Holly Mandel: Good Girls Aren’t Funny

With over twenty years experience directing, teaching and performing improv comedy, Holly Mandel has observed behaviours in herself, her students and colleagues, that lead her to create a talk entitled Good Girls Aren’t Funny, which she presented this past Saturday for the third time in London, at the Soho Theatre.

Holly has observed that despite 50:50 measures implemented in the theatres she has been a part of, and even created, there still is a big drop out of women taking the full curriculum of classes and getting to apply for teams and the higher hierarchical levels within the theatres – and we know that’s a reality in most, if not all, work environments.

We know, and the world at large has been made more, and more aware of it in the past couple of years, that there are systemic issues in existence, that hinder women’s career progress in all fields. From behaviour of men in positions of power to the the system being constructed with a bigger weight on women in what concerns family nurture. Holly Mandel’s thesis is that there are historical and biological factors that also lead to it, and that women have been taught throughout the history of time, to be kind, thoughtful, nurturing and supportive and that those makings of a ‘Good Girl’ aren’t conducive to comedy and that you have to be open to be gross and ugly to be funny.

I struggled with the concept of ‘gross and ugly’ as reasons which make women funny, as I believe being confident in your ideas and delivering them in an unapologetic way is what makes people funny and that’s beyond appearance, the way they dress or their accent and even though they might not be mutually exclusive, the talk didn’t make that clear. By the same stroke, being unapologetic, confident and frank, will lead people to be open about talking about their lives and that includes being confident in their bodies and being able to choose the full extent of what they want to share with the world about their lives, which will inevitably include sexuality, and that isn’t synonym with filth and raunch, which were things the talk seemed to imply.

The talk finished with a healthy conversation between all of those attending and a very needed sharing of ideas and experiences.

Holly Mandel has worked for Comedy Central, Walt Disney Studios and ABC Television. She’s a The Groundlings Alumni and founded her own school in NYC, Improvolution. She’s teaching two workshops at The Soho Theatre.