Jean Kittson brings comic relief to caring

It may be hard to imagine that talking about menopause or caring for ageing parents could be funny but Jean Kittson is a master of the art and when she talks to an audience at an International Women’s Day lunch at Ipswich Civic Centre on 7 March she assures us there will be a lot of laughs.

“I’ll be talking about what we never talk about, and what we still don’t talk about 40 years after women’s lib, and I’ll be talking about my experiences; we will have such a good laugh,” Kittson said ahead of her visit.

Kittson, who was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in Australia Day honours last year for her significant service to the arts as a performer, writer and comedian, is well-known for her comedy on television, radio and in newspaper columns, most recently making a guest appearance on ABCs reboot of Mother and Son, as well as acting roles in films such as Seriously Red alongside Celeste Barber and Rose Byrne, but she is also now a star speaker at aged care and carer expos across the country since the publication of her best-selling book We Need to Talk About Mum & Dad (Macmillan).

Kittson was prompted to write the book when she started caring for her own parents, now aged 96 and 99 and still living independently. Kittson discovered it’s a challenging journey and she’s open about sharing her own stories along the way, albeit talking about tricky topics with a decent sense of humour.

“I talk about being a carer and it makes people feel they are not alone. It’s really hard, you make a lot of mistakes and you don’t know what’s going on and you feel like somehow it’s your fault, but people are finding the book really useful and it’s made me feel useful myself,” she said.

Since the book’s publication she is often contacted by people who tell her how much it has helped them get through the last years of their parents’ lives or others who say they are actioning every chapter. The book has been used as the basis of discussions on television and carer support provider Care2Serve is developing a series of training modules based on the book for their network of carers.

It’s not just a guide to navigating aged care, although it is packed with useful information.

“I wrote the book I needed so I did learn a lot too. I understand much more about carers rights now because if you’re a primary carer you have to be involved in the discussions. It’s your right to know and be part of the decisions about what’s happening with the person you care for.

“It’s also about educating us all in how we can help. We say it takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to make sure our elders reach safe harbour at the end of their lives, feeling happy, useful and valued, and not a burden.

In Kittson’s signature style, humorous stories are the spine of the book.

“With those stories I try to give people a laugh and let them laugh about their own situation but also it lets them know they are not alone.

And, as with her earlier book about menopause, You’re Still Hot to Me now in its sixth reprint, the topic often comes up in her comedy.

“People will absolutely come up to me afterwards because so many people are carers now and have a bit of a laugh about being a carer. It really has been resonating with people so it’s good to talk about it.”

Speaking from the point of view of an ordinary person makes Kittson immediately relatable.

“What I say is what most people feel about things but I can do it with humour and in a way that people will listen and be amused rather than frightened by it.”

Kittson says she’s always had a sense of humour, brought up in household where no matter what happened in their lives it was always turned into a funny story, no matter how difficult it might have been.

“My natural inclination was to take the mickey out of things and not to take things too seriously,” she said.

After a very short experience as a teacher she decided she wanted to be an actor, but without the requisite training she couldn’t get an audition.

“I thought the only way I’m going to get a job as an actor is if someone sees me acting and the only place I could get on stage was at the local Last Laugh comedy venue where they had a try-out night every week so I wrote a piece for that and thought I’ll see what happens.

“I had fun – up to a point – it was still terrifying but I met a lot of other comedians and I just sort of fell into the comedy world and that’s where I stayed. Basically I was looking for a job and I was desperate.”

Previous Post
Next Post