42: Lynne Parker (Founder of Funny Women)

Danielle Krage interviews Lynne Parker, Founder and Chief Executive of Funny Women. She created the organisation over 20 years ago now and has made such a contribution to the comedy community, including producing the Funny Women Awards. In this conversation, Lynne shares invaluable advice for women building their careers and networks in comedy.   

Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background

03:10 The Creation of Funny Women

09:45 The Importance of Funny Women

12:24 Supporting Women in Comedy

17:48 Challenges in the Comedy Industry

23:47 Mentorship and Networking

30:18 Taking Comedy into the Workplace

37:10 The Value of Remote Work and Social Interaction

38:29 Creating Fun and Engaging Work Environments

39:52 Running Events for Women in the Workplace

41:46 The Power of Comedy in the Workplace

43:31 Overcoming Gender Stereotypes in the Workplace

45:13 Representation of Women in Comedy

46:42 Challenging Age Stereotypes

48:38 Being Independent Thinkers

49:22 Finding More Information

You can find out more about Lynne Parker and her work here:

https://funnywomen.com

https://www.herlarious.co.uk

https://twitter.com/funnywomen

https://twitter.com/FunnyWomenLynne

https://www.instagram.com/funny_women

20 years of Funny Women:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001qszl

CLICK HERE FOR TRANSCRIPT

Danielle (00:00.926)

Hey everybody. Today I have with me Founder and CEO of Funny Women, Lynne Parker. Now Lynne created the organization over 20 years ago now, and has made such an outstanding contribution to comedy, including producing the Funny Women Awards. So I’m thrilled to be able to have her here today and pick her brain about all things comedy. But before we dive in Lynne, is there anything else you’d love people to know about you and your connections to comedy?

Lynne Parker (00:28.466)

Oh my goodness. Where do you want me to begin? I mean, comedy is sort of part of my, I think my family DNA. I just was brought up with a very funny dad who probably wanted to be a comedian, but I think he just exercised his talents at Pontins and Butlins when we were growing up and got the whole family to join in with stupid fancy dress and talent competitions. I think that sort of partly explains why I’m a little bit risk averse, I think to performing as well. I think I still can still feel that tingle of embarrassment from my father’s antics. But also my dad’s dad, my paternal grandfather, Sam, worked at the BBC as a lighting technician, which meant he sat up in the rafters at White City and pointed lights at famous people on things like Ready Steady Go, Doctor Who he worked on, this is showing my age, Dixon of Doc Green, I mean he worked on a lot of BBC classics from the early 60s and I think because of that I always had that kind of weird sort of almost connection with the world of entertainment but not quite because nobody was a professional, they were all they were all either technicians or engineers.

But the one, I mean the other thing that’s really interesting, my father being as he was, he was absolutely passionate about radio comedy, he loved it, he loved The Goons and Round the Horn and The Navy Lark, they were all…he instilled that love of sound comedy into me. And it’s a weird thing, but even because my grandpa worked at the BBC, I actually went to recordings of Around the Horn and the Navy Lark. I have actually tracked it back. I mean, I thought maybe it’s one of those things I’m dreaming, but no, it did actually happen. And how come an eight, nine year old child was allowed into those recordings? It’s quite weird. I mean, that wouldn’t happen now.

But I do think I have definitely picked some of that up from being surrounded by it as a kid. It sort of sticks with you. So that was probably my early influences. Very little to do with Funny Women. That’s another whole story.

Danielle (03:10.278)

And I’d love to know that story because there’ll be some listeners from the UK who may know Funny Women and from other parts, and there may be some listeners who are new to hearing about Funny Women. So for, and I’m sure you must get this a lot, but for people that aren’t so aware of the organization, how do you explain it to them in terms of why it still matters so much?

Lynne Parker (03:28.834)

Well, the answer as to why it still matters so much is I don’t know I Mean, I honestly thought five years in that would have been it, you know. But I do remember having a conversation with quite a famous comedian at the time And one of our winners actually about what was happening with funny women and whether I’d continue with it and why did I need to continue? I was even told at one point there were quite enough funny women I didn’t need to carry on. By a female comedian, that’s interesting, but I just think that there’s still a real need for, and I think it applies to other industries as well as comedy, you know, we’re still not quite equal. We think we are, or people say we are, but we’re not. And that’s really how it all came about because I am…I had a whole career…I trained as a journalist and then I kind of sold out and went into PR, mainly because I could earn more money. And I was good at it. You know, one of those things, I’m not even that proud of being good at it, but I think it gave me a better and more reliable income than journalism.

And I ended up working with a comedy promoter. That’s how it came about. It was a very bizarre

way I ended up working with him. I think I got recommended by another client who was a hairdresser. Don’t ask. It’s kind of a weird thing and I found myself sort of night after night at this comedy club which was in, it was called the Embassy Rooms on Tottenham Court Road. It is now Spearmint Rhino. So when you ask why we need funny women, we need to get rid of Spearmint Rhino really, but there you go. We were there.

The room was quite well known in terms of television. It was where they filmed the Jack Dee show and a couple of other things. So it was kind of a very louche, sort of typical red velvet kind of space. And this American comedy promoter wanted to use it as his base for his, it was called the Improv Comedy Club. Nothing to do with improv, but that’s what it was called. And it was quite a famous brand, it was based in Miami. I was recommended to them and I became their publicist.

But the short story is that night after night, hardly ever any female acts were booked. It was predominantly male. And I just, like anyone would, I’m a bit mouthy, you know, why, why is it always women? Where are the women? You know, why aren’t you booking more women? And was told outright, that there were no funny women and that women weren’t funny. And as I always say, the rest is history. That was my catalyst for going off and launching what was to become what it is now, which is a nonprofit community interest company with the aims of helping women to perform, write and create comedy with a sideline for exactly the same thing in the sort of corporate business world.

But predominantly everything circulates around the idea of comedy and humour. And why shouldn’t women be funny? Why shouldn’t we? I think we are hilarious actually. I think women have a much more innate sense of humor. They just use it differently to men. So that’s kind of the short story as to where I, that was in, that was kind of in about 1998, 99. And then I didn’t get round to running the first event for Funny Women until 2002. Because there was a big incident in 2001, September, which put the whole world on hold. Poor old Funny Women, it seems sometimes…. So 9-11 kind of had a huge impact on a lot of things. I think we’ve forgotten about that actually but it did stop a lot of things happening and I’m just grateful that I hadn’t really got very far with my planning.

And then we ran a really big charity night to launch it in, it would have been October 2002 and from that I was introduced to, one of my sponsors for that event was Babycham, and they wanted to do something with us. They said, we love this. We think what you’re doing is amazing. I know they knew I wanted to launch a competition and I said, well, would you sponsor our awards? And they said, yeah, Babycham Awards, great. And I went… no, PR head on. And also thinking laterally what happens if they don’t stay around a sponsor.

And kind of most of us in the world of comedy know what happened with Perrier. I mean, they haven’t been the Perrier Awards for maybe 15 years, but it’s still always referred to as the Perrier Awards. And I, I just didn’t feel I wanted to go that route. So I, I branded it Funny Women. I’d already set up a business, you know, set up a company and I think, you know, did one of those very smart things that you think back on, how did I do that? I registered the URL. Someone told me to. I didn’t even know what a URL was, but you know, that’s what I did.

Danielle (09:18.766)

But yeah, I love it. And I love that you bring your PR and comm skills to it, because otherwise it’s a thing… you can make brilliant work. We know there’s brilliant talent that needs all that support, but also does need the promotion.

Lynne Parker (09:34.214)

It’s all about that. It’s actually all about the grassroots and getting people to realise that if you don’t encourage people at the entry level and we don’t have new talent coming through the pipeline, there isn’t going to be another Sarah Millican, Katherine Ryan, Zoe Lyons, whoever you want to think of. I mean, there will be, but I think what we’ve done is we’ve sped things up.

And there are more of them. And not every well-known female comedian on the scene at the moment has come through Funny Women. And I always feel that I wanted to mitigate that as well. I didn’t want Funny Women just to be about our awards because I think that then people question your integrity. They think, why are you doing it? Well, actually, I’ve never, I mean, everyone calls me a business woman, but I’m not really driven….Sadly, for everyone around me, I mean, money is important, but for me, the driving force of Funny Women is that whole thing of supporting new talent. And specifically, women and non-binary people who, you know, people who live their lives as women, I think we are still penalized for that. And the comedy world, for some reason, at live level, just seems to epitomise that. It’s a very strange thing.

I think it’s only on the live circuit because now when you look at television and comedy writing and script, actually it’s much more equal. There’s a lot of women now doing really well. And I think when women do well, they do really well. And they are often, or controversially, I was gonna say, often better than the men. I think sometimes they are. They just don’t always…get the opportunities and history will actually back that up. We had people like Gracie Fields and Joyce Grenfell and Marti Caine and Phyllis Diller, love a few Americans, Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers and Mary Tyler Moore, all these women have been really super successful.

So in a market which has always been sort of dominated by men, you’ve got all these amazing, brilliantly talented women shining through. So when someone turns around to you and says, women aren’t funny, and I mean, it’s, am I allowed to say a big, a B word? It is utter male bollocks. You know, it really is. So, you know, I think, you know, I think that’s why, in answer to your earlier question, why we’re still going, there’s still a need to keep promoting that. Which is sad because it would be nice to stop but you know I’m still going.

Danielle (12:26.854)

Yeah. And I think brilliant that you do have business acumen too, in the very best sense, to then turn it as a helpful lens. Because it is that really tricky thing whether it’s comedy, whatever your kind of outlet is, is incredibly creative and is also a business. So amazing that you’re someone that’s been able to kind of bridge and find…because without a sponsor, it’s hard for

Lynne Parker (12:55.742)

Oh, it’s, I mean, really at the moment, we’re facing some of our biggest struggles that we’ve ever had, which I’ll come to. But yeah, we, the biggest issue I have is that a lot of people think, even now, and I probably say it once a week, this is not my hobby, this is my business. And my biggest issue is that, pardon the terrible oxymoron here, but people don’t take it seriously. They think I’m on some kind of weird, you know, they want… people often say to me, oh, that pub would be great for a comedy night. Well, you know, no disrespect to those people, they mean well, but I’m big picture. I’m not, you know…

And I have run, I have run a lot of small comedy nights over the years, but right now what we need is the big, big broad brush stroke, the talent pipeline, the awards, the getting these women seen by commissioners, is getting their scripts seen, getting their short film seen, you know.

And we’ve also now got the advent of content creators who have changed the whole dimension yet again. And actually that’s a really interesting one because I think women are good at that as well. They are almost like the pioneers in that space, you know, with Instagram. And I would say Instagram primarily because you can put a lot of stuff on Instagram, you can sell your wares, so you can make a funny film or you can sell fashion items or beauty products. So it’s a kind of in a shop window environment that you can run from your own home. And I think women are quite good at setting the whole thing up.

Now we’ve had about four or five years of our Content Creator Award. I’ve been so incredibly inspired by these women and how much time they take and they earn a lot of money some of these women as well. I mean I often think maybe I should be doing that but it’s not again it’s not what I particularly want to do. I don’t want to spend every waking hour of my day filming myself and thinking about what…And that’s why I admire these women for doing it, because I think it’s a true mission. And they can earn a lot of money because they have a lot of eyes on them. And that’s not what Funny Women is all about. At the end of the day, Funny Women is a catalyst point.

But I do think the fact that we now do have, we have recognized that area is really important because it shows that we’ve moved our slant with the times as well. And interestingly, all the content creators that I think we’ve had Sophie, Chan, I think we have four or five winners. They’ve all got book deals. All of them. They’ve all got book deals. They’ve all got, they’re all earning money from sponsorship. I think the last time I got a sponsorship job, because I do, I do book, I do act as like an agent, but I don’t represent acts, but I will act if a brand comes to me and says we want someone to promote our lipstick, I’ll go off and find someone for them. And full disclosure, we’re talking about pre-Covid, one of them was paid like 25 grand. I mean that would run Funny Women awards, certainly contribute to the Funny Women awards, like you know, even I don’t get that kind of money. So there’s big stakes, big stakes, you know, but there’s a lot, but they deserve it as well because they put a lot of work into it. It’s a whole area that I think we don’t think of.

And if we’re talking about writing and comedy writing, there’s quite a lot that goes into producing those things because you’ve got to write your script and you’ve got to find something funny. They don’t just happen upon it. They don’t just go around and go filming their everyday life. They are planning it out. So I find that area very interesting, not an area I particularly want to get into on a personal level, but I do acknowledge it.

Danielle (17:21.894)

Yeah, and I love that it encompasses that. And as I said, and amazing that you have this perspective back to 9-11 and also have been through COVID with Funny Women. And what I read about online was that there were a lot of changes that obviously needed to be made for really practical reasons. And everything that I read online, it sounds like you were still able to make a really great community space with people during that time. So I’m just curious what you feel…

Lynne Parker (17:48.81)

I think, yeah, it did turn things around for a lot of us in that space. I mean, I’ve got quite a lot to say about this type of thing, because I think online is not a replacement for live. And I really feel very strongly about that. And I think a lot of people still use it and they may think that we still use it as an excuse for not doing as much live stuff. The practicalities of that are that we don’t do as much live stuff because we simply don’t have the resources. So I can’t function without decent producers who want to work with us and quite often they’re working as volunteers. So that’s a big commitment. And the other issue is venues. And the venues, I mean, we’ve got some fantastic venues. The venues in Amsterdam and Paris and Ireland are all fantastic. Our biggest issue has been London, where we have two factors. Number one, I get it, because London’s an expensive place and the rents are high, but you can afford to give a night a week to a female comedy community without asking them how much money they’re gonna spend over the bar, or, you know. I mean, it’s become very competitive.

And the other even bigger problem is accessibility. And a lot of the London venues are really difficult for people with any modicum of disability, you know, can’t get up and down stairs, narrow, quite a lot of the rooms are up, narrow stairways in pubs. The toilets are always miles away, always. Women’s toilets are always away from anywhere. I’ve never understood that. So you’ve got all these other issues which I feel very strongly about is that it isn’t just about putting on the show, it’s got to be comfortable for everybody. Otherwise you’re, you know, it’s not a nice experience. You want everyone to have a lovely experience if they’re performing for the first time. I’ve just, I keep being reminded actually because Rosie Jones has been all over the media this week.

And I saw Rosie do her first ever gig at the Betsey Trotwood. And you know, the immortal lines, …I’m not drunk. I can’t remember how she says it now, but you know, the sheer efforts of getting up those narrow stairs in the upstairs of the Betsy Trotwood, good for her because she did it. And we all know where she ended up. And she was a finalist in 2016… in my view should have won but I don’t choose the winners, a lot of people think I do but there’s a very good example of my chosen person not winning, she should have won but she has won as far as I’m concerned because she’s a super star now.

But you know that if you look at that whole area of disability and how badly served it is because a lot of people, a lot of people who have to face life’s challenges are often really funny as well. They’ve always got a funny story to tell. It just goes with the territory, doesn’t it really? So, you know, I always think that’s a really great, I always think back to that moment of seeing Rosie struggle up those stairs and then do a gig. It just, it makes me laugh just thinking about it. And it makes me so proud as well that, you know, that she started with us. So I suppose there’s a good side to everything.

Danielle (21:35.43)

Yeah, and thank you for showing that because I think… like I’ve also had a lot of experience of events in my day job and I know what it takes behind the scenes to make it work and sometimes it just, people don’t realise how much time it takes, how much it costs, things like accessibility, so it’s real and you want to, for the sake of all the people performing, to have something that’s professional, welcoming, looks great.

Lynne Parker (21:59.502)

You do, but people do think of comedy as like the cheap option. Oh, we’ll just put on a comedy night and they may have no backline, no decent, you know, PA system. They expect you to come with your own mic stands. I mean, we always have pop-ups like the one behind me and we’ve always been quite professional about it. Proper backing tracks, cleared music, but that’s because that’s my background. My other half is a musician and producer, we’re in that game. But on the whole, a lot of people think of comedy as a cheap way to fill their pub and sell booze. You know, the whole of Edinburgh Fringe, I will be probably be cast off for saying this, but the whole reason that survives is because people make, the venues make a lot of money out of food and drink, you know. Don’t kid yourself it’s just about the comedy.

Yes, the comedy is the catalyst for it and it does bring people together. But the people making the real bucks out of all of those big festivals are the ones selling the food and the booze. And yet they don’t invest in it either. I mean, it just makes me so mad, so mad. Apart from Babycham.

Danielle (23:06.059)

And it is a particular kind of environment as well, that attracts, you know, particular kinds of crowds. And if you’re trying to kind of open things up and make more people welcome and yeah, I appreciate what you’re doing.

And I wanted to ask you, because you have been such a tireless supporter of women and have supported and mentored women in so many different capacities. I was wondering if you’ve had that opportunity of being mentored or if it was just that…being immersed as an eight year old and just having to figure it all out.

Lynne Parker (23:47.282)

That was a really interesting question which I did look at because you kindly sent me a note about this before. But I think we all need cheerleaders, don’t we? We always need somebody to bang your drum and support you. I’ve always thought I’ve had mentors and then I’ve been disappointed. I have one particular person in mind who I really looked up to, who I thought of as a mentor. And this is in my PR career, not in my later career in comedy, but without, I don’t think it’s a story I particularly wanna go into, but you know, when I got good at my job, she didn’t like it.

And I think what that shows is that, probably demonstrates more importantly is that women are actually quite ruthless and competitive when it comes to it. We don’t think we are. We always think we’re nicey and we’re great with each other. But that particular incident has really changed my attitude to that notion of mentoring. And my mentor turned around and, you know, you know, knifed me in the back because I got good at my job and made her not look so good, and she didn’t like that. So she had found a way to get rid of me basically.

So I think from that experience where I went is more into, and I’ve always done this, I’ve realized even as a small child, and I had the best friend incident, you know, I had a friend who was my best friend and then…the next day someone else was her best friend, and then she’d sort of set us off against each other. And I think with this other incident, it reminded me of that and I thought, right, okay. And actually from that whole incident when I was a kid, I always had lots of friends. I’ve always been very mercurial and never been part of a particular gang. I like to move around, which does also mean that sometimes you’re quite lonely and you’re on your own. People say, when I say to people I get lonely sometimes, they think I’m mad, but it is quite lonely running your own thing. And I would love nothing better than to have another person running Funny Women with me, but I’ve tried and each time it hasn’t worked out. And for whatever reason, you know, probably as much to do with me. I am, you know, quite exacting and I have my own way of doing things. So I think that makes it difficult.

So how I’ve kind of got around that is now with Funny Women I have a non-executive board, which is a group of men and women who are all fantastic and they’re there and there’s about nine of us, I think now, and they all have different expertise. They’re not all in comedy. So I can call on them for different things. Some of them are in comedy, but that’s a perfect setup for me. It’s like I have a family of people that I can call upon.

And also when I’m…In terms of my own personal journey, I have always been involved with lots of different networks because I think that’s the best way to do it. So I’m a member of things like Women in Public Relations, women in, actually I was president of Women in Public Relations just before I set Funny Women up. So, and I still go to their events and they’re absolutely wonderful. And I think that although I’m not in PR anymore, I’m still part of the family, it’s great. And then I’m in an organisation called Women in Film and TV and Women in Journalism, because I’m still a journalist really, because I still write. And then I belong to some business groups and I’ve recently got involved with something called The Trouble Club, which is fantastic. I was at an event last night with them and that’s, it’s just, I mean, it’s just a sort of social group. They have lots of authors coming and talking about their books. In fact, last night they had an event and one of the guests was one of our past Funny Women Award runners up. She performed and we’re putting on a show with them next year to showcase some of our new talent. So actually, I find those groups, if you pick on the right ones and you, you know, there’s a lot of talk about tribes and things like that, which I tend to steer clear of…tribes, communities, whatever you want to call them, they’re really valuable if you find the right ones. And sometimes you have to have tried a few out before you find the ones that you really suit. And of course they change as well.

So a couple of the groups I was a member of for years, somebody at the top has left and it’s changed the nature of the community in some way, and it hasn’t felt quite so right for me. So I’ve moved on. But…I sound very glib about this actually, I find it quite difficult and quite painful. I’m so loyal, I think people possibly don’t understand that about me, but I am really loyal. So if I have to leave something, I get very upset about it. But that’s been my consistent way of moving around life. When I have my kids, I joined the NCT, I go to Pilates as a little group of us that do, you know, we have, I think women are actually really good at this. I think women’s groups really personify how women get on in life because we kind of need each other, you know, and I actually don’t enjoy going to groups that are, well, that’s not fair.

I do go to one group locally here in Kent where I live, which is men and women, but they’re all in marketing and I kind of feel like a fit in there because we have marketing in common. So it’s finding your niche, isn’t it? It’s finding the things that interest you. I suppose that’s why people have hobbies, because they’ve all got an interest in knitting or winemaking or it’s human nature, isn’t it? You group together. But I think it’s through those groups and those communities that I’ve kind of been able to promote Funny Women and sustain it. So, you know, when I’ve got new things coming up, I have a mailing list of about, I don’t know, 70 or 80 network contacts. And I just send out a personal email saying, please promote our next comedy crash course or our next stand up stand out, you know, and I might get half a dozen replies and they put it on. Today, I’ve had two newsletters where they put our graphics in and, you know, but I offer them a discount. So, you know, we all win, everyone wins.

And that’s the other thing. Don’t just take, give back. People forget that. Networking isn’t just a one-way thing. You’ve got to, you’ve got to, networking is about giving, you know, giving something back. It’s sort of a, it’s a trade-off, isn’t it? It’s sort of bartering of sorts. And I don’t like the formal stuff where, you know, you go in, someone will go, hi, my name is John Smith and…What do you do? And they’re all a bit formal. I actually prefer the chatty social stuff, which I think women do well. I think women do that much better than men. Sorry, men, we love you, but you’re not as good at that as I am, as we are, as women are. And I have had that discussion with my husband who largely agrees with me. Just like networking very much. I don’t think a lot of men enjoy networking as much as women actually.

Danielle (31:42.67)

Yeah, but that’s great and great that you’ve been able to create those relationships. And I appreciate you speaking really transparently about all that means, because we are humans. So it’s useful to know again that just because we may have some similarities doesn’t mean, as you say, that there aren’t those other human aspects where actually someone, you know, wants to cap the level of achievement or… and other women would be fully supportive. But I appreciate you talking about the full spectrum. And also that strength, the decision making to say, actually, this has changed, I need to move on, even though it’s painful for me. So you can feel it as a human, but as a leader and someone who’s running an organization, you also know what you need to do. You have limited time, resources, energy.

Lynne Parker (32:23.582)

Mentorships are like relationships, so if you find, you know, if you do believe in somebody and you feel they’re really important to you and then the tables turn, that is very painful, you know, it makes, it kind of completely blows your framework out the window. Having said that, I think mentorship can work extremely well and I suppose I’ve just formalised my mentorship type relationships now because I hope…like you, I coach and train people. And if they want someone, if they want someone like me to help them kind of repackage their comedy, have some proper constructive feedback, help them write things in a different way, then that’s part of how I earn my living. And I actually I think that is mentorship, but they’re paying me to do it. Well, they’re paying Funny Women, it goes into the business, but I really enjoy doing that.

But I think that I’m protected because that is a proper formal working relationship. It’s not the informal one based on my past experiences of where it’s gone wrong. So I think I’ve learned quite late in life again to stick up, you know, say to people, I’m worth it if you want to work with me. Yes, I’d love to, but I charge so much and, you know, this is how I do it. So that’s another thing that I try and do a bit more of now, which I actually really love doing. I really like working with people on a one-to-one basis. And again, so, you know, now we, the pandemic helped us access more of that because you can do it online, which is great.

Danielle (34:08.742)

Yeah, totally. And I was really curious about the fact that you do…as you do so much with the awards and different events throughout the year, and also you understand, like you must have learned so much from taking comedy into businesses with the other side. So I’m curious about that because I really…Like I both value people that really care about their craft and want to develop it to the highest level possible. And I really can’t stand elitism in the sense of creativity is only for very special people. I want everyone to have access to whatever it is, comedy, writing to the level that they want to. So I love that you go into workplaces too and work with people.

So I’m just curious from all those experiences of running workshops and different schemes there, if there are any particular events, activities or prompts or things that you think help people who may, because comedy can be super scary….do you not think so? No, tell me.

Lynne Parker (35:08.994)

Well, is it? You know, it’s not the comedy. No, it’s not the comedy that’s scary. It’s you being scared of yourself, number one. And we’re all very fearful. We’re all frightened of making a fool of ourselves. We’ve got to stop this. We’ve got to start legitimizing having a sense of humour, because laughter, have we not learned after two years of a pandemic how important laughter is. If we don’t have comedy and tragedy sitting side by side. Some of the best comedy writing comes out of tragic circumstances. I can think of loads of fantastic comedy that is black humour and that has come out of a working life situation. Jo Brand, who is our matron as well for Funny Women, wrote and played in her own sitcom called Getting On. And she’s talked to me about it. And obviously she talks to other people much more famous than me, talks about how she came about that because that was what she did. She was a mental health nurse and she loves that dark side of life, that sort of tragedy comedy. And I saw her on a TV programme a couple of days ago talking about it and saying that she really revels in the horror of life and how funny it is and she talks about Steptoe and Son and how that used to really make her laugh. Jo and I are the same sort of age so her references are very close to mine and you know I can remember watching Steptoe and Son and being horrified and amused in equal measure, you know, and that’s what we we’ve got to remember.

So going back to the workplace, I mean, you know, oh my God, you know, getting grown people to play with each other in the workplace is living my best life. I love it. I really like to see people, those barriers fall away. We need that more than ever. And the workplace has changed forever, okay? Let’s put that on the table.

You know, if you don’t have to go into work five days a week and you can do some of your work from home because you cut down your traveling, you can see more of your family, you know, why wouldn’t you do that? However, there is also a huge value in being with other people and having that social side of life. Now, what work, what business owners, large business owners with big largely empty office blocks don’t understand…. If they don’t make it fun for people, people won’t want to go back. You’ve got to make it fun. And you know, we started doing these events with some of our bigger corporate clients. I mean, we do a lot of corporate work really just to bring money into the business. It all gets fed back into our outreach and the awards and stuff. But you know, we started to do these kind of hybrid events where we do a bit of a bit of workshopping, a bit of networking, and some live comedy. And there was a little bit of hesitancy the first few times we did it, but now it’s such a winning formula and it’s such a great thing to do that, you know, we position it as a business event, but actually at the end of the day, it is a sort of comedy event disguised as a business event because we’re showing people techniques and we break them up into smaller groups and they workshop together. It’s a kind of mix of everything that we already do in the business environment, but we package it all together so that we can show our corporate clients how they could do it in their workplace. And we’ve done full scale events with clients like Canada Life and NatWest. And we just worked recently with… SES they’re called now, the construction group, mainly where they have women’s groups, women’s networks.

But more and more, I think we need to not make them women exclusive. I think that we need to still run them as Funny Women. Or in fact, we have our sort of sister brand, Herlarious, which we use for that. But it’s still Funny Women. But the, you know, people say to me, well, why would Funny Women run that? I said, because usually, it’s a man thing, and men run these things. So just go with it and have Funny Women run it and then have a few men in the room. Why not? They might learn something.

And actually the men that normally get involved do learn an awful lot. I think that it changes their perspective on how they can work with women hugely, particularly if they’re outnumbered, you know. But I mean, for those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth, and who’ve spent their entire careers being surrounded in rooms full of men, you know…. It’s quite nice for the men to experience the boot on the other foot. And some men love it, you know, they enjoy it. And I think they learn a lot. I just think the whole workplace is so genderized still. It’s difficult. I suppose I’m, and I also making it worse, I suppose, by saying we’ve got to run events as Funny Women, but we actually call those events fun at work. So they are not gendered, but we run them.

But I do, I’ve honestly had some really wonderful times doing those events because people when they’re given permission to laugh about, come up with the most amazing stuff. I mean they really do. And without going into specific examples, if we run something at the beginning of a two-day conference for example, we quite often get employed to do like a warm up session, which I also love, that’s kind of a great thing to do. And you get people doing some kind of crazy stuff. Those people will be remembered throughout the whole two days of the conference by what they did on the first day. You can’t beat that.

So, you know, that comes to my other big mantra, which is that comedy does make you memorable. You know, we always remember great public speakers because they’re funny. The first thing people say. Oh, they were a really good speaker. They were really funny, you know? And funny isn’t difficult if you let yourself go. And that’s the whole point of really the workplace stuff is, I think women are much more risk averse when it comes to using humour, that we need permission a bit more because we’ve had to fight for our place in workplace hierarchies. So we don’t wanna trivialize what we’ve done, but I think we’re beyond that now. I think we don’t have to worry anymore, you know? I think we can be funny.

I know it’s a bit of a difficult one because I know that in my past career, even pre-comedy, I’ve always been known for being outspoken, probably got called aggressive more than times than I care to remember. But actually, I don’t think I am. I think I quite often say what other people are thinking, which is what comedians do. You just say the obvious, you just say the…probably like a lot of people in comedy, I don’t have that filter. So I just say it.

And now there’s much more knowledge about neurodiversity these days. So now I understand it, but I didn’t, you know, 20, 30 years ago, I just think people used to think I was mad. I’d say what I think. And I’m not a comedian. So, you know, there’s a lot of people like me who have that same sort of mental way of working things out and quite often for a lot of us you say it without thinking, which is what comedians do. So I kind of found my natural home I think coming into comedy.

Danielle (43:31.13)

I love that. And I love the encouragement. I think lots more people would benefit from doing that. And particularly if you have been someone who’s been socialized as a woman, and there is lots of pressure in the classroom to be nice, to be good to make the peace, not to disrupt things to, you know, be a good girl, like all that sort of stuff. Like, it’s a it’s a shame.

Lynne Parker (43:50.718)

Yeah, it’s important to be nice and to be kind, but stick up for yourself as well, which is something I still don’t do. I think a lot of us, whereas I noticed a lot of the young women coming through now are my own daughter, who’s 31 now, but they’re a different generation. There’s none of this, they just have a completely different frame of reference to the one I was brought up with, and that’s fantastic. So at least the world is changing and women are able to speak up for themselves. And we are unveiling, unfortunately, more of the horrors that have happened in the past, but good, because then they won’t be repeated. And comedy is a really good vehicle for putting over these messages, for communicating dark stuff and bad stuff.

There’s a few really good TV series that have come out in the recent years. And obviously Rosie Jones is doing a lot of TV stuff about disability, so that is an absolute must watch. But if you think about Merman, Sharon Horgan’s TV production company…things like Catastrophe and Motherland just hit so many beats. I mean, so clever. And then there’s Sophie Willans, Alma’s Not Normal, award winning comedy series, which also stars Jayde Adams, who was our Funny Women Award winner, stage award in 2015, I think it was. And then another one to look out for, which is out now, is written by a young writer called Kat Sadler, called Such Brave Girls.

Danielle (45:29.142)

Danielle (45:43.242)

Hmm, I don’t know that one.

Lynne Parker (45:43.906)

We had a conversation with someone the other day about that. They said, oh… I don’t know why people say this sort of thing to me…. You might not like it. Well, number one, I don’t know where they get this idea. I said, why wouldn’t I like it? Oh, cause some of it’s a bit near the knuckle. Now, yeah, okay. I know I’m in my sixties, but I am not a prude. And there’s, again, this is, this is my other rant, which is about age is that because we are older, we might not like things now.

There are some women of my age group who may well not like it, but not me, number one. And actually going back to that, I know Kat Sadler, and in fact, she worked with us very briefly, and she’s a very smart, very savvy, very clever young woman. And what she is doing is depicting what life is like for her in her age group. She’s neurodiverse, she’s queer, she’s got all sorts of stuff going on. And this programme is autobiographical. And I think that’s creditable and fantastic and thank God for BBC Three for putting money behind that kind of thing, really good.

But I don’t like the judgment of other people that I might not like it. I mean, where does that come from? But I think that’s an age thing. I think that’s people thinking, oh, Lynne’s in her 60s, she probably won’t like that. Well, you might be shocked about what I like. I like a lot of weird stuff, you know? Yeah.

Danielle (47:13.367)

Oh, I love it. And thank you for those recommendations. I haven’t seen that last one, so I must check it out. I agree with you about Catastrophe and that. So that’s great.

Lynne Parker (47:19.314)

Yeah, yeah, I mean, I haven’t watched it all through, but it’s had rave reviews. And also, you know, there is, again, if we think about this, I’m citing a very small handful of brilliant female writers, producers, and there’s a lot of really good new stuff that women are involved with.

And that comes through the writing route as well because a lot of them are scripted comedy and Kat certainly was recognised as a writer more than…she does do stand-up as well, but she is a clever writer and that is why it’s really important that this is happening So, you know, just don’t tell me what I like and what I don’t like. That’s what annoys me Isn’t it weird?

Danielle (48:13.101)

Yeah, I love it. Good decision maker, a leader. You can make your own judgment I think. Perfectly capable of deciding, turning off, turning on. You got it.

Lynne Parker (48:16.97)

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

I do think though, I think again generationally, I think a lot of people have made our opinions up for us in my generation. But I think again, I’m an outspoken, mouthy old cow and I don’t wanna be told, you know, what I like and what I don’t like. So.

Danielle (48:27.282)

Right. Yeah, no, for real. I think that’s a perfect note to end on. And thank you so much for your time today, Lynne. For people want to find out more about you and the amazing work that you do with Funny Women and lots of the brilliant people who’ve come through Funny Women. Where should they go?

Lynne Parker (48:55.254)

Oh definitely go to the main website which is funnywomen.com and if you want to see who has won our awards over the last 20 odd years there’s a Hall of Fame if you click on the awards button at the top and there’s a drop down it says Hall of Fame you can see all the names of the winners of the different awards which is a good point of reference and then if you are interested in working either with me personally or in your workplace, if you go to herlarious.co.uk, which is our kind of sister website as I call it, and that’s got a little bit more background on some of our work and testimonials from different people we’ve worked with over the years. Yeah and obviously all the usual socials and I’m, it’s either @funnywomen or @funnywomenlynne for me with an E, Lynne with an E, or @funnywomen. Apart from Instagram, which is @funny_women. Don’t ask. Really annoying. Yeah.

Danielle (49:57.774)

No problem. Yeah. That’s how it goes, isn’t it? Yeah. But that’s perfect. And I’ll put all those in the show notes. So thank you so much for your time today, Lynne. I really appreciate it.

Lynne Parker (50:06.423)

Thanks Danielle.