BIG Comedy Conference: Review

Rabiah Coon

Rabiah Coon

Funny Women joined in on the fun and knowledge-sharing at the British Comedy Guide’s Big Comedy Conference in London on Saturday 16th of March. By a show of hands, the majority of attendees were writers (and unrepresented ones at that). Also present were producers, directors and even stand up comics like me.

Funny Women founder Lynne Parker assembled a team of volunteers to represent Funny Women at their well-attended stand. Questions ranged from the general how to get started in comedy to what Funny Women does and when this year’s Awards will open for submissions. It was encouraging to see so many women excited to enter this year, expressing interest by signing up and walking away with a Funny Women pen. Of course, anyone was welcome to take a pen.

In fact, volunteer Anna Coane’s favourite moment at the booth was when a middle aged man approached the stall, ignored all the women there, helped himself to a Funny Women pen, then walked off. This was while Lynne was talking to everyone about the importance of investing in Funny Women which as an organisation provides a place for women to develop into the acts that make for diverse bills in the still very male-dominated comedy industry!

From the welcome address by Ged Parson featuring his five unexpected moments in his writing career (and a lesson to all that you don’t have to master PowerPoint to be successful!), to the closing session that left us all defending social media influencers despite ourselves, the day was full of memorable moments and lots of takeaways.

Industry update, the first session, featured Georgy Jamieson speaking to heads of department and commissioners about pitching ideas. The overarching theme from all of the panelists was to do research to understand who you’re pitching to and how your work is a good fit for the channel or network. Also, pay attention to what is being asked in the brief and sticking to that. Creativity is good but not when it comes to reinterpreting a creative brief!

Coffee kicked in by the second session of the day which made for a lively ‘Writers and agents’ session. For this attendee, it was a joy to see Toussaint Douglass on stage after gigging with him on Zoom during lockdown and witnessing his success since then. When I wasn’t fangirling, I was listening. My big takeaway was that the relationship between the talent and the agent is best when it is a true partnership. Finding an agent who understand you and believes in what you’re doing is important. Also, being able to clearly express your goals is vital, so your agent can then forge a clear path towards them.

Coane recalled one moment in particular. When a male agent was conveying how important it is to research an agent to understand if you’d be a good fit for their roster, he stated that, for example, if he already has two queer writers from Northern Ireland on his books he wouldn’t need any more. An audience member got the day’s biggest applause by standing up, announcing herself as a lesbian comedian/writer with ADHD from the North, then asking ‘So what I want to know is – are two gays the limit?’. She should put that on a t-shirt.

Lee Mack in conversation with Jason Cook was a joy to behold. Mack offered quite a lot by way of advice for creating a successful sitcom.

Attendee and Funny Women volunteer Rachael Amesbury summed up his points succinctly finding them the most valuable of the day for her. “I think the most important point was around investing time in the building blocks of a sitcom and making sure that you lay the foundations in a way that is invisible to the naked eye. Without them the story won’t work.”

Mack also spoke about the incredible way American sitcoms use camera work to emphasise the comedy, specifically referencing ‘FRIENDS’ and the way they include full body shots.

There was also a very memorable ‘comedy nerd-off’ between Lee Mack and a young woman who had an intricate memory of Not Going Out episodes. “It was some lovely, good-natured playfulness” recalls Carla Keen.

The penultimate panel, Producers, can be summed up with the statement, “Show, don’t tell.” Sending a link to something you’ve made can make a bigger impact than only sending a script.

Becky Thorn who was also part of the Funny Women crew said, “My biggest take away from the event was to just keep making and sharing your content somehow. For script writers this may mean producing and sharing short versions of your longer pieces or even getting friends together to perform your work and upload it.“

For the last session of the day, we heard from the Avenues to Success panel. Spoiler-alert: there is not one path to success. But it seems consistency is key. An audience member’s question about the importance of entering competitions resulted in a timely reference to Funny Women when Ben Wicks cited working with Funny Women Stage Award finalist Rosie Jones. The answer: yes, competitions do have an impact.

As Keen noted, “Make, make, make. Record your scripts, video your characters, get friends to perform for you, do it front of any audience; SHOW your funny.“

And from Thorn, “Keep going, do it yourself to get your work out there and read the brief for submissions!”

In addition to that, my big takeaway is to take the time to research and be genuine when contacting agents or producers or answering a brief. Just like there are people behind the creative work, there are people behind the email inboxes, and they want good collaborations and partnerships.

With thanks to my fellow volunteers Anna Coane, Becky Thorn, Rachael Amesbury and Carla Keen for their insights.

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2024 Awards – Expression of Interest

We were overwhelmed by the response to last year’s Funny Women Awards and, with over 2,000 entries and nominations, it’s important for us to consider what resources and support we need. So we’re asking for a little help from you.

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Comedy Shorts Award Entry Requirements

The deadline for registration for the Comedy Shorts Award has passed.

Funny Women NextUp…Comedy Shorts Award

Are you a budding Director? Producer? Screenwriter? Are you collaborating with friends to make a funny video? Then we are looking for YOU!

If you have a short film or sketch that you think is hilarious, then enter your work for our Comedy Shorts Award to be in with a chance of winning some life-changing support and mentoring from comedy professionals.

WHAT KIND OF FILM ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

A 1- 6 minute film that can take the form of anything comical. It’s a great opportunity to show us your creative flair and have fun!

WHO CAN ENTER?

This award is open to all women filmmakers and content developers. The film must be an original narrative created, produced and devised by a woman, or women, although male cast and crew members are allowed.

ARE THERE ANY ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR MY FILM?

Yes – we require all films to be 6 minutes or under, to be entirely original dialogue, to not feature brand logos and most importantly, to only use music with the written consent of the performer and/or publisher either personally or via the PRS system https://www.prsformusic.com/ .

WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH MY FILM?

We will broadcast selected entries on our Funny Women YouTube channel and social media (so keep an eye out) and the top 10 finalists’ films will also hosted on a dedicated Funny Women Comedy Shorts Awards page on our website. We will also broadcast the final 3 entries as part of the grand final night.

HOW IS IT JUDGED?

Films are judged for production, concept, delivery/performance, creativity, writing and overall funniness. The top 10 films are then viewed by an independent judging panel of top television and film industry professionals who will choose one overall winner and two runners up. The final three will be invited to attend the grand final in London on the 23rd September.

WHAT CAN I WIN?

2021 Funny Women Awards Prizes

The deadline for registration for the Comedy Shorts Award has passed.

If you need further information please contact us here