Since 2002, Lynne Parker has been running Funny Women, a comedy community helping women find their voice and push past the stereotypes and misogyny that can afflict the scene. Projects such as the Funny Women Awards and Time of the Month scratch night have seen acts including Bridget Christie, Katherine Ryan, Andi Osho and Sarah Millican on their way to great things. As ever, she’s up in Edinburgh this year, and paused for a chat with The Wee Review.
Take us back to 2002 when you set up Funny Women. What was the scene like then?
Very different and predominantly male on the circuit. When I came up with the whole idea of Funny Women in 1999/2000 it was a knee jerk reaction to being told that “women aren’t funny” by a comedy promoter who I was working with as a publicist. I think I’ve proved him wrong!
How has it changed in the meantime (if at all)?
I have seen approximately 3,000 new acts go through our Awards and workshops over 15 years and it’s great to see so many women now working on the circuit. There are more promoters now actively booking more women and present equal and diverse line-ups. That said, I still hear women complaining of “tokenism” or not getting gigs because “we already have a woman on the bill”! Women, like men, come in many different shapes, sizes, colours and packages! Select acts on style and material, not gender.
What will you be doing up here in Edinburgh this year?
True to our brand we are running a lunchtime drop-in show of chat, show highlights and general comedy mayhem in partnership with the wonderful team at the Gilded Balloon. Funny Women Fest will be a platform for all the good stuff that you can see at the Fringe from a female perspective and we are incredibly privileged to have the support of Karen Koren and her team at the Gilded Balloon, who have helped make this happen. We are also producing Ayesha Hazarika for the second year running with her new show, State of the Nation, also at Gilded Balloon at the Museum. It’s about as near to politics as you can get without getting on any campaign buses and Ayesha’s satirical take on it all is very funny!
What are you most proud of achieving so far?
Surviving 15 years and managing to grow and develop the Funny Women Awards into such a well-respected competition. In 2003 we had just 70 entrants for one award and in 2016 we had over 500 entries for four awards – Stage, Comedy Writing, Comedy Shorts (film) and Best Show. We are running the 2017 Awards this autumn with Stage Award heats in October and November.
What would you like to achieve between now and your 20th year?
To ensure that our Awards continue and grow and find new opportunities to showcase the amazing talent we see every year in an accessible and universal format. All offers considered!
Which Funny Women should we be looking out for that might not have crossed our path yet?
Sticking with the last few years of the Awards, do check out Jayde Adams [see our five star review from last year! – ed.], Desiree Burch and Harriet Braine [also reviewed here – ed.] our last three Stage Award winners 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively. They are already crossing paths. Check out Rosie Jones, Catherine Bohart, Micky Overman, Rose Robinson and Rivka Uttley our 2016 finalists because they are all very talented and active on the Fringe this year. All the women who reach our finals are amazing as are many of the regional finalists so I have high hopes for this year’s competition. Our most famous winner is Katherine Ryan (2008) and I’m delighted to see that London Hughes who won in 2009 has her first show at the Fringe this year and even gives us a mention! ‘