by Laura Ferguson
Roche is a sex worker. This isn’t a gimmick, or a character she iterates to us. Her show, Dollars and Sex, is about her being a sex worker and rebelling against the stereotypes that thrive in New Zealand culture regarding sex work and prostitution. It is a brave statement to make and I applaud her efforts as someone who advocates for women’s rights and sex positivity. I will make a disclaimer that I *am* Roche’s target audience. I need no warming up, or opening of my mind. Even so, I notice Roche quickly gets the majority of the audience on side. She understands not everyone will enjoy her work, but she is prepared for that and sprinkles her set with salty inside jokes.
Her self-awareness is refreshing as Roche doesn’t get defensive, instead shrugging off any negativity with steadfast resolve and a fortitude to tell even more controversial jokes. The more uncomfortable and conservative some of her audience grows, the more grandiose Roche is in shocking them further, and I love every minute of it. By doing pushing her audience, she creates an atmosphere for the rest of us where we are laughing even harder than before, gagging on drinks and spitting surprised guffaws throughout the show. And as such, we encourage her even more. Sorry, not sorry conservatives.
Her entire set is a controversy, yes. However, the most radicalising statements are commentaries of societal views. Watching her go through triggering sexual issues such as consent, sexualising innocence and molestation, I find that in these moments, she is not speaking as herself. Instead, she becomes the voices of every detractor out there. They could be statements someone has revealed to Roche personally as they learn her job, or something she has seen in the media, or even an aside on the street. A sad indictment of the way we treat people who live outside the morals dictated by beliefs not everyone shares.
Watching Roche collide against the demoralising nature of the patriarchy and seeing her find favour with the majority of the audience makes me feel empowered as a young woman. It is uplifting that in the face of such agreement, change is possible and Roche’s work is incredibly important for normalising and encouraging public education of sexuality. Not only is Roche full of wit, charm and a quick mind that kept us laughing consistently throughout her show, she is also inspiring.
Dollars and Sex is an absolute must for the 2017 New Zealand Comedy Festival. Yes, it focuses on the sexual side of life that may be uncomfortable for some, but despite misgivings the audience had, Roche won them over by being delightful, quick-witted and completely hilarious. Roche’s performance is life-affirming, fun and made me feel oh, so good. And really, isn’t that what sex is all about?
Lucy Roche's show, Dollars And Sex is playing at Ivy Bar & Cabaret from the 3rd - 6th of May. You can find tickets here.