FUNNY WOMEN

HERE COME THE GIRLS
FUNNY WOMEN IS A COMPANY WHICH SUPPORTS WOMEN IN THE COMEDY INDUSTRY AND IS WHERE KERRY GODLIMAN, OUR COMEDIAN FOR THE SO LIFESTYLE AWARDS LAUNCHED HER CAREER . WE CAUGHT UP WITH THE FOUNDER LYNNE PARKER TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT FUNNY WOMEN AND HOW IT’S DRIVING THE FEMALE COMEDY COMMUNITY FORWARD…

WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER BACKGROUND PRIOR TO SETTING UP FUNNY WOMEN?

I studied to become a journalist at the London College of Fashion and went on to work for major magazine groups NatMags and IPC magazines as a fashion and beauty writer. I owned a lingerie boutique for a couple of years and then went into public relations where I really honed my marketing and promotional skills.

THE IDEA FOR FUNNY WOMEN STEMMED FROM A COMMENT; CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED, AND HOW THE IDEA FOR FUNNY WOMEN FORMED?

One of my PR clients in the late 1990s was a comedy promoter and when I asked him why he never booked any women he said that there weren’t any funny women and anyway, “women aren’t funny”. Needless to say, this working relationship didn’t last and 15 years on and around 3,000 new female comedy acts, writers and film makers later, I think I’ve proved that women really are very funny!

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU FROM YOUR INITIAL IDEA TO SETTING UP THE COMPANY?

Once I had the idea to create a platform for female comedy it took me about three years to get it properly off the ground. The first event in 2002 was a charity gala in a major London theatre and out of that I was introduced to our first proper sponsor, Babycham, who supported us to create the Funny Women Awards in 2003. We had just 70 women enter that year for one award and this year we’ve had over 500 entries for four different awards.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THE COMPANY DOES AND HOW IT WORKS?

We are comedy experts, helping women to perform, write and do business with humour. The focus of our community is to develop new female comedy with the Funny Women Awards at the heart of this activity. This year we have been all over the UK to seek new talent, running heats in Exeter, Dublin, Manchester, Perth, Wolverhampton and London. Our charity gala final in support of UN Women’s HeForShe movement takes place in London on 12th March. We run regular shows and open mic nights in London, Brighton and the Edinburgh Fringe and also have a thriving corporate business providing training, coaching and events in the workplace. Clients include JLL, Lloyds of London, Mastercard, Accenture, Virgin Trains and more.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE SUCCESS STORIES TO COME FROM FUNNY WOMEN?

Over 15 years we’ve witnessed the start of many great comedy careers. To name a few: Zoe Lyons, Kerry Godliman, Roisin Conaty, Sarah Millican, Susan Calman, Bridget Christie, Holly Walsh, Katherine Ryan, Sara Pascoe… and there’s many more to come! I am so privileged to have seen so many of today’s great female comics early on in their careers – it’s wonderful to see their success.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED WHILE RUNNING FUNNY WOMEN?

The ongoing biggest challenge is funding. We have been blessed with some great sponsors over the years but 2017 has been a particular low point in this respect. With the onset of Brexit and marketing budgets being cut, brands have had to regroup. We have had to rely on box office income and our corporate work to ensure that we can keep our comedy dreams alive.

DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL CAREER HIGHLIGHT?

I have some amazing moments from meeting HRH The Queen at Holyrood Palace in 1998 during my public relations career to last year’s incredible Funny Women Awards final at KOKO with an audience of 800 people! I do feel very proud of the platform I have created and know that we’ve changed the face of comedy. I was 60 last year and had a comedy ‘roast’ style event to celebrate – Shazia Mirza grilled me to within an inch of my comedy life and that was a particular highlight!

WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY AT WORK LIKE FOR YOU?

My days are all very varied from travelling around the UK to see new acts to dealing with lots of boring administration. I love running workshops and facilitating workplace activity so that often means an early start having worked late into the night preparing. There’s no such thing as nine to five in my life and I definitely live to work, rather than work to live.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO PROMOTE WOMEN IN COMEDY?

Despite our best efforts over the last 15 years, the comedy circuit is still biased towards men. It really is the last bastion of male chauvinism and the proof of this is the lack of women on television panel shows, which are a showcase for stand up comedians. We’ve seen inequality being ‘called out’ at the BBC in recent months and this really is the tip of a very big iceberg. Funny Women is part of a much bigger movement to change the status quo and get equal representation in the media, sport, public life and politics. Every year I think maybe our job will be done but we have had a record number of entries for the Awards this year, which is a barometer of how much our platform is still needed.

HOW DO YOU THINK THE COMEDY CIRCUIT HAS CHANGED FOR WOMEN?

There is definitely a much greater effort made by promoters to book women, or at least ‘a woman’. Yet I am still horrified by how many all-male line-ups there are. There is no excuse not to book a female act and there are lots of social media communities including our own where information about gigs can be promoted. At the highest level women have always been successful in comedy from Gracie Fields and Joyce Grenfell to French & Saunders, Victoria Wood, Jo Brand and Miranda Hart. Maybe that’s what the men are afraid of!

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A COMEDIAN? WHAT TRAITS AND SKILLS DO YOU NEED?

To be a good comedian you need to listen and observe. Great comedy is all about familiarity as we laugh at things that we relate to. A lot of comedians are thinkers and their skill lies in the ability to develop their thoughts and ideas either by playing with them on stage or writing them into a script.
The great thing about comedy is that there are no real rules, as long as it’s funny. I was once told by an experienced comedian that the most important thing is not to be embarrassed by anything and to grow a very thick skin! Resilience is key as you only learn what works by getting a lot of stuff wrong along the way.

www.funnywomen.co.uk