You wouldn’t think that the solution to overcoming sexual inexperience and anxiety would be to make a television show about it. But that’s what Luke McGregor has done, and Luke Warm Sex is the result. In this new ABC TV series the Tasmanian-born, Melbourne-based comedian tries to improve his lovemaking by consulting various “sexperts” and bemused members of the public. For all of its cringe-inducing moments (including a chat with McGregor’s parents about their sex lives), Luke Warm Sex is adorably awkward and quite informative.
When we meet McGregor it is immediately clear his giggly screen persona is true to life. Moreover, he’s persistently deferential and ceaselessly self-deprecating.
“Stand-up kind of came out of nowhere,” he says. “I was around 25 … I wasn’t sure what to do with my life. I was living with a housemate who wanted to do Raw Comedy (the stand-up competition). I went along to support and someone pulled out sick. I was a little drunk at that point and said: ‘Do you mind if I get up in their place?’ I just did five minutes of some of the worst material you’ve ever heard.”
From that fortuitous debut McGregor caught “the bug”. In the years following he worked the comedy circuit while crunching numbers at an intense day job. Balancing a corporate gig with his stand-up, McGregor soon realised which of these pursuits made him happier.
“I was a performance analyist at a superannuation company,” he says. “[Which means] a lot of data and spreadsheets. I used to try and crack jokes during presentations. I remember at one point the company wasn’t going very well, so I tried to joke: ‘If you turn the graph upside down, we’re going really well!’ It was a disaster.”
“I had to be really serious in the meetings with clients. When we were managing a lot of money for them I had to be really deadpan. I was almost shaking in the seat because I wanted to make a joke, but I couldn’t.”
McGregor’s decision to become a full-time funny man has proved very wise. He picked up Best Newcomer awards at the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the 2014 Sydney Comedy Festival. McGregor has appeared in several ABC programs, including The Time of Our Lives, Please Like Me and Legally Brown. But Luke Warm Sex is a project of his own. Throughout the series McGregor seems determined to reveal every last detail of his sex life. Or lack thereof.
“I had sex at 25, which was kind of late for my social group,” McGregor says. “Then once I had it I didn’t feel any more confident about it. It was so quick and I was too scared to ask for feedback. I don’t know how I went; I assumed it was bad. I got to 33 and I’d only had sex twice.” McGregor felt something was missing from his life – confidence.
“I could go on stage and I could talk to people, but as soon as I got to an intimate space … Nope. Even talking to people one-on-one, I still get more nervous doing that sometimes than I do on stage.” This is a recurring theme in Luke Warm Sex – McGregor learning to love his own body. Although at its core this series is an investigation into the Australian discourse around intercourse.
“Sex is never talked about in terms of pleasure, it [is] always mechanical,” McGregor explains. “It’s like Tetris or Lego. This bit goes in here and if you do this it’ll make a baby – and if you don’t do this you’ll get a disease.”
“If you want to get better at swimming, you go see a swimming instructor. Whereas if you want to get better at sex, it’s embarrassing to see an instructor about it. But there are a lot of people out there who are teaching techniques that are pleasurable.”
These instructors include a forensic sexologist, sexual empowerment guide and a dominatrix. McGregor is wonderfully candid with these gurus (and they are equally patient in turn). Thanks to McGregor’s brazenness viewers learn about sexuality and anatomy. These lessons have been invaluable for McGregor. He confirms, with great ceremony, “I’m actually having sex now, which is something I never thought I’d say.”
Luke Warm Sex premieres on ABC on Wednesday March 16 at 9pm. The series will also be available via ABC iView.