Celebrating women in comedy
Celebrating women in comedy
The brand new book about women in comedy, ‘No Apologies: Women in Comedy Claiming their Space, Finding their Voice and Telling their Stories’ by Joanne Brookfield is out, and the Australian journalist says she’s unapologetic… about it all.
“I interviewed sixty women for the book and it’s a diverse collection – there’s stand ups, sketch/character comedians, broadcasters, circus performers, magicians, producers; women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s; queer, trans, non-binary, culturally diverse and women of colour; there’s a geographic spread, with women from most capital cities and some regional centres; very experienced/famous performers through to emerging artists at the beginning of their careers…,” she says.
We caught up with the author ahead of the ‘Joanne Brookfield No Apologies: The Chat Show’ at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to discuss her latest project.
What are you not apologetic for?
I’m done with all of it! As a woman, we are constantly told we’re either not enough or too much. We’re always wrong – too fat, too skinny, too old, too young, too loud, too quiet etc. We can never get it right. Constantly policed and punished. I’m over it. While I can’t speak for everyone, most of the women I know personally are over it too. We’re done apologising. As I quote Tina Fey quoting Amy Poehler in the book ‘I don’t fu*king care if you like it’.
Why this book and why now?
Because we’re having a global conversation about these issues and we need to keep that going, because that’s how we create the change we want to see.
What’s it like being a woman in comedy at this point in time?
Well, gender is one of the oldest tropes in comedy. “The differences between men and women” as a topic is probably as old as comedy itself. “Here, take my wife…” and mother-in-law jokes etc have been around forever. So men have always been talking about gender, but it’s always been from their perspective and far too often in a derogatory way. I guess now, with the power of social media, more voices are being heard – which means we’re hearing from voices that have usually been marginalised or silenced altogether, which is a good thing. The commentary around it is serious because it’s an issue that affects people’s everyday lives, it’s not something theoretical, it’s real. e.g. if you get paid less, life is harder; e.g., gender based violence means people you know are bashing, raping and killing women.
But if you want to know what being a women in comedy is like, you’ll have to read the book.
What are some of the stories women in comedy are telling right now?
It’s a fantastic time creatively and artistically because we now have so many new and differing voices emerging and we’re getting to hear about all kinds of life experiences and perspectives and so comedy is evolving for the better because of it.. Women have always talked, we’ve always been open with each other and shared our stories, the only difference now is that we have access to stages and microphones and audiences in a way that traditionally was controlled by gatekeepers, which meant we didn’t get much of a look in. So now, women are talking about ALL the things we’ve ALWAYS talked about, except now we’re doing it publicly.
Tell me about the book coming to life this April?
One of the ideas in the book is how important it is that women, when they ‘claim their space’ and step into their power, that they then use that to create opportunities for other women. So in the book I highlighted women who are creating spaces, platforms and actual work opportunities for others, who are actively amplifying voices we don’t always hear from and while it can be argued that the book itself is also doing that, I was so inspired by these women who I had been speaking with that I wanted to take it a step further and ‘walk the talk’ of the book, and where I can, create additional platforms and spaces for other women to be able to shine as well. So ‘The Chat Show’ is working on multiple levels. It’s first and foremost, the official public launch the book. However I wanted to share that occasion with several other women and give them another opportunity to get in front of an audience – especially important since we’re doing this during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and there’s 600 shows on – so it’s a chance for them to promote their work and hopefully generate some extra ticket sales for their shows. But for readers of the book, it’s also a chance to literally see these women and literally hear their voices and, most of all, have a heap of fun!
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is on until April 2019.