Standup comedians Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs have spent the last three years touring the country with their smash hit comedy show Women Like Us, performing more than 80 shows to over 20,000 people, and now the girls take it from the stage to the page with the release of their co-authored book ‘Women Like Us’. It’s been described as a no-holds-barred, tell-it-how-it-is comedy by women who are tired of the messages being fed to women that they’re too fat, too thin, too old, too young. I started my chat with the vivacious Ellen Briggs by asking how much of the standup show made it into the book.
“None of it!” she exclaims. “Stuff that you do on stage rarely translates to paper – a lot of it is mannerism and timing, the theatrics of standup that makes something funny. Obviously our opinions are the same but none of the stories from our standup are in the book which is nice.”
Mandy and Ellen met thirteen years ago at a comedy course run by Mandy in Mullumbimby, where both women reside.
“I did the course because I was writing a book and I thought her comedy course might help me with the structure,” recalls Ellen.
“Then she bullied me into doing standup. You can’t say no to Mandy!” she laughs.
After years on the comedy circuit, both women realised that they were having similar experiences.
“When we were doing comedy clubs, women in particular – but often men too – were coming up and saying ‘why don’t you have your own show, you were the funniest on the night’. Being the woman on the bill at a comedy show, you’re often the MC, the “mother version” to soften all the dudes in between,” says Ellen.
“Comedy is a lonely life. You’re on stage on your own, backstage alone, drive home on your own. [Mandy and I] were really good mates, and we just thought, ‘there’s something in this for us’. We were getting such good responses from women. The stories we were telling weren’t getting told… I think it’s refreshing to hear real life stories from real women.”
The real stories told by the talented duo in their show and the book cover reflections on their failure to parent, the beauty industry, strange surgeries, special diets, feminism, obsessions, frustrations, and at the end of the day the serious politics of ‘who unpacks the dishwasher’.
“We don’t leave anything hidden, we’re pretty open!” laughs Ellen.
“Why gloss over things? If you gloss over things you’re doing it for someone else, to make someone else feel happy. Whether it’s other women because they don’t want us to be telling those real stories, or men because men don’t want to hear about what’s really going on – they want us to be those perfect Instagrammed images of what women should be.”
After sitting down and talking about the subjects they thought were important to cover, Mandy and Ellen each wrote their own chapters in the book.
“We come from things at a very different angle,” explains Ellen.
“I’m a gentle feminist, she’s the loud, protest-going placard-wielding angry one. I’m angry too but I keep it to myself… sit and quietly seethe kind of thing, haha! We’ve live quite different lives too. I write about my ageing parents and my mother who’s now in a nursing home in a pretty bad way, and Mandy has a daughter who has a mental illness. I haven’t lived that, and she hasn’t lived what I’m going through. We share – I’m loath to use the words expertise, I don’t think we’re experts in anything other than being idiots!”
As for what she’d like readers to take away from the book, Ellen says “I would probably say to not take things so seriously… It’s what underneath is what you’re going to have with you forever.”
‘Women Like Us’ gets a national release into bookstores via Harper Collins on 1 May, and the duo are performing their full two hour show at Currumbin RSL, followed by a book signing on 24 May. Grab tickets on the Currumbin RSL website.