Morris lands her first comedy golden nugget within 30 seconds of our chat. “I’ve never been on a blind date, but I’ve been blind [drunk] on lots of dates,” laughs the actor, talking about her upcoming 2018 television series, Blind Date.
The entertainment veteran explains that she’s set to host the “mildly cheeky” but family-friendly show, where potential suitors will ask questions of each other from behind a screen, and then select a partner based on the answers – not on their looks.
Morris likens the experience to internet dating, where usually even a profile picture doesn’t truly represent the real person behind it. “Thank god they didn’t have internet dating back in my time,” she laughs. “My husband would have chosen Emily Ratajowski over me!”
In 2018, Morris will also take her hilarious and hugely successful Lift and Separate comedy tour to rural areas to, “spread the joy”. She will also return to the African jungle for the next season of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.
“Is one of them Don Burke?”
Of course, I’m joking, but Morris doesn’t laugh.
“No one would ever give him another chance,” she replies emphatically after a pause.
Morris has a lot to say about the can of worms that has been opened up by the explosive claims of Don Burke sexually harassing women. “I thought a lot about this interview last night and I love Mamamia and I want to tell you what I’m thinking.”
Tentatively, I ask, “Has something happened to you?”
Morris responds with her trademark confidence, “No one’s tried anything [physically] on me, they wouldn’t dare. They knew I’d tell.”
Listen to Mamamia Out Loud discuss Don Burke:
She reflects that at beginning of her career in the late 80s and into the 90s, she was often uncomfortable, but because she was an actor who could deflect comments with humour, she was never too affected by sexually inappropriate comments. But that was also because, “It was the standard we accepted, and we didn’t know anything different.”
Morris observes, “In the 70s and 80s, television taught men how to behave. Women were the joke most of the time. We took our cues from Benny Hill. That’s why Burke is more ‘Can’t she take a joke?’ than I’m sorry.”
Because of the recent outings of media heavyweights such as Weinstein, C.K. Lewis, Spacey and now Burke in Australia, Morris has recently questioned her complicity; was her acceptance of the standard part of the problem, even though it was the general attitude of the time?
She discusses how Australians love a dirty joke, and it’s a fine line when it comes to comedy; but did society let men get away with too much with a “boys will be boys” mentality? Morris is adamant that in her experience, those men were in the minority. “There are plenty of men, like my father and husband, who don’t treat women like they’re the joke. Plenty of respectful men,” she says.
The sexist behaviour of some men, and a general acceptance of it, might have been a product of the time, but for Morris, the key is, “Now we know better, every man should do better. And the men who have committed crimes should absolutely be held accountable.”
At one point, Morris addresses one of the dilemmas we’ve all considered since the news broke about Weinstein; can we still watch the movies and enjoy the shows that were created by him, Hoffman, Spacey, Cosby?
Regarding Kevin Spacey, she says, “I still want to watch his movies,” she says. Of course, she’s talking about the Spacey we thought we knew. She agrees that creative works don’t belong to just the actor or the director, but to everyone in the process. Morris exclaims, “Yes! They can’t ruin it for everyone!”
Certainly, the way things are going, if we boycotted everything that has involved someone accused of sexual misconduct, there may be nothing left to watch. The problem seems to be so rife, Morris is concerned that, “It’s just a matter of time before someone I know, and someone I know well, is revealed next.” She’s bracing herself for it.
But she’s also hopeful about the future – in particular, for her two young daughters. They will grow up in a generation that’s actively taught about consent, and an era where women are believed.
“I’ve evolved, at almost fifty I’m doing more than ever,” she says. “Any man who doesn’t want to change his ways will learn that’s a big mistake. Big. Huge.”
It’s lines like that – blending a quote from Pretty Woman with critique of a gender revolution – that perfectly demonstrate why Julia Morris is our first lady of comedy.