There’s a joke that came to me one morning whilst blow-drying my hair. It addressed the notion that the audience might not have met a female Scottish comedian before… because being funny in Scotland was more of a daily survival skill than a career choice.
There are a lot of wonderfully compassionate, funny people in Scotland that love connecting with others; but for me, making people laugh in my teenage years also helped me make sense of the world, gave me an outlet for my rushes of manic energy and helped me navigate difficult situations where I felt awkward or unsafe. It would always be who I was, but I was terrified to be held accountable for attempting a ‘craft’ that I was a bit in awe of and it’s taken me a while to put my voice out there knowing that I may not have learned all the tools of the trade straight away. Luckily, stand up is a ‘learning on the job’ kind of role!
After graduating from law school – and not becoming a lawyer, I moved to London with £1000 that my Grandad gave me out of his own pocket: no job, no accommodation and no drama training. I was determined to retrain as a performer and continue exploring my creative voice even though my brain was trained for something completely different!
As my best friends secured their first jobs and moved towards owning houses, I became a nightclub waitress and met lifelong friends that would allow me the flexibility to earn enough and audition for drama schools.
Around four years ago I managed to convince a drama company at the time that I’d pay for the training deposit by packing bags at supermarkets for donations and stumbled through two audition monologues that I learned at the nightclub on quiet nights. Little did I know, serving the drunk British public booze would be a fine training ground for… erm… serving the drunk British public jokes on stage! By training in clowning by day and working most nights, I earned enough in Christmas waitress tips, selling Jagerbombs to corporate clients, to get a loan for thousands signed off by a bank.
Even then as a law and acting graduate I wasn’t sure on the best way to get a start in the industry. Still paying off my loan, I took on my first full time job to stabilise myself as I worked towards becoming a full time performer and collaborator. It wasn’t until I met a fellow funny lady at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that I considered giving stand up a go.
My moment came last year, with a broken heart, a lot of random qualifications and a bout of Norovirus I wrote my first five minutes, left the toilet bowl at home and performed it at a Funny Women Awards heat in front of around 80 people. It turned out to be the best experience ever!
A year on from my first set, lots of opportunities to practice with Funny Women at their Time of the Month nights, and not being afraid to network, I started to get paid more for 10 mins than I did in an eight hour shift! This month, I finally paid off my drama-training loan and can move forward with my dream career.
There’s A LOT more work to be done, but whatever your journey is – start it. Make the impossible seem possible with small steps and supportive organisations like Funny Women! Most importantly, whether you have a microphone, are sat in a classroom or taking someone’s order… make your voice heard!