In the summer, The Women’s Prize Trust funded a bursary for aspiring writer Dee Bonner to attend the Funny Women summer school. Here, Dee shares her experience of the day.
Having worked all week, who agrees to attend a workshop? On a Saturday! My job is children’s services so, you’d think that come Friday night I’d enjoy not moving from my sofa until it’s absolutely necessary. Necessary means ice cream to accompany the binge watch or new album.
So, when I was gifted a sponsored place for the Funny Women summer school, I was in! I am mature but young for my 57 years of age. I’m funny when people laugh at me mixing up names, but thankfully not at work; substitute the name of a much longed-for child with another and this could have serious consequences.
Learning comedy, from and with women, I expected would be a list of say 1-10 do’s and don’ts. The Funny Women workshop was a whole lot more. Yes, there were numbers but with pictures and videos so for my neurodivergent (dyslexia and dyspraxia) self, the learning was completely accessible.
After the introductory session, we sat in pairs and shared our stories about significant events in our lives – could there possibly be humour in a bereavement, a traumatic birth, meeting your school heart throb (yes, age me by that phrase!). We all managed to say and do. Did we laugh though? Yes, every single one of us. We were varied in age from an influential and exuberant 82-year-old to the 23-year-old attending with her mum. What a way to bond even more with your child I thought but alas, I have a son!
The non-creative environment does not always address the expectations, the encouragement, the joy and the love that women have for one another, but these things radiated in this women-only space. Are words like lululemon, vaginal passage, breasts and babies, etc. as funny when from a man’s lips? I don’t think so. We played word games, explored how and why comedy works and shared what makes us laugh aside from being in a room of Funny Women. We came away with a litany of programmes to explore.
The final show was a showcase of what we’d worked on throughout the day. Of course, there were worries, some mild resistance (‘No, I absolutely won’t,’ – but everybody did). We used our few minutes wisely, sharing poignant tales and sad stories (I’m not crying, you are). We leaned in and listened keenly, laughed loudly and had our hands over our mouths in shock as the ‘funny’ came. I followed some of the advice to go BIG and drew on my mundane experience of seeing Phoebe Waller Bridge in a theatre loo but instead, elaborated and took it to the next level where I greeted her whilst holding my pants up and she was trapped at the hand dryers. In another joke, I was thinking of a black actor called Kano but instead said Noel Clarke (a completely different black actor) but instead said Noel Fielding. These men are poles apart but that’s an example of how my brain is affected by dyslexia/dyspraxia. We think outside the box and, whilst I welcome my superpower, I can’t always keep up with it and have many ideas and unfinished pieces.
And what’s next? My writing, my reading, my memoir and my screen viewing will all be influenced by the day at the Funny Women workshop. We had a good dose of laughter medicine, and I already know I’ll be watching one of us doing stand-up very soon.