Q: What do you get if you cross a loudmouthed gobshite, the patriarchy and a midlife crisis?
A: Me, entering comedy, in my 40s.
Ok, fine, it’s a rubbish joke. I write them now, so I should know. Still, starting out at this – my age – and in this industry? Sometimes I feel like the butt of one. So what on earth possessed me? Why would any woman in her right mind trade a thriving business for an uncertain future in such a highly competitive, male-dominated industry?
The answer? Sheer bloody mindedness. For like many who spent a lifetime using comedy as deflection, who wrench golden nuggets of laughter out of the dog turds of life, I genuinely thought that comedy would be the easiest thing in the world to turn my hand to. How difficult could it be? Very, as it turns out. Stand-up may well be cheaper than therapy – I should know, I’ve done both – but being funny will get you only get you so far. You have to really want it. Luckily for me, I am unrelentingly determined bitch with the hide of a rhino.
But as to why I started this late-life journey into comedy? That’s simple. And, unfortunately, still very relatable. Representation. The older I got, the less I saw women my age on TV. And it’s not just comedy, it’s everywhere. Where are our role models? It’s Emily Atack and Judi Dench with nothing much in between. And no, Loose Women does not count.
Where are all the filthy, funny, flawed women I know and love? The ones that leave me howling with laughter with their inappropriate behaviour and their questionable life choices? All the older women I see Sitcomland fall into three main categories – crazy ex-wife, mumsy mum or menopausal psychopath. It’s boring. Unimaginative. Annoying. And also surprisingly inspiring. Realising that no-one else was going to bring those characters to life, I decided to get up off my arse and write them myself. What a unique perspective, though I – I am niche.
And also, I now realise, incredibly naïve. Yes, I may have gone from bits and pieces stand-up to bits and pieces writer in three years. I may also have bagged a place at the NFTS Writing and Performing Comedy Course on the way too. But I still battle imposter syndrome every time I’m the old lady in the room. Until that is, I remember that age is the ultimate secret weapon – a stash of life experiences, a different outlook and – crucially – a healthy disregard for the rules. For I’m taking the saying, “If there isn’t a chair for you at the table, bring your own chair”, and turning it on its head – I say it’s high time that female comedians, of all ages, made our own table.