In January 2013 comedian and actor, Tara Flynn released a satirical video named “The Case for Mammy/Daddy Marriage”, as a response to a similar video making the rounds at the same time. A friend, Diarmuid O’Brien, who trades as Danger Farm, had sent the original video to her. Since that point Tara has continued on a winning streak of witty and thought-provoking satire.
Last week I spoke to Tara about her work and her plans for future videos and creations.
In relation to the marriage video Flynn explained: “There’s a lot of talk about balance and we felt: ‘We agree’, we felt there should be balance. If there was going to be a very vocal and very visible campaign that was very clearly funded with quite a bit of money, then we were going to take our no money situation and address it, to the best of our ability.”
She saw the original as “grossly unfair” but noticed what she saw as the high production values of it. “I thought ‘wow, there’s someone with a budget and getting to voice some very anti-equality stuff and I don’t necessarily think that’s fair. How are we going to address this?’”
“I didn’t think it should be me but somehow it ended up happening,” she said.
In 2013 Tara released another satirical video, “Racist B&B”, which was a response to racist abuse her husband, Carl, had been subjected to in her hometown at the time.
“We went home after the easter holidays and Nationwide was on and there was an award-winning B&B and it just looked so welcoming and so inviting and the lady looked so lovely and she was making these amazing breakfasts and I thought: ‘We really do that very well, don’t we. We are so welcoming as a nation.’ Then I went: ‘Although we’ve just had this situation where Carl...Aw, hang on...If I put the two ideas together...’ and so that’s how it happened, it’s really Nationwide’s fault,” she joked.
Following this, in February this year, the Panti Bliss/RTE saga erupted and Flynn went about creating another satirical sketch: “The Winstitute”, to address what she saw as the unfairness of the incident.
“Well that was just a take on the whole Panti-gate thing and again words like ‘balance’ and words like ‘fairness’ were being bandied about and I don’t think they should be bandied about, I think they’re pretty serious. I think equality is very serious.
“I think when you start using the power that you have as an establishment member, as part of the old-guard, when you start using that to shut down people’s equality something has to be said and again if you can use humour to highlight the ridiculousness of that position then maybe that’s better than just saying: ‘You shut up. I don’t like you’, which is what your heart wants to say. But what I try and do is use humour to say ‘actually can you hear what you’re saying? Because this is what you’re saying, magnified a little bit.’”
On the incident itself though Flynn explained her own position. “I’m on team Panti,” she said with a smile.
Stepping back into the role of comedian Flynn continued: “Except that Rory O’Neill has a book coming out with the same publisher as me, the same week as mine, or thereabouts. And there’s a big war on. We’re going to take each other down. I am going to get that guy and I’m going to tie his shoes. He’s not going to have any nice shoes for any of his launches. He actually tweeted me at one point, he went to the publisher’s party, and just said that he had rearranged the chicken-wings to say: ‘Flynn’s book is awful’, so you can see it’s war.
“No, I’m very, very proud to be Irish, given Rory O’Neill and the Panti Bliss speech. Panti’s done incredible things to, I think, wake up particularly people who might have been ambivalent, who now go: ‘Oh, you know what, it’s time, it’s time’ and I think Panti’s incredibly glamourous and a wonderful, wonderful Irish icon and she makes me proud to be Irish.”
Despite her previous sketches, Flynn reached new levels of recognition internationally in August this year as “Mary” in the LGBT Noise marriage equality satire, “Armagaydon”.
Flynn explained that she had worked with Irish comedian, Kevin McGahern, who also stars in the video, in creating the script, saying: “two opinions [would] broaden the scope, so what we did was we brainstormed a couple of times, wrote the script up in between, came back, read it again, read it and saw what bits still made us laugh and then came up with the final draft which we sent to LGBT Noise.”
“It was such a good cause and such a good reason to raise awareness, I think it would have been very hard for people to say no, and so we were very lucky to get a great team,” she added.
The video then went viral and Flynn was overjoyed. “I always say the only way to guarantee [a video goes viral] is Miley Cyrus and a basket of kittens... And we had neither.”
The video did, however, see a huge swell of support, especially internationally. “George Takei shared it the other night. Like Mr. Sulu! I was just like: ‘Okay, that’s it, I can die happy, I can totally die happy now, if I never made another video again, Mr. Sulu has shared our video.’”
“We were really pleased that it went as big as it did, because the whole thing about it is creating discussion, creating visibility, raising awareness for the referendum next year and, especially for students, register. God-dammit, register. Otherwise, as I said on my own blog, we’ve made a Walking Dead spoof for nothing.”
Flynn’s enthusiasm for next year’s marriage equality referendum shone through when she spoke. “Today we voted with our feet in the March for Choice. We’ve got to vote with our actual votes on [marriage equality] and everyone is responsible, every vote will count, every single one, so don’t go out drinking the night before or if you do, set two alarms, get up and vote on that day.
“We don’t have a date yet but we’ve got to vote, we have to vote, because I will be so proud of Ireland if we get marriage equality.”
For Flynn the initial issue is registration. “Make sure you register. The worst thing that can happen is that on polling week your polling card doesn’t arrive and that’s going to be a kicker if it’s close, so don’t let that happen.”
“I think young people are going to swing this one. I absolutely think they are going to swing it. I think that a lot of the people who are anti-equality are maybe the old-guard or maybe people who just don’t understand.
“I don’t want to demonise people either because they just don’t understand it or it’s a new concept to them. I don’t know any of them anymore. My mum and her generation are all right on board with equality and equal marriage.”
Her message to students and young people was clear: “This is your Ireland, you know, you’re shaping it and you guys are the future, you’ve got a lot longer left in Ireland than I have so don’t you want it to be a cool and equal and vibrant, accepting place, and I’d certainly want to vote for that.”
Flynn explained her support for marriage equality as a matter of “unfairness.”
“People say to me: ‘What are you talking about today? Is it pro-choice, is it racism, is it the gays today, what is it?’ I only have one cause and that’s equality, that’s it. Boil it all down to one thing. So the unfairness my husband experienced in my hometown, the unfairness I experience as a woman living in Ireland and the unfairness that same-sex couples experience with regard to building a family, it’s all the same unfairness.
“It’s all a tiny minority who are largely unaffected by the issues not wanting things to change, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t change, and why we shouldn’t all have the same level of craic. Equality is equality. I’m terrible at maths but that’s maths. If we’re all equal, we’re all equal. We have the right to govern our own lives. We have the right to make our own decisions and choices and without the interference of church or state and that’s what I want for Ireland.”
Flynn, now known for her sharp and clever satire, explained that she always has an idea for a new sketch in her mind.
“There are a couple of tricky subjects, like being pro-choice, that I would love to tackle, but I would really have to find the right tone and so there are certain people I want to sit down with and brainstorm, just background, before I ever come up with a premise.”
She opened her bag and pointed to a small red notebook. “The notebook is always by my side. The notebook is there, it’s always there, so anytime sketches come up, they go in and I could be watching Nationwide some night and another thing will dawn on me, whoever, whatever. So there are none currently in the works, in production or anything, but there are ideas floating around.”
Despite the ideas for future sketches, Flynn is now “babysitting [her] book like crazy.” The book is entitled ‘You’re Grand: The Irish Woman’s Secret Guide to Life’.
She explained: “We wanted to write a sort of self-help book from Irish women to the rest of the world, so it’s for people of all genders, all sexualities, all nationalities. You don’t have to be Irish or a woman, or even have visited here. This book is basically, we’ve been shushed for so long that we’ve learned an awful lot, we’ve gained a lot of wisdom in our silence, so we want to share some of that wisdom now.
“Other self-help books, like the Secret, will tell you that you can manifest whatever your desires are, but Irish women know that you can’t, but what you can still be is grand. And we want to share grandness with the rest of the world, so that’s the premise of the book. I hope it gives people a laugh.”
Watch her brilliant Marriage Equality video here:
Tara’s book will be available in bookshops from October 16, with a launch in The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin. She will also be playing an event as part of the Vodafone Comedy Carnival in the Róisín Dubh in Galway on October 27.
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