Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs: two wicked comedians

Women Like Us: Comedians Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs.
Women Like Us: Comedians Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs.

I screwed up, totally missed the agreed interview time, took a couple of days to get my act together and pick up the thread.

But hey, that’s no problem for Byron Bay-based comedian Mandy Nolan, as she tells me while she’s munching through dinner and brushing her teeth on the run before a show on Tuesday night. Thirty years of stand-up comedy will make you immune to disasters of all of kinds – bad crowds, hecklers and no shows.

Nolan and her comedy partner Ellen Briggs are playing Souths Leagues Club in Newcastle on Saturday, February 24. Each does an hour of stand-up, covering all things female and then some, like current affairs and what’s happening in your town.

As a woman who works away from home you are orchestrating life remotely. Parenting by text. People say they are tired. They got no idea. Getting on stage is nothing.

Mandy Nolan

“There is only two years age gap between us,” Nolan offers. “I am 50, she is 48. I have five children, she has two. I had three husbands, she had one. She had boys, I had girls …”

Comedy is a tough gig, and probably twice as tough if you’re a woman. While audiences are changing, Nolan says it’s always been harder for women to gain the trust of audience. But she’s a prime example of how the times have changed, with women comics coming to the fore.

“It’s a male-dominated industry. And men have different lives,” Nolan says. “They don’t have to organise who is picking up from school, picking up kids from activities …

“As a woman who works away from home you are orchestrating life remotely. Parenting by text. People say they are tired. They got no idea. Getting on stage is nothing.”

Whether it’s a gift or not, a good part of good comedy is in the timing and delivery. And the audience – if you’re at the wrong party you’re doomed no matter what.

“There are lots of things you can’t take back,” Nolan says. “I’ve done things where I said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe that came out of my mouth’.

“Improv happens all through your act. As a professional, there no line between where that stops and starts. Your act gets more interesting. At least 10 to 20 per cent of the material you’ll never do again. Amazing is 30 per cent. A terrible show is 40 per cent, because it means you forgot what you’re doing.”

Nolan & Briggs’ show, Women Like Us, plays Souths Leagues Club, Saturday, February 24.