James Burns

James Burns

From Laughter in the Lakes to Mirth on the Mersey

Despite the fact that I run a comedy production company, I am not a comedian. Instead I help people mine their life experiences to generate material and this has led to a new-ish career as a ‘public speaker’ often being called upon as a host or facilitator.  I feel very privileged that I am being asked more and more to perform.

Despite my apparent confidence, I get nervous too and have to practise what I preach during my  Stand Up to Stand Out Workshops – ‘be myself’, ‘know my material’ and ‘love my audience’.  The audience bit I cannot predict but if the last few months are anything to go by, they have all been pretty loveable!

Norwich was my first stop in April where I was a keynote speaker at an academic conference.  The University of East Anglia played host to the Doing Women’s Film & Television Conference, held every two years and attracting eminent academics from around the world.  I talked about the role of women in British Comedy and had huge fun researching video clips to illustrate my talk from Lucille Ball to French & Saunders. The clips and I got applause.

Then it was time for some laughter in the Lakes during May when I spent two days in Penrith running workshops for the Cumbrian Women’s Growth Network. I worked with over 50 women from all over Cumbria which is the UK’s largest county with the least number of people!   This comprised of one evening as a guest speaker and a fully facilitated ‘Stand Up to Stand Out’ session for a brilliant group of women the next day who whipped up an amazing array of comedy sketches, songs and monologues based on their everyday lives in just three hours.

Mirth on the Mersey was the order of the day in June when I ran a workshop at the Women 1st Inspiring the Economy Conference as part of the International Festival of Business in Liverpool.  Audience participation is key and I can always rely on a scouser or two to get some laughs!

The grand tour continued into last week when I was with Women 1st again for their London conference at the superb Marriot Hotel on Grosvenor Square.  Another workshop and more laughs at material created by women out of the audience, demonstrating that we all have an entertaining and inspiring story to tell.

A lot of this has developed out of the Charity Challenges we have run over the last few years with both business women and men.  This is where the Funny Women Team takes a group of comedy virgins and trains them up for a gig raising money off the back of their performances.

Humour is a hugely valuable commodity in today’s business environment so I am in a great position to distil everything I have learned with Funny Women over the last 12 years and take it on the road as part of our business package. We encourage women to use humour more confidently and show them how it can help the men we work with to understand business from a female perspective – humour is a positive communications tool that can cross the gender divide to create happier and more relaxed workplaces.

Lynne Parker is the founder and chief executive of Funny Women, pictured here on stage (far left) at the Women 1st Conference in London.

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