey-taking. I passed out an anal sex survey, and all of these Christian people who had come to see the Christian artist were horrified.â
How could anyone stuff up by booking Nikki and a god-botherer on the same bill?
âLA is different in the sense that club promoters donât actually promote shows. They find musicians who will play a show for free and invite all of their friends. The promoter of that show just put a random bunch of artists on the same bill with no thought how those artists would mesh.â
âPeople definitely were upset and they left.â Pause. âThe anal sex survey didnât go very well, either.â
Although âJewish Girls Donât Do Analâ isnât on the Hello, My Name Is Nikki Lynn Katt EP, the other songs are as full-on in lyrical content. Nikki describes the collection as âa bunch of recordings done over the yearsâ and though itâs mostly voice-and-guitar recordings made in friendsâ bedrooms and living rooms, it sounds much more cohesive and professional. Probably because some of the numbers, like âThe Sock Songâ, were recorded in a âproper studioâ with a full band and âproper productionâ. It also has a video clip thatâs had 10,000 hits on YouTube.
âEverything in âThe Sock Songâ is factual,â Nikki says. âMy neighbour who was my very good friend slept with my boyfriend and I had to live next door to her for four-and-a-half years and share a parking space with her and share a laundry with her, and I totally just hated her but I had to be nice to her or else it would have sucked to live next to her.
âOne day we were both doing laundry and her sock ended up with my clothes. The song literally came out of me thinking what horrible things I could do to her sock to repay her.â Rest assured, Nikki didnât actually have her friends pleasure themselves into the sock. But if she had, that wouldnât constitute nearly as good revenge as the song does. Nikki agrees.
âWhat I would really like to happen is a friend tell her, âDude, did you see this song by Nikki Lynn Katt?â and for her to say, âOh, that girlâs my ex-neighbourâ, and look at it, and see what itâs about.â
We can only hope.
While âHeartbroken Vaginaâ is about âlosing your mojo after a break-upâ and ânot being interested in the things you used to be interested inâ, âThis Halloweenâ is another band recording. Essentially, itâs about how Halloween is the night to dress sluttily despite the discomfort, or risk being ignored.
âI hate being uncomfortable for any reason whatsoever,â Nikki explains, âand Halloween is one of those nights: itâs the last day of October so itâs really, really cold and youâre kind of required to wear these skimpy outfitsâ¦â. In the video, Nikki is dressed in âa dorky pumpkin piÃ±adaâ which is warmer and hardly slutty at all, but comes with consequences, as Nikki explains: âIf you go as that girl, youâre just gonna be the girl in the corner on your own the whole night because the rest of the party is a parade of cleavage and upper thighâ¦ So that song was basically about embracing the fact that youâre gonna be uncomfortable but when it comes down to it you have one night to let your inner whore come out. Itâs a night that gives you a free pass.â
The clip of the song has proven popular, even Downunder. âI was very surprised when I got notes from people who had heard the song or seen the video in Australia,â Nikki says, âbecause my understanding was that it wasnât a very big holiday in Australia. Itâs interesting to know that itâs growing.â
It is growing â few people went âtrick-or-treatingâ when I was a kid. Lots of kids do it now. Iâm in favour of it, I tell Nikki, not just because it is the universal ânight of the casual whoreâ, but also because it was Frank Zappaâs favourite holiday.
âGood call,â she approves.
One track that does stand out on the EP is âElements Of The Ridiculousâ, a âthrow-backâ to Nikkiâs earlier work as a singer/songwriter of beautiful sad songs. âI guess I just wanted to show that I have more than one face,â Nikki initially says of the songâs inclusion. âNo, thatâs not what I wanted to showâ¦â
I think it is exactly what Nikki wanted to show â that sheâs not just some one-trick pony. Although the trick â clearly not her only one â is pretty impressive, I suspect a part of her still wants to be known for the serious stuff as well as the funny stuff.
âThatâs exactly what it was,â Nikki agrees. âIâm trying to show that Iâm not a one-trick pony. In my fantasy land, I get to play all the different kinds of songs that I play in one place.â She toys with the idea of making a record that embraces both styles, the happy and the sad, which sheâd call Bipolar. She quickly points out sheâs not seeking to ridicule or annoy people who suffer from bipolar affective disorder. Although it would appear on the surface that the sad songs and the comedy songs are poles apart, the fact is they are two sides of the same coin. The âsad clownâ is a universal archetype. âI hadnât thought about it like that,â Nikki says. âYeah, I am the sad clown.â
This isnât Nikkiâs first visit to Australia. She visited a year ago, she tells us, while MCing an open mic night at the Laugh Garage. The process that brought her here then, and has led to her return, began late one night in Los Angeles, as she lay in bed watching Jimmy Fallon.
âAndy Samberg came on and he was talking about his song âJizz in my Pantsâ and said that it was a number one hit in Australiaâ¦â
Indeed it was â despite being banned from radio play by most stations, it was, for a time, the number one download on iTunes.
âMy ears perked up and I did a little bit of research and found out that comedy records are the biggest selling records of all time in Australia.â
Again, indeed they are. I canât be bothered working out which, but the top spot must be heavily contested by the likes of Austen Tayshusâs âAustralianaâ, Joe Dolceâs âShaddap You Faceâ and Chris Franklinâs âBlokeâ. Point is, as far as Nikki Lynn Katt is concerned, her ambition is to make a âproper comedy recordâ with a âproper labelâ and âproper marketingâ. So, she says, she decided to take the risk and come to Australia on her own and try to make some connections.
âI came out, played some open mic rooms, met Julie Lawlessâ¦â â manager of the Darren Sanders-owned Laugh Garage â ââ¦who is now a lifelong friend and booked my whole tour for me. I also came out to take a meeting with a record label. That label and I are still in talks, but itâs maybe not the right fit, so Iâm still looking for someone to help me put out my record.â
Does Humour in Musical Sex Education?
While a comedy record is a goal, Nikki Lynn Kattâs greater project is âmusical sex educationâ. âI do songs about STDs and safe sex practices,â she explains. âIâd really like to do a college tour where I combine songs about herpes and urinary tract infections and songs like âDonât Forget About The Ballsâ â sex-related health education.â
I canât help
myself. The question has to be asked. âWhere does this burning desireâ¦â
ââBurningâ is obviously the wrong wordâ¦â
What I ask is, what happened during Nikkiâs formative years that made her decide to essentially write a musical about sexual health? Is she from a background where all of this stuff was taboo?
According to Nikki, at age 25 she found herself âdoing a little soul-searchingâ, thinking about all the worldâs problems, trying to determine what the biggest ones were and how they might be solved. âIt seemed to me that the root issue is that there are too many unwanted children. The world would be a much better place if people only had children when it was on purpose â that they came together and went, âI want to bring another human being into the world and raise itâ.â Her solution to how to ensure there are less unwanted children is to talk to kids, acknowledge that theyâre âgoing to do what theyâre going to doâ in terms of their behaviour, âand if theyâre going to do those things, help them figure out how be safe and responsible about it.â
To that end, Nikki applied to become a high school outreach speaker through a US public health organisation, and after completing the training courses, was sent out to high schools âto talk to kids about safe sex and birth control and STDs and the whole nine yardsâ. This instilled within her a desire to communicate to people the message of being safe and responsible. Her favourite slogan that sums it all up is: âLove carefullyâ.
And here I was thinking the introduction sto âDonât Forget The Ballsâ â that it was written for a school audience, in order to educate them about sexual health, but that she was no allowed to perform it to school kids â was a joke. âNo,â Nikki assures me, âitâs trueâ. And now itâs even funnier!
A noble undertaking, educating kids to take responsibility for their actions. Using comedy for a purpose other than merely being funny begs the inevitable question: can comedy change anything?
âComedy can change a lot of things,â Nikki says. âPeople laugh at something when they relate to it. So if you can get someone to laugh about something, youâve gotten them to understand it.â And it's as true on a personal level for Nikki Lynn Katt, as she cites her âboring day job at a law firmâ. Asked to explain why she worked so much overtime, Nikki âdrew up an outline called âThe Top 7 Reasons It Takes Nikki Longer Than Everyone Else To Her Jobââ and included jokes. By the end of reading the outline, sheâd managed to communicate to them in a non-confrontational and fun way the issues that have an effect on her work. âThatâs just a small way that comedy can make differences in every-day life,â Nikki says. âAnd when comedians are sent to entertain troops overseas, thatâs a way in which comedyâs making a big difference.â