When it comes to Australian television and web-series over the years, Australia has always outdone themselves when it comes to comedy. Shows like The Late Show and Comedy Company made Australian comedy shine on the small screen. Then in recent years, comedy web-series like Bruce and Little Acorns have put Australia back into the comedy spotlight.
Now comes Sexy Herpes, an Australian comedy web-series set amongst the staff and clients of a sexual health clinic. Starring the likes of Genevieve Morris (City Homicide, Comedy Inc), Chloe Ng (Neighbours, According To Ben Green) and Zoe McDonald (Open Slather, Top Model), the show has already generated a large online following so Heavy Mag decided to catch up with one of the show’s co-creators, Daniel Mulvihill (Neighbourhood Wars, Love Sick) to see just how sexy herpes can be.
“So Sexy Herpes is not your average name of a show,” says Dan, laughing. “It’s the brainchild of myself and Madeleine Dyer who is also the co-writer and co-creator and co-producer, and she directed the series. We came up with this after chats with a family friend who is a sexual health nurse. When you are content creators, you are always on the look-out for exciting content and hearing stories from her, and her job as a sexual health nurse (and how that impacted on her personal life) was kind of the spark that drove Madeline and me forward. We obviously had to do a lot of research and have consultancy and all that jazz, but it just kind of wrote itself and had that snowball effect. It was kind of this entity of all things funny and weird with all the things that go on with sexual health, that was the genesis, really.”
I couldn’t help but ask how their friend reacted when they told her that there might be a show in her stories. “At first, she was amazed,” he says. “Like everybody else, I think they think you are going to forget about it like a lot of people do; like it’s that thing that you mention at coffee or dinner, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, that would be awesome’ and they think you are just going to go away and probably not do anything. She was great at the start, and then as time went on, she saw how serious we were. When Maddie and I decide to do something, we do it 110%. She got freaked out over time but was still very happy to be a consultant, and she was a bit like, ‘Wow, this is getting real’, and she just disappeared into the background… the ether… and just let us do our thing.”
The pilot episode of Sexy Herpes has the name ‘Horsef**ker’ due to the actions of one of the patients in the episode, and I asked Dan how you find comedy out of something like that and whether that was based on a real client of their friend? “Truth is stranger than fiction,” he says. “People still don’t believe it, but we did choose that name on purpose because it is a web-series and you always want to re-invent yourself and be what people click on as a content creator. So, yeah, it was a real antidote, and we did take some creative license, but yeah, it was something that really did happen. It happened over a phone call, the person rang and said ‘what happened’, and they reneged saying, ‘I don’t think it is as serious as I first thought’. But it obviously was a very full-on kind of story, and it was one for the water cooler, so to speak. But there is a lot of grey area because with comedy nurses they have confidentiality, so, of course, no names were ever told; there were just stories told when we asked: ‘so what kind of weird patients and stories can you impart?’ and that is where that episode came from.
“This was one of those ones where I’m not sure how it made it through all the development and all the drafts where you cut things where you are saying, ‘oh my God, what are we doing?’ That was one of those ones where, to be honest, we just thought we couldn’t apologise. It’s got to be unapologetic, and this was probably one of the biggest ones. If you get to know Maddie as a director and a creator, she was like, ‘I’m totally using that, and nobody is going to cut this one from us. That was one of the worst ones. There was another one about certain sexual acts that we can’t talk about; it was like ‘how did somebody get that there when they shouldn’t have got something stuck somewhere on a farm.’ An ambulance had to come out, and everything and everybody was asking, ‘how did that get stuck there, and why can’t we remove this thing?’ The excuses are out of control, but nurses will just be like ‘of course these things happen all the time’ People just don’t know what nurses have to go through and not tell people about.”
With the show being on such a unique topic, Dan says it was tough to find funding. “We got completion funding from Screen Australia, and yeah, in a lot of ways, it was tough. We had been on their radar for a long time with some of the other projects that we had been tinkering around with, and I think it was the strength of the characters and without sounding on ourselves. Our craft over the years had got to the point where despite the nature of the show, the comedy and the drama and the heart were aligning. The stars were aligning for Maddie and me as artists, and I think they were like: ‘we don’t really want to fund this, but we have to.’ I think that was what was articulated from them. So there were times where it was like, ‘Guys, we have to be careful; we are walking a very fine line here.’ It’s definitely been that way, but I think that is just the nature of trying to push the boundaries.”
That brings us around to talking about the stars of the show. “We were so, so lucky,” says Dan talking about the cast. “We had Genevieve Morris from No Activity; she has done so much stuff that everybody just knows Gen’s face. We were able to call in cameo favours from people like Jason Geary and Maddie’s sister Harriet Dyer, who, of course, is a pretty established actress here in Australia. Rohan Nicol; he’s on Home And Away and has done Star Wars. We were able to pull this cast together just from having worked with them in the past and also having those old connections – like the old Coppola connections where the Coppolas just knew everybody. I’m not calling us the Coppolas, but it was just Maddie Dyer and her sister bringing everybody together, to be honest… that was pretty impressive.”
You can check out Sexy Herpes Season One at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeUXGNfOMltWctdilql7LrA