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How two of Canberra’s funniest women found community in comedy

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You may have caught Canberra comedians Frances McNair and Laura Campbell performing as part of ACT Like A Lady at the Canberra Comedy Festival, or at one of their solo stand up gigs.

Earlier this year they even cracked the big time at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but luckily for us, they haven’t forgotten their roots. On Tuesday 31 July Frances and Laura will be hanging out and telling jokes at the YWCA Canberra She Leads Conference Networking Function.

Laura started taking comedy seriously when a friend signed her up for the ANU Women’s Comedy Gala in 2016. Frances, who got into comedy about a year ago, jokingly compares her comedy career as a shot-by-shot remake of Lord of The Rings.

“I am Sam Gamgee and comedy is Frodo Baggins. I had no intention of going on this adventure. I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t really know why I’m following Mr Frodo but I know I love him very much. Gollum is self-doubt. Orcs are every gross heckler ever.”

Both women use comedy as a way to share their stories of a world that often dismisses or ignores the voices of women and minorities.

Laura Campbell

“I explore a lot of my own experiences through the life of a young woman with multiple disabilities,” explains Laura. “I think that a lot of people have the same base emotions and reactions when it comes to any form of trauma, so I try and tap into those base emotions and flip them in a humorous way while also exploring my own idiosyncrasies and weirdness.”

This is increasingly possible because comedy itself is changing. Jokes and behaviour that may have been brushed off in the past are now being called out, and new perspectives are being welcomed into the conversation. Laura has seen this growth first hand.

“I came to comedy at a time of a huge influx of younger badass women who were not only ready to be a part of the scene but also to call out shitty behaviour where they saw it. There’s also a number of male comedians who had been in the scene a while and helped and stood by women when they spoke out against harassment or toxic behaviour in the scene.”

But it’s the support of like-minded women makes it all possible.

“I’ve met some of the best and most supportive people in my life in this scene,” says Frances. “The women I’ve met (shout out to the group chat!) have helped me to become so much more self-assured and empowered.”

Frances McNair

Laura and Frances have got some solid advice for other women looking to break into comedy. First and foremost, that you don’t have to fit into the stereotype of what a comedian is or isn’t.

“Sure, there a number of people who come up and tell either stories or one-liner jokes, but comedy is so diverse and weird and free,” says Laura. “If you are making people laugh and think then you are doing the comedy!”

The next step: just keep doing it.

“The first time I ever did stand up I sucked,” says Frances. “I froze on stage, forgot my set, then went on a weird rant about Indiana Jones, and went home and decided I was not doing that again.

“But then I kept going to open mics and actively tried to improve by looking at comedy constructively…It’s been a year since I got on stage and said “Puberty is like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom” and I’m so grateful I kept going.”

These two legends will be hanging out and performing at the YWCA She Leads Conference Networking Function, which happens the night before the conference begins. The networking and cocktail function is a chance to chat to many of the speakers from the conference and meet other amazing women who are part of the Canberra community in a less formal setting. We’ll see you there!

the essentials

What: The 2018 YWCA She Leads Conference Networking Function
When: Tuesday 31 July from 5 pm–9 pm
Where: Rex Hotel, 150 Northbourne Ave, Braddon
Website: ywca-canberra.org.au

HerCanberra is a proud media partner of YWCA Canberra’s 2018 She Leads Conference.

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