The beloved comedienne's new TV show traces her path from faith to atheism. But trust us - It's funny
Judith Lucy, dear reader, is a seeker. Her new six-part ABC TV programme, Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey,asks the big questions. What's it all about? Why are we here? Why is Colin Lane wearing all that make-up in the flashback about Judith's parents? Some questions are more easily answered than others, but Lucy is adamant that her motives, while comedic, were sincere.
"Yes. Absolutely," she insists. "I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't sincere. Getting people to be open about these things on air, that wouldn't have happened if they'd thought I'd be taking the piss - you know ‘hey, Eat Pray Love was a hit, let's jump on that bandwagon!'"
The first episode sees Lucy reconnect with her former, devoutly Catholic self by meeting with Sister Rebecca McCabe, a former swimming champion and qualified biological scientist who also works as a physical therapist. That's not exactly the traditional image of a nun.
"That whole nun experience blew me out of the water," she laughs. "Honestly, from the moment I walked in there and there they were in these trendy modern little flats and Rebecca getting around in a denim jacket, I thought ‘these are not the nuns I grew up with' - the women with no ankles and the habits, most of whom were terrifying and/or insane.
"And since then I've caught up with Rebecca a few times, we've had a few drinks, she's friends with a nun in Melbourne who is not far off 80 and has this fantastic house in East Brighton with an incredible art collection - busting up with Boyds - and I popped around for dinner and had a fantastic steak meal and a few wines, and I thought ‘you know what? Maybe I really made the wrong choice.' My mother always used to bang on about ‘oh, I wish I'd been a nun, nuns have wonderful lives.' And I couldn't help but take that a little personally. All mum's dreams seemed to involve not having children."
Her love affair with Catholicism didn't last too long, though, and the series shows Lucy trying out a number of different ways to answer the big questions. "Almost without exception, the people I spoke to were so incredibly sincere and decent and had such faith in whatever it was that they believed in that even if I was standing there going ‘this is just plain nuts' I had to respect the decision that person had made. That was how they made sense of life. And I mean, ultimately any kind of belief system, that's what it's about: it's working out why on earth you get out of bed in the morning. It only becomes a problem when you try to impose those beliefs on other people, or try to use them to excuse homophobia or racism or misogyny..."
Or child abuse? "Exactly."
Or bilking people out of their money by saying you can talk to their dead relatives?
"Well, I thought John Edwards was going to be very American and creepy, but he actually speaks quite sensibly," she counters, still sounding surprised at her interview in the third episode. "I will freely admit that I don't believe in it, but I did used to watch Crossing Over and cry my eyes out after my parents died."
Which raises another question: was there ever a risk that the journey would be successful? It wouldn't have made for a great series if there'd suddenly been a moment during the second episode...
"...where I suddenly went ‘Aha! Yes! I'm a Quaker!'" she laughs. "I thought that was unlikely, Andrew. I had a funny old feeling that the Buddhist line ‘the path is the goal' might be true. No, I didn't wake up one morning and go ‘I'm born again!'"
Well, apparently people do.
"They do, but I was pretty confident that one of those people would not be me."
Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey premieres on ABC1 on Wed 27 July, 9.30pm