Cathy Jones’s vagina is just fine, thank you very much.
When the This Hour Has 22 Minutes star connects with the Straight the day before she flies into Vancouver for a two-week stint at the Firehall Arts Centre, she’s a bit frazzled and deeply frustrated. It’s been a stressful two days doing promotion for her new one-woman show, Stranger to Hard Work, which has resulted in an article about her on a certain national daily’s website. The headline next to her photo reads “What it’s like to speak out about vaginal atrophy”. On this day, it’s the second or third item that comes up when you Google Jones’s name. She’s been in the business for 23 years.
“I in no way signed on to have it reported that I am suffering from vaginal atrophy,” Jones says. “That's not the impression I meant to give. I wanted to support vaginal health and a conversation between a woman and her doctor. I’ve kept my vaginal tissues healthy since I fucking became menopausal because one of my big passions is sex and I always want to be able to have it.”
At first it sounds almost like a bit, like maybe this is all part of her show. But a few minutes later, she’s crying, genuinely upset. We take a short break for her to regroup, and when we connect again 15 minutes later, Jones is ready to talk about her new show, wherein it’s actually quite likely that her vagina and her sex life will come up, but on her own terms.
Stranger to Hard Work is Jones’s third one-woman show, a mix of standup and sketch comedy. Jones is the only remaining original member of 22 Minutes, which begins its 23rd season this fall. She admits that she’s considered leaving in the past, but she always goes back. Jones says it’s a combination of things: the fun vibe, the people, the producers, the fact that she’s valued, and creating new characters.
“I’m always learning something about something,” Jones says. “Like I’ve just got to Earth all the time, ’cause I have ADD, and so it’s like every day is new to me.”
Stranger to Hard Work is a chance to do comedy her own way, Jones says.
“It’s about me, it’s about my inner life,” she says. “It’s fun to share my neurosis, but not in the way of saying, ‘This has got to have a beat.’ I’ve got a lot of freedom.”
Characters can be a nice shield between the performer and the audience, and Jones admits that it’s “very raw” coming out on-stage as oneself.
“I have a kind of an honesty problem,” Jones says. “I’m afflicted by wanting to be genuine, and so when I tell the truth in a comedy show, I’m not as comfortable in a standup situation, and so it is better for me to, you know, mix it up, characters and people expressing things. I don’t go around being funny all the time.
“I like to have the odd time when I fuckin’ let ’er go,” Jones adds. “Like eat a little brownie and laugh my ass off.”
22 Minutes has afforded Jones the kind of life she wants and the stability to keep her focus on personal rather than professional development.
“This show is just right up the alley of a lazy person, ’cause the show is from September till the end of March, and then you can just fuck around,” Jones says. “I got a place out in the country, off the grid, and I go around in my underpants with my big Thermos of tea, rowing my boat, throwing sticks for my dog, and I’m just like Mowgli out there. And, you know, it’s the perfect thing. I mean, I’m trying to, you know, get disciplined, but my personal journey—it’s been great to have the show and have that time when I can just have time to, over the years, work on my own issues and become more friends with myself, more depression-proof, you know, and more content with my life, and more appreciative of what I do have.”
Jones is 61, Buddhist, and the mother of two daughters, aged 34 and 20. Her older daughter has three sons (“My daughter and her husband are beautiful parents—these kids are so sweet! They’re named Tennessee, Wilder, and Huckleberry, if you can fuckin’ believe it”) but she’s in no way looking to kick back and relax.
“I’m still figuring things out, I don’t feel that I’m at the end of anything,” she says. “I don’t feel I’m at the end of my career in any way. I’ve got another chunk, when I’m gonna play the still-fuckable grandmother, you know? Like, I could still be a detective, like Angela Lansbury. There’s lots of characters.”
Jones is also passionate about self-help culture, though hers might be called advice with an edge.
“I want to sort of preach the gospel of fuckin’ workin’ out your stuff. Like I talk about in the show, I have a self-help book that I’m writing called Get Help, You Sick Fuck.”
It might also be a great title for her fourth one-woman show.
Stranger to Hard Work runs at the Firehall Arts Centre from Wednesday (September 28) until October 8.