Ellen Briggs and Mandy Nolan bring the day to day lives of being a woman to the stage, touching on (not so gently) those topics nobody wants to talk about, in a hilarious two hour performance … FOCUS caught up with the pair in between school runs …
Tell us a bit about yourselves off stage. How did you meet each other, and where did the inspiration behind Women Like Us come from?
Ellen: I am a mum of twins, have been with the same bloke for 25 years (God help him), run not only my comedy business but our business from home, and run a farm with a small amount of cattle on it. I am a short, plain woman and if not for comedy, you wouldn’t even notice me in a room. I can slip in and steal your purse, and you’d never know. That’s my super power!
We met 12 years ago when I decided to do Mandy’s comedy course that she runs three times per year. This gets people writing five minutes of stand up comedy, and it culminates in a performance called The Virgin Sacrifice, where all the students perform that five minutes. It’s kind of like a rite of passage around these parts – almost everyone who lives here has done the course.
The idea for Women Like Us came from us both performing in regional areas, and having so many people approach us and tell us how refreshing it is to hear the voice of a regional, middle aged woman. It’s probably the group in Australia that is least heard from – certainly in the comedy industry, that’s for sure! So, we decided to put together this two-hour show and take it to all the regional centres that are really starved for good comedy!
Plus, we like each other and are happy to travel together – that’s important to us. There aren’t many comedians I’d be happy to spend extended periods away with!
Mandy: I am a mother of five kids; I’ve had three husbands. One I decided to keep. I’ve been a comedian for 30 years, a mother for 21. I am six foot tall, blonde, and 90 kilos. Let’s just say I don’t just slip easily into a crowd. I’ve always stuck out a little bit … been the girl with toilet paper trailing out her undies. Been too loud, too fat, too big to be a trophy wife. Instead, I collected trophy husbands! I write, I teach, I basically spend my life telling other people what to do.
Ellen and I met when she came to do my comedy course about a decade ago. She told people she was learning the piano. She just had it, I thought immediately. Either I kill her, or I love her. I chose the latter option. We created Women Like Us because we both think that comedy targets male audiences and that our stories are hysterical and need to be told. Our shows have been selling out wherever we go – and audiences have raved that they love our material, that it was like we were telling stories from their life. And we do. It’s because those lives, are our lives too!
There is a stigma around women’s issues, but you make sure there is no stone unturned. What are some of the more “controversial” topics you cover in your show?
Ellen: What don’t we cover? We cover the frustrations of parenting, being a wife, ageing and what happens to your body and your mind, body image, death, sex after 25 years of marriage … we don’t leave anything out! Mandy: I always find it weird that women’s experience is called “women’s issues”, but men’s experience is seen as universal. I think that’s why we need to talk about women’s experiences – we have to make it part of the universal domain. After all, as women we do have the majority when it comes to planetary population. As for controversial, we do the usual – weight, sexuality, labiaplasty, who unpacks the dishwasher, and I like to declare a war on botox.
As much as we love and adore our kids, most mums will have a story of when our kids have embarrassed us in public. Ellen, Mandy, please share yours …
Ellen: I took my kids to a friend’s house, whose mum happened to be a very busy solicitor and when I went to pick him up, he came running to me crying. When I asked him what was wrong, he said he had lost his socks. The mum of his friend said that she would find them and send them back to school with her son, to which my kid wailed, “But you’ll never find them in your messy house”! I don’t get free legal advice anymore!
Mandy: When my middle daughter was about seven, she once gave a talk about what her mummy did for work and said in front of the school assembly, “My mummy gets paid to swear. She can use the F word. She gets $50 every time”.
You both have had success in the comedy industry. As mothers and wives, how do you juggle career/life/sanity?
Ellen: We have very supportive families, and without them, it wouldn’t be possible to travel and work evenings the way we do. I write lots of lists. I have lists of lists I have to write. I literally cut up my day into chunks of the different work I have to do, i.e. morning will be comedy admin, afternoon will be housework, evening performing, etc. Otherwise, there would be no sanity. Actually, maybe there is no sanity? Maybe my excessive list making and chunking is actually a little bit crazy?
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Mandy: Women Like Us isn’t just comedy. It’s therapy. You will walk away feeling normal. Wonderful. Like you’re not alone. Ellen and I are on a mission – to bring Women Like Us to women, particularly regional women in Australia, because we believe that so often no one really speaks to our real experience. WE do.
Women Like Us Stand Up Comedy Show, Friday 13th July. Tickets: $35. Doors: 8pm. Starts 8:30pm. 18+ event.