The Funny Women Awards has been a launch pad for many talented comedians, writers and short filmmakers, putting applicants in front of the right people to accelerate their comedy career. Lynne Parker is the founder of the awards and Funny Women, a company which aims to help women find their voice through performing, writing and using humour in business and everyday life.
Lynne tells us about why her greatest ‘woman crush’ is reserved for Dame Joan Bakewell and discusses how young women have a voice and a power that can take them anywhere they want.
Who is your inspiration and why?
There are many but my greatest ‘woman crush’ is reserved for Dame Joan Bakewell who is still an amazing, vibrant journalist and broadcaster in her eighties. I am also inspired by the late great Joyce Grenfell who was a pioneer of British comedy and did a lot behind the scenes at the BBC way before ‘women’s lib’ in the 1960s.
What does success in life look like to you?
Recognition that everything that Funny Women has campaigned for has made a difference. A proper financial investment by the leading broadcasters and a voice at their tables would also be a measure of success. Oh, and I would like to be on Desert Island Discs!
Are there still taboos around subjects related to women that you feel need to be broken or need greater awareness?
The public are still a little squeamish about bodily functions. Humour is a way of bringing attention to issues but domestic violence, rape and FGM are never going to be laughing matters. I had to write an article about whether it is appropriate to joke about rape a few years ago for Huffington Post and it’s still being cited today (Read article here). I love the fact that today’s female comics leave no stone unturned from mooncups to coming out as bisexual – and that’s just the current crop of Funny Women Awards finalists! Can’t wait to see what’s next.
What do you feel will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
As we become more equal there will be less opportunity to play the femininity card – not that this is a bad thing if we are to be measured on a level playing field. The real challenge is being played out now with #TimesUp and #MeToo campaigns as the pendulum is swinging very much against men in power. Our role will be to even things out and show that we can all work together and play to our strengths emotionally and physically.
Have there been occasions in your life where you felt that being a woman held you back, and occasions where it has propelled you?
Yes but because of other women. We are very competitive and I really hate female ‘game playing’. Business is not a courtship, it’s about getting the job done so I don’t have time for the power politics that are sometimes played out within female communities. This has cost me in the past but I have integrity and would rather be true to myself than go along with something that doesn’t sit well with me. What I have learned to trust is my female intuition – if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it. As an ‘older’ woman I really don’t like the way we are cloaked in invisibility – I have always looked to my elders for advice and guidance, and still do.
If you had to start over, knowing what you know now, what if anything, would you do differently?
Everything I’ve done leads to this place. I trained and worked as a journalist, opened a lingerie shop, became a public relations and marketing consultant, did a bit of broadcasting, married, had two kids… all of which developed skills that I now employ in running Funny Women. Even the occasional bra fitting… (joke!) We all make decisions that we regret so it’s not worth beating yourself up. Everything happens for a reason, even the mistakes. I have learned so much more from the things that have gone wrong in my life. I only wish I had made the time to write some of this experience into my best-selling novel! There’s still time.
What would you say is one of the biggest advances in your industry or sector over the past five years? On the reverse, is there any aspect of your sector you feel is still not progressive enough when it comes to women?
I have done five years in my industry three times over! Funny Women is going into its 16th year. The last five years has really seen the landscape change for today’s female performers because there are so many fantastic role models. Katherine Ryan won our Funny Women Awards in 2008, nearly 10 years ago, and she is for me the ultimate face of this revolution. She is an empowered, glamorous, single mother who speaks for her generation often saying out loud on stage what is left unsaid by women in the real world. It saddens me that I still hear people say that they don’t like female comics, often by other women. Not sure the sisterhood is as alive and kicking as it should be. As women we have to trust other women even when they are being ‘potty mouthed’.
How do you feel about International Women’s Day?
About 25 years ago, way before Funny Women was born, I was asked to give the ‘address for the ladies’ at a Masonic dinner presided over by my late father. It happened to take place on 8th March and this was how I discovered that International Women’s Day existed. I mentioned this fact in my speech to a stony-faced audience of middle aged misogynists who were more familiar with coy thanks and praise of their male attributes. Although he never said it out loud, my father was proud of me for my forthright approach to life and calling things out. Although he was most pleased that I married and had a family. My father died 20 years ago this year, way before I created Funny Women, but he gave me my love of comedy and the ability to speak out for what I believe in.
Looking at the future, what do you feel the young women of today can be most excited about?
Today’s young women have a voice and a power that can take them anywhere they want. The ‘calling it out’ climate with Weinstein and other public figures is the tipping point and will pave the way for a world where women cannot be exploited or discriminated against. We just have to make sure that this freedom is given to women the world over.
I have a 25 year old daughter who lives in a non-binary western society where her opportunities are the same as her brother’s. My generation and those before me have worked for this over the last 100 years so the opportunities for women are limitless. They have always been but now the door is truly open.
The Funny Awards Final for 2018 is coming up! It’s on Duchess Theatre, 3-5 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5LA – take a look at the finalists here: http://funnywomen.com/event/awards-charity-final/