Put your money away...

Comics launch free alternative to Funny Women competition

Chortle is lending its support to a new grassroots campaign to showcase new female comedians.

The new Funny’s Funny Female Comedian of the Year competition has been set up by a consortium of comedians after the Funny Women organisation controversially started charging performers to take part in its shows.

The new contest will involve a series of regional showcases at comedy clubs across the UK, followed by a final at a prestigious London venue, where up-and-coming female comedians will perform in front of leading agents and bookers.

Key commitments of the new initiative are:

  • No comedian will ever be charged to perform.

  • Entry fees for the public will not be inflated, but in line with similar nights.

  • Comedians may talk about any topic they choose, in any style they choose, without interference from the organisers.

  • The winner of the competition will receive £500 cash

  • Everyone taking part in the final will receive a free DVD of their performance.

Chortle is backing the competition by underwriting any losses, providing valuable marketing and organisational backup, and filming the final for the DVDs.

Anyone who enters the competition will also be provided with an information pack with support on getting into the world of comedy.

Comedian Jane Hill, one of those behind the new initiatives, said: ‘We wanted to offer a place to go for comics who were thinking of entering the Funny Women competition this year but object to pay-to-play.

‘We believe that these showcases will help build participants’ confidence and put them in contact with people who can give them further opportunities to develop. It’s all about providing a support network for new female comedians. New acts are telling us they want advice on how to get gigs and how the industry works.”

Comic and promoter Rob Coleman added: ‘Pay-to-play is anathema to comics – and most promoters – in the UK. As a promoter, I appreciate that nights have to be run on a commercial basis, but it’s quite possible to put on financially viable showcases and competitions without charging comedians for the privilege of entering.’

Ashley Frieze, another comedian behind the competition, said: ‘Our view is that if there is a female-only competition, then it should, at least, be run within the industry and in the interest of all who participate. We hope our efforts this year will help reduce any feelings of disenfranchisement.’

The collective behind the competition, known as Funny’s Funny, hope that ultimately there’ll be no need for a female-only contest. But they do intend to plan more events to benefit up-and-coming comedians, whatever their background.

‘What we’re saying,’ says comedian Bethany Black, “is that funny’s funny, irrespective of your gender, race, or sexuality.’

The Funny's Funny Female Comedian of the Year events will be held in June and July, and opens for registration on May 10. Details of how to enter will be published on Chortle next week.

Funny Women, which calls itself ‘a leading comedy brand’, introduced a £15 fee to take part in this year’s event to cover administration fees. The competition has no cash prize, but the winners will be signed up to a one-year management deal.

Published: 3 May 2011

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