Don’t get mad, get funny. That could be the mantra for female comedians everywhere who’ve had to fight harder to have their voices heard in the historically made-dominated world of comedy, particularly stand-up.
Australian comedian, writer and journalist Joanne Brookfield doesn’t always see the funny side of comedy.
Her new show No Apologies: The Chat Show, on this weekend at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, brings to the stage the sometimes serious, sometimes funny stories of women finding their place in comedy and making no apologies for it.
The show is an extension of Joanne’s fabulous new book No Apologies: Women in Comedy Claiming their Space, Finding their Voice and Telling their Stories. The book recounts her experiences, along with stories from some of the biggest names in Australian comedy like Wendy Harmer, Judith Lucy, Rachel Berger, Felicity Ward, of claiming a place in comedy as a woman.
The book charts the funny and inspiring stories of women taking the stage in the world of comedy. There are laughs, there are tears and, most importantly, there is wine. It’s also like a how to manual for would-be comedians, particularly women, to find their way in the world of comedy, which hasn’t been easy or welcoming to women.
The book is dedicated to Eurydice Dixon, the Melbourne comedian tragically murdered on her way home from a comedy gig in Melbourne. Three of her friends are performing her show Inconvenient Empathy at the festival, which she’d planned to perform herself.
The Broad Talks to Comedian Joanne Brookfield
Some Notes From A Broad talked to Joanne about her career in comedy and why women’s voices are being heard now, like never before.
Q. Why the book No Apologies?
I wanted the book to function in a couple of ways: as a comedian you’re often asked the same questions by audience members – ‘What was your first gig like?’ ‘What’s it like being heckled?’ ‘Do you get nervous?’ I wanted the book to answer all those questions for people who are interested in comedy, except in my book, the comedians answering these questions just happen to be women.
From a feminist perspective, I also wanted to write the book that I needed to read when I was first thinking of getting into comedy, to help inspire more women to get into comedy. But in the writing of it, it’s become a book for all women who want to go out there and ‘do the thing’, whatever their ‘thing’ might be. So many of the experiences we have as women in comedy are experiences all women have from exclusion on the grounds of gender to getting home safely to managing children. I made a conscious effort to include a really diverse cross-section of women within the book. While not every reader will connect with every interviewee and their personal story, there’s a pretty good chance there’s someone for everyone to relate to in there.
Q. Is it easier for women in stand-up these days?
Yes and no. Many years ago, like literally last century, when the world of comedy was opening up to me as a teenager, I took myself off to an arthouse cinema in the city to see an American documentary called Wisecracks that included Wendy Harmer, MaryAnne Fahey, Gina Riley and Magda Szubanski. I tracked it down and re-watched it while writing the book and in some ways it was quite dispiriting to think ‘oh god, nothing has changed in twenty-plus years’ because so many of the things women in the doco were saying were said to me in the interviews I did during 2018.
But the flip side of that is how many women we have doing comedy now. I interviewed 60 women for the book and could have kept going. I made a conscious effort to also include mention of as many other women in comedy as I could and, again, could have kept going. What this means is that the more women we have in comedy, it is changing.
It’s inevitable: the more women in comedy means we have more of them running rooms, giving more women opportunities on stage; the more women on stages, the more audiences are exposed to them and not only do audiences for those performers grow, it also means more women in the audience can be inspired and begin comedy as well.
Q. Julie-Louis Dreyfus or Lucille Ball?
To be honest, although I know who Lucille Ball is, I’m not hugely familiar with her body of work; although in interviewing Jo Stanley, who loves her so much she has a tattoo of her, I did learn a lot more about her. Julie-Louis Dreyfus is a comedy goddess.
Q. Can you describe your creative process when working on material?
I do most of my “writing” (the thinking and coming up with ideas) either in the shower, washing dishes or when driving. I spend a lot of time in my own head before I actually write anything down.
Q. How good is it that women no longer have to apologise for being funny?
One of the things I cover in No Apologies is how women can now take control of their own creative output through things like podcasts, web comedy, running their own rooms, and, in doing so, directly reach their audience. What we’re seeing with examples like The Kates, with Katering Show and Get Kracking, the Scummy Mummies and Hot Brown Honey is that there are big, adoring audiences for comedy from all kinds of women.
What’s next for you?
There’ll be more live events to come. At the moment, I’m in producer mode, making stuff happen behind the scenes. There will be shows in Sydney too.
Q. Where can people find out more about your shows and your book?
By joining my mailing list: JoanneBrookfieldComedy@gmail.com or on my facebook page: www.facebook.com/JoanneBrookfieldComedy.
See No Apologies live on stage with a fab line-up of funny women
If you’re keen to attend No Apologies: The Chat Show, which is part of the Melbourne Fringe, get along on Sunday 15th Sept at 5.30pm at Trades Hall.
Follow the link for bookings.
The show features broadcasting queen Jo Stanley, Neighbours star Sharon Johal, comedy trio Travelling Sisters and standup comedians Annie Louey and Anna Piper Scott plus more still to be announced all telling their funny stories and sharing their humour.
At the last No Apologies event, a stand-up show at Comedy Euphoria in Williamstown, there was a row of the show’s comedians signing books – Fiona O’Loughlin, Cal Wilson, Annie Louey and Jo. Look out for something similar at these shows.
Joanne’s comedy picks
Here are some of Joanne’s picks if you’re looking for some laughs.
Laura Milke has a podcast series for advising people who want to get into the performing arts.
Joanne urges us all to watch all the female written, produced and performed comedy you can on streaming services because clicks count. The more eyeballs these things get, the more of them can be made.
Check out the funny webs series Sheilas created by Hannah and Eliza Reilly, which celebrates in comedy some of the badass women in Australian history including Fanny Durack and Nancy Wake.
Edit: This Broad gives a full high five to funny sheilas.
Phi and Me, a five-part YouTube series about 16-year-old Phi Nguyen and her over-the-top tiger mum Kim Huong, who is a constant source of embarrassment as she does everything she can to help her daughter have a better life.
Well No Apologies: Women in Comedy Claiming their Space, Finding their Voices and Telling their Stories of course!