When Mandy Nolan was performing in Sydney recently she was shocked by some of the responses: ‘I played to a packed house at a comedy club in Paddington. They loved the show,’ she said, ‘Afterwards I was approached by three separate groups, mainly women, who all said the same thing: when we saw you come on stage we went oh no! Not a Woman! But you were really funny!’ Nolan believes that audiences don’t see enough women on stage, and that women comics have something unique and wonderful to offer the comedy world.
So she has teamed up with Melbourne comedian Cath Styles, who for the past few years has been pioneering ‘Girls’ Nights’ at comedy festivals around the country. Styles is hitching the wagon full of hot new female talent from Melbourne, Adelaide and beyond and bringing some very wicked women for a Northern tour.
We grabbed a chat with Styles about the forthcoming Girls’ Night Comedy Show.
Cath, tell me why you started creating Girls’ Nights comedy shows? There are a few reasons. At the time I had to make a decision about doing Melbourne Fringe in 2010, I was really busy, and knew I wouldn’t have the time to write a new solo show in time for Fringe (or the energy to perform it). I wanted to create a show where I could trial some new material without carrying a whole performance myself, and I didn’t want to miss out on the festival.
As I’m a bit geographically isolated from the comedy scene for much of the year, and don’t get to gig often; I didn’t have a high profile at the time. I thought there might be other women in the same position, so I wanted to give female comics (and myself) an opportunity to perform, and promote their own shows via the show. I thought it would be great to work with a large group of female performers to raise the profile of women’s comedy in general, and raise individual profiles, by sharing each other’s audiences.
I also love producing female comedy, having put together an all-female comedy showcase about five years ago. I like the challenge of creating a different show every night using different performers with different styles – straight standup, sketch comedy, musical comedy, character comedy, poetry, acrobats, burlesque. Having different acts with different styles keeps the audience’s interest high.
The other, more selfish, reason I created the show was to be able to see what all the other girls are doing – it’s very difficult to see each other’s shows during festivals, for example. I think it’s essential to watch other comics, and it’s always inspiring. The icing on the cake is that it provides regular opportunities for networking and socialising for all the girls… also invaluable. Girls’ Night is as much a fun night for us as it is for the audience! I get to meet so many fantastic female comics from all over the world producing and performing in this show, and have made many friends in the business this way.
What is it that you think women comics have to offer that is different? I don’t like to generalise as a rule, but I think women do comedy that’s a bit wicked exceptionally well.
What are the challenges for you as a female comedian? For me personally, the challenges are geographical (I’m not close enough to Melbourne – my nearest comedy hub – to perform as regularly as I’d like), and practical, as I have four kids and work full time. Sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t perform as often as I’d like. Having said that, I put a lot of time and energy into my various comedy projects each festival, and I do at least three festivals a year, so that’s okay. For women in comedy in general, I’d say there’s still an imbalance of men to women in most areas – TV, radio, movies, and occasionally in comedy rooms. In regard to the rooms, it’s often just that there are fewer women, and I’m not seeing this as as big an issue as it has been.
What has the response been to the shows? Where have you performed them? The first season of Girls Night was at Melbourne Fringe in 2010. We’ve come full circle now, having just done our second Melbourne Fringe this year, as well as Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year, where it sold out a number of nights.
The response from the audiences has been awesome! The response from the girls has also been fantastic, with the majority making an appearance in every festival now. You can’t beat it for a promo opportunity – the show’s audience already loves female comics to the extent that they’ve paid to see the show, so it’s a great way to capture a potential audience and fan base.
Catch Cath Styles when she’s joined by Tessa Waters, Geraldine Hickey, Lori Bell (aka Granny Flaps), Ellen Briggs and Mandy Nolan at a fiesty femme joke-cracking showdown somewhere near you!
Monday – Byron Services Club – 8pm. Tix $20 at the venue or book on 6684 3443. Tuesday – Tatts Hotel Lismore – 8pm Tix $20 at the venue or book on 6621 4729. Wednesday 9 November – Currumbin RSL – 7.30pm – Tix at venue or book on 07 5534 7999.