Are you a funny mummy? I know we can all turn a trick to amuse our kids, but have you ever thought about turning your comedic skills into a career?
Over the last 10 years we’ve met quite a few female comics who already have children and some who have gone on to have children since we first met them in the Funny Women Awards. We’ve asked a few of them to see how they’ve managed to juggle their careers with their family lives.
Ria Lina was runner up in the first ever Funny Women Awards in 2003. Since then she has had three children and gained a stepson! This has inevitably meant breaks from gigging but recently we’ve been seeing a lot more of Ria back on the circuit. We asked her how she manages.
“I won't deny that being away for two to three days every couple of weekends gigging in another town isn't difficult on the family,” explains Ria. “But I'd much rather do it this way round and be able to attend every school assembly and nativity play that my children are in, than work nine to five in a job that doesn't suit me and teaches my children to settle for a career that is less than who they want to be."
"That said I've never been asked to do the parent's career day speech at my children's school. For some reason they don't want you to stand up and say: well, boys and girls, during the day I look after Little Jimmy and Joanie, but at night I sing about premature ejaculation and get paid for it."
The other side of it is getting started after you’ve had your children, when the desire to do something that you are really passionate about takes over. Having taken time out a lot of women re-assess their options and won’t settle for ‘second best’ although for most modern parents the need to sustain an income has to be balanced against the dream job.
Kath Bennett has been grappling with her desire for a career in comedy for several years now and, after a two year break, came back into the Funny Women Awards last year and made it into the top three. We asked her about getting started and what this means to her now.
"Stand-up comedy developed as a natural progression out of the classroom in which I had been teaching for ten years. I really enjoy the creative process of writing comedy and agonising over a particular word or a moment to pause that you know will get the audience laughing. However, getting as far as an audience is not easy with two children under four and three stepchildren aged nine, 11 and 14.
“After giving birth to my first child I chose to return to teaching part-time in order to spend as much time as possible at home with the kids in their early years. This has meant a significant drop in pay and, coupled with gigging around the circuit for no financial gain whilst asking my husband who has a demanding full time job to get the kids fed, bathed and into bed, is not fair on any of us.
“So I’ve shelved the stand-up circuit until my children are a bit older and I continue to write. I have recently agreed to write a monthly column for a North American Litzine and am in the final stages of developing a sitcom with another female comic who I met through the Funny Women Awards. It is easier to fit writing around family life so I still get to do what I love whilst being the parent and wife that I want to be."
One act who has seemingly achieved the impossible and now has a very successful career as a stand-up and comic actress, is Kerry Godliman, who we first saw in the 2004 Awards. Kerry is currently to be seen with Ricky Gervais in his new comedy, Derek, and her face will be familiar to many as she’s appeared in television commercials for big brands like Andrex and Birds Eye.
We asked Kerry what it takes to be ‘Wonder Woman’ (the title of her 2011 Edinburgh show which we reviewed HERE), and how she balances her family life with TV and comedy commitments.
“Juggling kids, cooking, cleaning and doing ceaseless, interminable, infinite bloody laundry is challenging enough. Mix that with that a chaotic, unpredictable and fickle job, and you’ll need to be some kind of Superhero,” she explains.
“Fortunately I’m Wonder Woman, in my head anyway! It’s a handy piece of positive projection. The only snag is Wonder Woman doesn’t have kids does she? That goody two shoes only has to save a few lives, look foxy and keep her uniform ironed. She doesn’t have to go to meetings with baby sick down her front. She’s never had mind bending debates with a three year old. I’ll bet she’s never expressed breast milk in a Winnebago.
“The nature of my work as a comedian and actor is that things can change in a blink. Last week I arranged a play date with a friend and her kids. Last minute, I get a casting that clashes with our plans. I had to cancel my date, find childcare, and learn a script.
“I’m always plagued with guilt and my life doesn’t have any balance; it’s all over the place. One week I’m wailing at the phone, longing it to ring…to give some sign that I’m still employable. Next week I’m rushing from one thing to another, wishing I’d said no to the 6.00pm casting for a Toilet Duck commercial."
So, how are the newer Funny Mummies on the block coping? Courtney Cornfield, occasional columnist for us, writes: "My biggest challenge is no longer getting the gig but getting a babysitter then hoping babysitter doesn't cancel! Or, if my husband can get home early enough, knowing that he then can't watch my shows.
"By the time I get the gig, ask husband for an early work finish, or find babysitter, feed kids, get ready, run out of door, get to venue.....I can finally relax in front of a room full of people wanting to be entertained. The pre -show drink is like a beacon in the night! I once even took the kids to Waterloo station to hand over to my husband on his way home so that I could go to an audition. The kids thought it was great!"
These tales are familiar for most of us who juggle a career with motherhood and their dilemmas will be familiar – even if you are in investment banker!
Doing anything you believe in comes at a price and for many of us whether we write, produce, direct or perform, our best support comes from other women. We help each other achieve our goals and that’s one of the best things about the last 10 years.
We can’t wait to see the next lot of 'funny mummies' and, if you’re finding it a struggle to enter or start performing comedy, please drop us an email and we’ll help you to find a way.
To enter this year’s Funny Women Awards, please register HERE.
Pictured top to bottom: Ria Lina, Kath Bennett, Kerry Godliman and Courtney Cornfield.
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