08/03/2016 06:24 GMT | Updated 08/03/2017 05:12 GMT

Comedy Is a Serious Business

A couple of weeks ago I bumped into a married couple who I know from my PR days at a comedy gig and was asked by the husband if I was still doing 'that comedy thing'. The oddness of this, quite apart from the dismissive tone of his question, is that they are both perfectly aware that Funny Women is my business rather than just a 'thing'.

This question is often posed to me in a similar way which belies the fact that this 'comedy thing' is actually what I do for a living since I gave up full time PR consulting eight years ago. It's not, and never has been my 'hobby' and it's certainly not a 'retirement project'. For me, like thousands of other people from performers to promoters, comedy is a very serious business.

What this highlights is that even though I spent 25 years writing about and promoting other people' s businesses, I don't spend enough time celebrating what Funny Women has done in respect of developing new female comedy talent. Whilst performers need to promote themselves and frequently do so, often with our help, my colleagues and I work hard behind the scenes to deliver our Awards, pro-nights and workshops to support the new talent pipeline. Our own promotion often suffers from lack of resources and time.

So events like the forthcoming Women of the World Festival on the Southbank are a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our work and talk to people about how they can bring some humour into their lives. We have now coached hundreds of women and men using some of the basic skills of stand-up for overcoming nerves, presenting more confidently and learning to use humour effectively in both our professional and personal lives.

With International Women's Day fast approaching many organisations and businesses are recognising the need to address equality and diversity in the workplace. We are privileged to work with some major companies who recognise that our 'comedy thing' is definitely on the money.

I am particularly proud that we will be presenting a showcase of international comedy at the WOW festival on Saturday 12 March. This is Funny Women's sixth year of being a part of this amazing festival which includes debates, workshops, music, comedy and more over six days at the iconic Southbank Centre in London.

This also marks the launch of the 2016 Funny Women Awards and is our 14th year of the competition. We had over 400 entries last year across three awards for live comedy performance, writing and short film. Plus this year we are introducing a best show award which will be based on nominations from the general public across the festival season.

This year's Awards get a facelift as we are introducing regional finals to replace semi-finals and the winners from these four shows and two wild cards will perform at a prestigious charity final in support of Refuge at KOKO in London. Each of the six finalists will be mentored by an established comedian and take part in a star studded awards ceremony.

To set the scene, last year's Awards winner Desiree Burch headlines for us on Saturday at WOW along with four other finalists Sindhu Vee, Maggy Whitehouse, Sophie Duker and Rosana Bosanac, and some other great funny women: Mae Martin, Yuriko Kotani and Gemma Cairney, our host.

See you there and do come and talk to us on our stall in the Marketplace. Find out how you can enter this year's Funny Women Awards, get a free mascara courtesy of our comedy sponsor, Benefit Cosmetics, and help us support Refuge charity, against domestic violence.

Lynne Parker and the team from Funny Women will be taking part in WOW - Women of the World Festival on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th March at London's Southbank Centre supported by Bloomberg.

Lynne will be taking part in a panel discussion about Women and Ageing on Saturday 12th March at 2.15pm and Funny Women will be showcasing a gloriously diverse and international mix of female comics on Saturday 12th March at 3.45pm.

For more details about the WOW Festival please visit