Review: Women's comedy writing workshop, Brighton

I was voted ‘Funniest in the Year’ at the end of Year 11, and although that was six whole years ago, I cling to this small acknowledgement and have to restrain myself from adding it to my CV.

That being said, I have not done any focused comedy acting or writing since school. Could I still live up to my 2011 achievements? Did I deserve that certificate? Would I have to give it back?

Luckily, Brighton Girl were invited to one of Jane Postlethwaite’s comedy workshops so I could test it out. Jane is a comedian, actor and writer, Funny Women Awards Finalist 2015 and she also runs the Bad Book Project in Brighton, among other things.

Eight women joined Jane and myself in the workshop in the upstairs space at the Caroline of Brunswick to create an intimate but not scarily-small group. Naturally, we started off with introducing ourselves, but to my delight there were no tedious ice-breakers that involved us saying ‘three facts about yourself but one’s a LIE!’, or something along those equally cringe-worthy lines.

Jane was gently encouraging and excellent at putting at least myself at ease by reminding us that it didn't matter if we weren't funny, but that we probably were going to be.

We launched straight into the exercises: firstly, we had to turn to the person on our right and compliment them for a few minutes on one particular attribute of theirs and the next round we had to disparage them for it. Although I hate talking about ‘vibes’ in case someone thinks I went on a gap year to South East Asia with my parent’s money, the vibes in the room were so positive and encouraging that I felt wholly comfortable giving and receiving insults.

We did a lot of fun and deeply satisfying exercises: impersonating someone who annoys you talking about yourself, pretending to be a family member talking about yourself. Be prepared to talk about yourself.

However, my favourite exercise was ‘writing a letter to someone you hate’. My addressee was a person taken from a particularly distressing episode in my life, but a time I have long reflected on with humour. After all, life-long trauma naturally goes hand in hand with a hearty chuckle.

I am already aware I use humour to make everything feel more comfortable, but through this exercise I understood just how cathartic it really is. Turning things that at first may feel like a disadvantage around so you are the one in control is hugely satisfying and is a point that Jane emphasised upon. After the workshop I honestly felt so relieved and truly like a weight had been lifted, as well as coming away with many useful tips for comedy writing.

Even if you have little interest in comedy, I’d recommend the workshop if you want to boost your confidence or public-speaking skills.

The other women in the workshop were so supportive of myself and each other, it was a wonderful environment that I believe would probably be lost in a mixed group. Women in comedy was a point of discussion in the workshop, as we discussed how women doubt themselves and maybe hold back when it comes to performance, or often in doing anything.

Taking centre-stage is something men are encouraged to do, while women just aren't. Therefore, being a group of people with the shared experience of being a woman was liberating. Women are still so maligned in comedy which comes as a surprise if, like me, the funniest people you know are mostly all women.

I am no stranger to self-doubt and, for a long time I have wanted to try my hand at comedy writing, but I have been scared to do so for no real reason. I left the workshop feeling encouraged and inspired, not only in the belief that I now had the starting tools to write some material, but also a general sense of confidence in myself.

I have 22 years of misadventure to laugh at and I’m not afraid to use it.

If you fancy trying out one of Jane’s workshops yourself you can find more information here.

Written by Amy.

You can find more from Amy by following her on Instagram @baronessbitchtits and Twitter @amyjayy.

Arts, LifeAmy Johnson