Interview with Lynne Parker

To celebrate International Women’s Day, leading female comedy community Funny Women is running the inaugural Funny Women Around The World. This free event, taking place over a continuous 12-hour stream, will showcase comedy and entertainment from every corner of the globe. I caught up with Funny Women founder Lynne Parker to find out more.

What prompted you to establish Funny Women?
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.

Can you tell me about Funny Women Around The World?
As part of the International Women’s Day celebrations, we’re celebrating the global connections Funny Women have made by hosting a 12 hour live streamed event on Twitch. We currently have performers and producers from over 15 countries participating and a curated programme of brand new regional talent and familiar Funny Women faces. I am really delighted to be finally bringing some wonderful comedy producers together – a couple of whom I met over 10 years ago from the US and Australia – and realising our mutual dream to think big and go global!

What can audiences expect?
I don’t think there’s enough space to sum up everything that we have going on! We really let our regional producers lead on the curation, and it’s produced this amazingly eclectic mix of stand up, cabaret, panels, games, debates and so much more. All I’ll say is that if you want to embrace comedy in these odd times, and believe in and enjoy the championing of women, take a look at our full listing on the website because there will definitely be something for you! We’re not going to stop anybody who wants to watch the whole stream but do recommend regular screen breaks and lots of snacks!

How has the comedy scene changed since you first launched Funny Women?
In some ways so much has changed, for example openness about sexuality and use of language, and then so little in other respects, like attitudes to women and cliched comments and questions. There’s really no need to ask if women are funny anymore, really no need. We are and that should be enough. We’ve always had amazing support from across the industry and it’s great that promoters are now more aware of diversity when it comes to booking acts. Comedy is, after all, one of the few arts where the only prerequisite is to be funny.

What challenges do women still face on the comedy scene?
As women have become more visible and successful in comedy, they now have the power to change things. Please don’t pull up the ladder behind you – help another woman up and recognise platforms, like Funny Women and many others, that put women centre stage. Women starting out in comedy need strong role models – not just performers, but writers, creators, filmmakers, producers and directors – who can ensure true diversity and broad representation. My biggest personal challenge is ageism – women like me in our 60s have so much to offer in terms of experience and knowledge and yet this still seems to be the domain of older male comedians and producers. Let us into the old boys’ club, we have so much to offer.

The past year has been challenging for the industry. What are your hopes for the industry post-pandemic?
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 we’ll turn off the talent pipeline which would be a tragedy.

Funny Women Around The World will be live on Twitch from 10am – 10pm on Saturday 6 March.

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