Interview: Lynne Parker - Funny Women

    To celebrate International Women’s Day, leading female comedy community Funny Women is running the inaugural Funny Women Around The World. This exciting and hilarious virtual free event will showcase comedy and entertainment from every corner of the globe to launch the Funny Women Awards. Taking place over a continuous 12-hour stream on Twitch, this curated programme of brand new regional talent and familiar Funny Women faces, including Sarah Keyworth and Sooz Kempner, will keep audiences laughing no matter when they tune in.

    Funny Women was founded by Lynne Parker to give women a powerful voice through comedy. It provides a centre of excellence for training to enable a stronger female presence in mainstream comedy through performance, new writing and creative development. Funny Women Around the World is proud to act as a partner for Plan International UK’s ‘Because I’m a Girl’ campaign. Plan International UK works with young people and activists to understand the solutions they need to see in their communities and to lobby those in power, creating last impact and enabling girls to live the lives they choose.

    Ahead of the event we’ve been lucky enough to ask Lynne a few questions about bringing comedians together from across the globe, why platforming women’s voices in comedy remains an important mission.

    Funny Women is an incredibly empowering organisation which helps female comedians finally receive the respect they deserve! Could you tell us a little about what the organisation and its initiatives mean to you?
    Funny Women is my ‘life’s work’ – if that’s not too corny! I created it in response to a misogynist comedy promoter who told me that women aren’t funny. True story. 19 years on and we have amazing initiatives in place like the Awards, regional network events, workshops and courses. It’s all about what Funny Women means to the community it serves – I want to make sure that we empower women to have a voice through performing, writing and creating comedy and even doing business with humour.

    I know so many young female comedians are going to be inspired by your work, but was there anybody in particular who inspired you to find your comedic voice?
    I’m not a comedian myself – my role is all about being the facilitator and inspiring women to try out stand-up, writing a script or speaking in public with passion and creativity. Like a lot of women of my generation, I saw the evolution of great alternative female comedy with French and Saunders, Wood and Walters, Tracy Ullman, Ruby Wax, Jennie Éclair and Sandi Toksvig. One of my all-time favourite comedians, Jo Brand is Funny Women’s ‘Matron’ (Patron) and we’ve had fantastic support from Jan Ravens, Katie Brand, Miranda Hart and more over the years.

    What message would you give to an aspiring female-associating comedian looking for a little advice as she finds her feet in a daunting industry?
    Network and collaborate. You don’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ – use existing platforms, like Funny Women, to hone your craft and meet other like-minded performers. Going online has made us all more accessible too so it’s never been easier to meet and get advice. Follow your favourite acts and writers on social media and don’t be frightened to put yourself forward.

    Funny Women Around the World sounds like it is going to be incredibly fun! What has it been like to bring comedians from all across the globe together for this project?
    The hard work is being done by our community engagement producer Kathleen Price and our amazing team. However, I am really delighted to finally be bringing some wonderful comedy producers together – a couple from the US and Australia who I met over 10 years ago – and realising our mutual dream to think big and go global!

    With our theatres currently sitting dark producers and content creators need to find new and innovative ways of keeping audiences engaged with the arts. Why do you think this is so important for the future of the industry?
    Finding new and creative ways to deliver entertainment and employ talent and production crew is very important for the future of the industry. Funny Women received a grant from the DCMS ACE Culture Recovery Fund and this event is an important element of our programme showcasing new talent and bringing global attention to our 2021 Funny Women Awards. British comedy is seen all around the world and sets a standard – yet we still have to address the gender disparity and everyday sexism that exists.

    While this concept can of course seem daunting, Funny Women have completely embraced the need for change and will be streaming their award show for 12 continuous hours through Twitch!

    How have you found the process of creating an event for a virtual audience?
    This event has been developed in the safe hands of our amazing production team. We are all embracing the opportunity to find new ways of delivering a broad range of entertainment both live and virtually. We ran the 2020 Awards virtually as well as creating a really successful Comedy Crash Course so we’ve adapted really well. Twitch is a new adventure and we’re looking forward to it.

    I have to say, 12 hours is an incredibly long running time! What advice would you give any audience member preparing to tune in full the full stream?
    We’re not going to stop anybody who wants to watch the whole stream but recommend regular screen breaks and lots of snacks! We expect people to dip in and out and watch the things that are of particular interest to them. Plus it’s a great opportunity to connect with comedy creators from all over the world.

    The past year has of course been incredibly difficult for the industry but it we can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel!

    Looking forward, what would you say are your hopes for the future of a post-pandemic comedy scene?
    Whilst I accept that venues and booker will want to book ‘banker’ acts to sell tickets when everything opens up, I’d like to see equal opportunities on offer to new talent. The hardest hit are those people starting out in comedy as there’s been very little live work for them to develop their acts and practise material. I hope that those who are already well established in their comedy careers will support newer acts by giving back where they can with open spots, new writing and generally offering advice and counsel when everything opens up again. They inspire the next generation, as we know from our amazing Funny Women Awards alumni, so their encouragement and support is priceless. For every well- known ‘established’ act that a venue or a promoter books, it would be great to see an ‘as yet undiscovered’ act on the same line up. Mix it up and take a few risks or the talent pipeline will turn off, which would be a tragedy.

    I just want to say a huge thank you to Lynne for her time. Funny Women Around the World will be streaming on Twitch on Saturday 6th March from 10am-10pm. For registration and streaming information head to the official Funny Women website.
    This interview was originally published on CentreStage.

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