Don’t you just love those weeks that at the start of, you feel like you are looking over the edge of a cliff and then by the end you never want it to stop. This year to celebrate International Women’s Day, I had one of those weeks. It started two weeks before when Lynne Parker, the founder of Funny Women called and asked me to step into the Funny Women Charity Challenge. I agreed to do stand up comedy in front of 300 people. I had never even spoken to a room with 300 people in it before, and I had never ever considered doing stand up comedy before. But I decided that I would really go for it, and as Kriss Akabusi reminded me, enjoy the experience too!
First up, was thinking of a topic to talk about and mock myself over. I thought about ethical fashion or the perils of not being able to join a political party despite being a little political, but then I settled on twitter. What better? It really has changed my life over the past three years and led to some surprising situations from meeting Deepak Chopra to people actually knowing what my surname is. Today is actually twitter’s sixth birthday, and this little communication tool has really changed the way that we do a lot of things in that short time.
So how to write something… well I had attended one of Funny Women’s workshops in February so I had an idea of what it was about. I worked with my coach Janet Bettesworth, Karen Rosie and Lynne Parker for an hour talking through some of the bits that I thought were funny about twitter and working on structure.
Then I wrote something, and took it round to my friend Alexis Wieroniey’s house to work on. This was on the Sunday night, and then on Monday, I went and read my piece to the staff at Womankind, the charity I have been supporting with this challenge. They laughed, and so I spent an hour with my actress friend Ellie Burrow thinking about the performance. Somehow literally overnight, I learnt my piece and made my comedy debut.
My coach Janet Bettesworth, who was a Funny Women Award 2011 finalist, asked me if I would like to do a practise show at The Painted Grin, a weekly night in Shoreditch showcasing the best up-and-coming stand-up talent. The night is run by Janet’s son Oli Bettesworth, and is hosted by Janet and Jayde Adams who rotate the job weekly. This was seriously frightening, making my comedy debut outside of the comfort of a charity event. The night featured performances from Nick Sun, Lindsey Sharman, Adam Larter, Laurence Tuck, Kishore Nayar, Jonathan Richardson, and Henry Von Stifle. It ended up being super fun, they laughed in all the right places!
And so that led to the night, March 8th, International Women’s Day, where I took part in the Funny Women Charity Challenge. The event was hosted by Kate Garraway at the Grange Hotel in Tower Bridge. I performed by stand up along side the nine other brilliant challengers; Carole Stone, Deb Learing OBE, Rowan Pelling, Charlie Webster, Sharon Simpson, Vanessa Valley, Dr Julie Greenhill and Annie Brooks and Hela Wozniak-Kay. It was scary, but I have to admit, I had a lot of fun doing it. I am used to doing talks with a serious nature, and I actually found it really liberating to speak with the goal or making people laugh instead of making them think.
It was so much fun, that I of course said yes when Funny Women asked me if I would like to perform in the Pan Asian Showcase at the Southbank Centre’s WOW Festival. This was terrifying, trying to make a room full of women laugh that have been at serious talks all day and don’t have a drink in their hand yet! I was also a bit nervous about performing with real comedians and this actually being a gig, not part of the charity challenge! I took to the stage alongside Emily Lloyd-Saini, Sajeela Kershi, Kish Modasia, Ria Lina, Asian Provocateurs, Precious Jade and Ayesha Hazareka. Luckily the audience laughed.
I couldn’t believe that in seven days I had gone from totally terrified and clueless to having done three gigs! And all with a throat infection. It made me realise that it is true: With the right attitude, you really can do anything that you put your mind to. The whole experience was an absolute blast, and I made some great new friends along the way. I felt very supported by a lot of my friends, family and of course the other challengers which really helped. I don’t think this is the last time that you will see me take my funny to the mic…
This whole thing was for charity. I reached my fundraising target, and through the 54 supporters (thank you!) raised £1000 in just two weeks. I would love to double this target though, so please feel free to donate still. Womankind Worldwide do very important work with women’s organisations all over the world. I was drawn to them as they work directly with local groups and organisations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, supporting them in amplifying their voice and increasing their impact. The work they do it vital in today’s world, where one in three women will experience violence in their lives and where it is now more dangerous for a woman in a conflict zone than a soldier. I am very delighted that following the comedy challenge, Womankind asked me to officially become one of their ambassadors.
The impact of their work can be lifechanging. Through supporting the KMG Project in Kembatta, Ethiopia, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been changed from something that most women faced (97%) to something that is now very rare (4%). This change took ten years to achieve, but has been so incredibly important for the women in that town. Over 175,000 girls have been protected against FGM. Now to mark their coming of age, take part in an annual festival ‘Whole Life, Whole Body’, where the girls play football and take part in a beauty contest, instead of having a painful and dangerous procedure forced upon them. This shows that cultural changes can happen, it just needs time, dedication and resources.
And of course three stand up comedy performances meant three ethically sourced outfits:
As my comedy was all about twitter, I thought it only right to compile the tweets about this whole affair, and so I have done, here on storify.
And here are some nice things that some people said about my performances (thank you!):
“Even though we’d met her just a couple of weeks before we were sure that Amisha would rise to the challenge. And she did, getting some big laughs from the room with her set about Twitter (and several squirms of recognition from the Twitter addicts on Womankind’s table…) We’re extremely proud to be working with such a star.” Sarah Jackson and Ellen Stuart, Womankind Worldwide
“Amisha combined professional poise with some seriously funny material. The original @girl rules! Brilliant!” Lynne Parker, Funny Women
“Amisha performed a well crafted & contemporary set and made us laugh with funny stories about tweeting & hash tagging then glided off in a fabulous ethically made dress. Unforgettable.” Karen Rosie, Comedy Producer
“Amisha brought the fun side of social media to life with her tales of the tweets. I love the idea of her desperately searching for romance in 140 characters, not to mention advice on how to get out of a locked bathroom coming from all over the world.” Andy Lopata
“You were my fave at the Funny Women Challenge and I think of you now every time I tweet - #hashtag or what????” Natalie – Miss Ballooniverse
“A very good debut! There are plenty of much more experienced comics on the circuit who unfortunately still lack the confidence and charisma of your first time, so well done!” Ollie Bettesworth, The Painted Grin
See me in action… Here is the video of my whole performance. Sadly there were problems with the sound quality as the main mic failed and it caused major problems as I was performing during the main course of the meal. They have had to turn the audience down to get rid of the sounds of cuttlery clanking, taking away the atmosphere of the room of 300… The video isn’t shot very well either but you can hear my set.
This video is on the whole Funny Women 10th Anniversary Event:
and you can listen to a radio feature on the event on Radio Gorgeous too, here.