Comedians Joel Checkley and Shannon WoodwardJoel Checkley and Shannon Woodford are the comedy duo behind Twice Shy, a modern, comedic love story with a twist. In this article, Checkley and Woodford discuss how it is possible for a man and woman to be friends (and make each other laugh) while avoiding the romantic tropes of Tinseltown.

For the most part, we would like to believe the gap that divides men and women has shrunk exponentially over the years, to the point that bringing it up almost seems like a dad joke. Take us, for example; a late twenties guy and an early thirties gal writing and performing comedy together, in perfect baby-deer-frolicking-through-a-dewy-meadow harmony.

While developing our current Fringe show, Twice Shy, we began from a mutual ambition to make each other laugh. The dynamic felt similar to that of a brother and sister: it’s okay to open up about your innermost secrets, but not cool to get changed in front of each other. But if we were to have an intellectual arm wrestle over who is funnier, it would be a furious discourse on the unremitting relevance of fart jokes rather than a gender battle. The elbow of gendered humor wouldn’t dare graze the table, not in our house. And I don’t think we are an anomaly in this regard—we are not the poster children for the ‘platonic opposite sex collaborative party’, because for most people, that isn’t really a thing.

Sadly though, there are still those out there who would have you believe that there is a fundamental difference between men and women when it comes to comedy. There are shadow-dwelling negatrons that slander the likes of Tina Fey or Amy Poehler (both of whom we would marry without hesitation). These negatrons deny the comic genius of these women based purely on their ability to birth tiny humans. We think good humor is like Marilyn Manson: it really doesn’t matter if it’s male or female, so long as you dig it (and forget for a moment that we just referred to Marilyn Manson as an
‘it’).

What is also not yet fully debunked is the age-old idea that people of the opposite sex can never be ‘just friends’. Whoever started this global rumor was most likely the recipient of countless sexual rejections, having never fully learned to recognise the difference between friendliness and flirtation. Throughout our collaborative comic courtship, we have both been subject to scrutiny from the ‘Will they or won’t they?’ school of thought. Of course, there is some definite chemistry here, but people seem certain there must be secret, romantic urges in the wings. Why else would two people of the opposite sex spend so much time together giggling like teenagers with a secret?

In response, we would like to wholeheartedly point a middle finger at Hollywood for perpetuating this stereotype. The silver screen deserves credit for conditioning people to think that when it comes to relationships, boy plus girl equals love. When there is a plot involving two people of the opposite sex working together, more often than not it builds from sexual tension to romantic climax—just think of every Sandra Bullock or Katherine Heigl movie ever made.

Further reinforcing this Tinseltown stereotype is the fact that nearly all successful, non-romantic partnerships involve two characters of the same sex: the triumphantly successful cliff-jumping of Thelma and Louise, the lucrative shrimping brainchild of Forrest Gump and Lt. Dan, Riggs and Murtaugh in every instalment of the Lethal Weapon franchise. Taking it a step further are police investigator Scott Turner and his four-legged friend Hooch, who prove that teamwork is more likely to be found between species than within a male–female friendship. And don’t even get us started on Babe.

Despite the magnitude of this first-world issue, Twice Shy is intrepid. We take to the stage night after night and do our best to forget (at least for an hour) what is between our respective legs. Playing gender-swapping roles, subverting stereotypes and using potty humor from both sides of the coin are all in a days’ work. But the subliminal power of the Hollywood formula is obviously not entirely lost on us, because as fate would have it, Twice Shy is a comic love story.

Damn you, Tinseltown!

Joel Checkley and Shannon Woodford’s Twice Shy has finished its run at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

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