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Interview: Ellen Briggs

Women Like us. Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs

Women without Filters!

The Echo spoke to comedian Ellen Briggs, one half of Women Like Us.

We began as two chicks with a passion for factions, family and feminism. Today it’s a vibrant in-demand touring show that has put these two powerful standup comics in front of more than 30,000 people. Women Like Us is d  isarmingly honest. The two women let loose on their failures to parent, their failure to really do anything properly really, all delivered with an unbridled joyous thrill as they share observations on getting fatter, older, tireder, less relevant and, of course, let’s not forget their disenchantment with the beauty industry!

What does it mean to be a Woman Like Us?

For me it means having complete control over our brand, our business, and our work… but not our appetites or our pelvic floors.  Women Like Us  are real, unfiltered, proud and unapologetic about who we are – and mostly we’re just like you!

How have the show and the audiences evolved since it began three years ago?

Mandy are I are really surprised at how successful it has become. We knew we were on to something with the branding and the show, but we really didn’t expect the overall response we got from people coming to the show and reading the book.  Three years ago we started with an idea and now we have an army of middle-aged women who can’t wait to spread the word to their friends in other places about us. It’s a passive army though. We’re too tired to fight.

What is the response like? Why do you think it is like that?

Audience members are so surprised at how hilarious the show is as there is an opinion in Australia that if you’re not one of the comedians on TV then you mustn’t be very good, which is of course ludicrous. They laugh non-stop for two whole hours – as well as being overwhelmingly grateful about how real we are, and how our stories are so relevant to them. That still surprises me – when a woman is almost in tears because she feels like her stories are being told and her voice is being heard, and she doesn’t feel so alone, we know our job is done!

What are the key messages of the show?

Don’t be ashamed of who you are, be proud of being middle-aged, even though society and popular culture like to make us feel like we shouldn’t; enjoy the freedom and wisdom this age brings with it, and turn all of the stresses and trials of life into a laugh.

What are some of the funnier things that have happened on the road?

We have stayed in some truly terrifying hotels as I like to keep costs down, which pretty much equates to hotels that people who are on the run from the cops stay in. You know you’re in trouble when they don’t ask for any ID at reception. We are lucky we don’t travel with a blue light. For me, the funniest night was when Mandy couldn’t get her jeans on in her finale at the end of the show because I could see her from side of stage, struggling after way too many caramel slices, and it was glorious to watch.

How is your show different from your  Women Like Us  book that is featuring at the Writers Festival this year?

When we are doing the show, it’s pure standup comedy. Your job is primarily to make people laugh. With the book we have been able to delve a lot deeper into the issues that are important to us: feminism, family life, being a travelling, working mother and wife, sex, etc. They are still funny stories and while we touch on those topics onstage, we can really elaborate in the book.

How was the process of making the transition from comedian to writer?

For me it was terrifying.  Mandy has already written three really popular books prior to this one and I was worried that I wasn’t going to be a good writer and she would have to tell me that the book deal was off! She admitted afterwards that she was worried too, and so once we established that I was okay. I actually loved it because of how much I could elaborate on ideas and issues. You don’t have time onstage to do that, and it felt like a luxury to expand on the themes that are important to us.

What should we expect for the Byron Women Like Us show for the Writers Festival?

Like all our shows, it will be two hours of really high-quality standup by two mouthy, opinionated, no-holding-back, very real woman. We really give it our all; I do the first hour and Mandy does the second and we love it every single time, and that definitely shows. To have that connection with the audience through laughter is a pretty amazing feeling. Oh and I hope Mandy is back on the caramel slices for that added laugh at the end.

Women Like Us  the full show is being performed especially for the Byron Writers Festival to accompany their attendance as guest writers and panelists.

Elements of Byron on Saturday 4 August at 7.30pm with tickets at $35.

Tix available at byronwritersfestival.com/feature-events.


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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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