As the crescendo of complaints and controversy was rising over the comedy circuit I was persuaded to abandon the safe confines of the theatre category and go in at the deep end, so to speak, by seeing Elaine Miller’s Viva Your Vulva. She’s the one who’s been spat at in the street, received abusive comments and had some fellow comics turn their back on her.
Direct, clearly explained, ingeniously illustrated and very funny
What is all the fuss about I wondered? Miller’s is no run-of-the-mill show. In her professional capacity, she sees hundreds of women who have issues ‘down below’. Many come reluctantly, in fear and deeply embarrassed, so the first part of her job is to put them at ease and a few laughs don’t go wrong in that situation. This show, and Gusset Grippers that preceded it, was written because she was shocked to find how many women knew so little about their bodies, from naming the parts to being confused about the difference between their vagina and their vulva and all the layers in between.
I’m told that when I say ‘women’ I mean cis women. In an interview with the Scottish Daily Express, Miller pointed out that her show ‘is about anyone with female anatomy, including trans men and non-binary individuals’ This has somehow managed to upset those she doesn’t include. "I think my crime is that it's only about female people and I don't mention trans women at all because they are not relevant to the topic,” she said. It’s rather like going to a wine-tasting and complaining that nothing was said about beer, though that analogy will probably get me into trouble as well.
As a gay cis man I didn’t feel in any way offended, marginalised or excluded by the content of her show. And why should I be, just because it's not about me? Instead I laughed at lines that made reference to (cis?) men and the humour with which she manages to teach. She took me to places I’ve never been and will never venture. I am the richer for what I’ve learned and I had a jolly good laugh too. I’ve used loads of visual aids in my time and taught thousands of classes and this is a first-rate lesson that conveys more in an hour than weeks of sex-ed in school. It’s direct, clearly explained, ingeniously illustrated and very funny. She also makes herself available in the bar afterwards for anyone to follow up on what she said.
Does she know what she’s talking about? You bet. You don’t need to be highly qualified in anything to be a comedian unless your aim is to educate, enlighten and inform about a specialised topic, which is what Miller does. She’s a member of Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy, the Health and Care Professions Council, the Association for Continence Advice, The Pelvic Floor Society, the International Continence Society and a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists.
It’s a rare talent that can unite accumulated expertise, a life-time’s devotion to women’s health and the ability to perform comedy into a show that both entertains and instructs.