Funny woman

Kerry Godliman talks to about how she manages being a stand-up comedian and bringing up two small children.

Kerry Godliman says being a comedienne appealed to her because she didn’t like a routine life. “I have spent my life avoiding doing a proper job,” she says. However, with one child on the verge of school, she is realising that routine – in the form of the school run – is about to be forced upon her.

Everything else about her life, however, is difficult to plan in advance, which can make childcare difficult. Luckily, her husband is an actor and so is often around during the day.

Kerry has two children, aged four and nearly a year, and both are in childcare. Her eldest child goes to nursery three days a week and is with a childminder two days a week. Her youngest goes to the childminder on Thursdays. “There’s a lot of sharing of childcare with my partner,” she says. “Luckily, we don’t work 9 to 5 and most of my stand-up work is in the evenings. It’s a different thing when I have an acting job."

When she was building her stand-up career Kerry used to travel a lot around the country, but since she has had children she rarely leaves London, where she lives. She adds that due to the popularity of stand-up comedy in recent years there are more and more clubs to play to so there is not so much need for comedians to travel around the country.

“It is good that since the 90s it has become really popular, but it is extraordinary that there are so few women doing it,” she says.

She thinks this may be due to a combination of factors, principally the lifestyle, which is hard when you have children, although, she adds, a lot of male comedians have children. Another factor is that a lot of comedy is still very much about being the alpha male, she says.

Comedy circuit

Like Jo Brand, Kerry built up her career before she had kids. She thinks it would be much harder to try to establish yourself after having children. “I have girlfriends with small children and they cannot get out of the house. You have to do a lot of driving and travelling when you start up. It does not fit well around small children,” she says.

She has, though, done some events a long way from home since the kids were born – for instance, she did the Edinburgh Fringe when her oldest child was one. “It was challenging,” she admits. “My husband is very supportive and he was with her.”

She is doing Edinburgh again this year and has just finished a tour with Nicky Flanagan.

Kerry got into comedy through drama. She was a comedy fan as a child and “could quote the Eddie Murphy DVD verbatim”, but she went to Rose Bruford College to study drama. “It never occurred to me as a child that I could be a comedian. I went into acting to exercise my performing mojo, but I was always more into comedy.”

Drama school

She got an agent after leaving drama school and has appeared on programmes like The Bill and Casualty. She also did role plays in corporate training films. She did a course on public speaking and found she was slipping more and more humour in. At the end of the course she did an open mike comedy gig, not thinking she would ever do it professionally. “It was more to do with curiosity than thinking of it in a professional way,” she says.

She enjoyed it so much she started doing the open mike circuit and built up her reputation before entering the Funny Women Awards in 2003.

From there she went to Edinburgh then was in the Channel 4 sketch show Spoons. She has also performed sketches as part of the comedy duo Godliman and Lane.

She says she has always got the acting work to fall back on and in fact was in an Alan Ayckbourn play with another former drama student Catherine Tate recently.

For her comedy work she uses “the raw material of real life”. “I can’t talk now about taking drugs and going to nightclubs,” she says, “but I do try to avoid talking too much about being a mum. There is still a lot of prejudice around so I consciously try not to use phrases like ‘being a mum’ on my publicity as it could put some people off.”

She adds: “It’s a different rule for blokes. They talk a lot about being parents and having children. Women get pigeonholed. You still get people who think women talk about women’s stuff and men just talk about being human and it is never construed as being twee or sentimental when they talk about their children.”

She admits, however, it is hard not to talk about your family, though, since most comedians, male and female, do their hard graft on the circuit in their 20s and have children just as they are breaking through in their 30s. 

Kerry is currently writing her Edinburgh sketch show, but says she has no plans to go into writing, unlike her husband, who has just finished a novel. “I enjoy the brevity of joke writing and I like performing,” she says.

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