On the eve of launching the 2019 Funny Women Awards I am both excited and nervous about what this next competition will bring and know that the real power of what we do here at Funny Women rests with the talent, not me.
Those of us who work behind the scenes are considered to have the ‘power’ to shape and develop today’s comedy – my role is to help increase the number of women performing on the circuit and bring it as close to 50:50 as possible – and it’s still not all plain sailing. The Awards remain as vital and important as they were when I set them up in 2003.
Power is ephemeral and exists largely in the eye of the beholder. The personality of a comedian is often based in insecurity, self-deprecation and a need to talk about how they feel so where better to air one’s woes than on stage in front of an audience. It’s not always ‘funny’ but given the right delivery, persona and atmosphere a clutch of laughs can be your best reward for baring your soul.
Honesty, insecurity and paranoia often add up to funny. Deadpan, angry, pathetic or ‘alpha’ – however you deliver your message will add to its memorability. Most great comedians perform as a persona, an upscaled version of themselves. Some of them adopt a character as it can be easier to say the things you really want to say in the voice of your alter ego – Chastity Butterworth, Barbara Nice, Mrs Merton, Dame Edna Everage, Mrs Brown.
Whichever way you cut it, as the person who gets the laughs, you have the power. You can switch on the lightbulb in the room whether it’s a comedy gig or a presentation to your board of directors.
I believe that most people are funny in some way, even when they don’t realise it. Yet, when I meet people for the first time and tell them I’m a comedy producer the most frequent response is for them to tell me that they are “not funny.” The truth is I’m never expecting anybody to be ‘funny’ in that moment – as if I would judge everybody I meet immediately on their joke quota.
That said, more men than women respond by telling me their ‘best joke’ or, worse, saying that they don’t find women funny. After 16 years I’m on the verge of punching anybody who still says that to me but I have a personal restraining order that abhors any kind of physical violence! Although it’s been near to breaking point a few times…
So back to comedy and power. You have the power. In your head. Here and now. If you follow my tips for active mindfulness and let the thoughts and feelings flow and think in the moment, the funny stuff is already there floating in your prefrontal cortex waiting to be unleashed.
Yes, there is always a time and a place and you know best but if the amusing thought is hovering and it’s making you chuckle, the only thing between you saying it out loud or just thinking it, is self-confidence. Stop worrying about what other people think of you and try it out. That’s how comedians test their material.
Here’s my simple guide to owning your power with humour:
Baby steps – start with a comment and progress to a sentence or story.
Ask questions – it’s amazing how many people will come up and talk to you if you’ve asked a question or said something funny and memorable at an event, social or business. Try it.
Be less inhibited – what’s the worst that can happen? Start up a conversation, ask a question, complement somebody, talk about the weather… anything! Explore the possibilities of saying what you think out loud.
The next Stand Up to Stand Out workshop takes place on Saturday 13th April at the Groucho Club. This is both a ‘reboot’ for anybody who has done this before and also great for beginners. I will be gentle with you! Details here.