A former Greendown and Bradon Forest pupil from West Swindon has been shortlisted for the 2019 Funny Women Awards. Having battled it out against 433 entrants from across the globe, she is one of nine to reach the finals in her category.
Despite having only been in the comedy circuit for just over a year, Charlie George - from Toothill, West Swindon - has been shortlisted for the 2019 Funny Women Stage Award.
Just over a year ago, after suffering from writer's block, Miss George drove her creativity in a new direction; comedy. Since then she has won the LGBTQ+ New Comedian of Year award and has been shortlisted for this year's Funny Women Awards - previous winners and nominees include Katherine Ryan, Sarah Pascoe and Sarah Millican.
Speaking of the nomination she says, "To be honest I just feel really grateful to grace the stage with some of the funniest women around.
"I am always somewhat in shock and disbelieving of things going well, I’m sad to report that deep down I’m a worst expectations kind of person - the night I won the LGBTQ+ New Comedian Award I was going through a housing nightmare, felt rough and nearly didn’t wake up for the gig!
"I also definitely didn’t think I was going to get to the Funny Women final - I actually booked another gig on 19 September that I had to cancel because I thought I'd done so badly! *Note to self: don’t always rely on your gloomy feelings!
“It feels great and really affirming that if I keep working hard, I can have a career at this, doing something I love. I used to do skits and comedy routines as a very small child, running round the living room using whatever material I could around me to get a laugh and ease the tension of the adults/reality around me, I never knew it would lead to this further down the line.”
Describing her comedy as "a heady mix of sinful and silly", Miss George draws on her upbringing as a source of material and her childhood memories in Swindon, she says, have certainly provided her with a lot to talk about - particularly being mix-raced, queer and the child of a “Daily-Mail-reading Jehovah's-Witness-mum”. In one of her sketches - which won her the LGBTQ New Comedian Award - Miss George says, “I’d love to unveil some kind of exotic, cultural background for you it’s just that I was raised in Swindon.”
“Swindon is definitely the butt of many a joke [laughs],” she says. “I remember reading the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as a kid and it referred to Swindon as ‘the arse end of nowhere’ or something like that! And the shame started from there.
“It’s funny because I’ll be honest, I hated it as a child. I think at the time I was there being mixed-race and queer still wasn’t easy, and with my mum being a Jehovah’s Witness - and us being forced to knock on everyone’s doors at the weekend and sell them God - it really wasn’t helpful with the bullies, my crappy self-image or lack of friends and connection. Although with time away in cities - where being different is more celebrated and normalised - a lot of this has become my material and informed the kind of person I am now.”
Although she faced challenges throughout her early years in Swindon Miss George adds, “I have really fond memories of my grandmother - who lived and died in Park North - and walking around Coate Water and Lydiard Park with her. So, it’s not all doom and gloom and I do know what I did have compared to other children.
“It was a weird place to grow up, but now I have a lot of nostalgia and going to visit my older sister and my niece and nephew - who are growing up in a much more accepting time - is really healing. It’s nice to see them happy and healthy there and we go to the local parks and all my old haunts!”
Miss George, who lives in London, currently works part-time for a humanist organisation that does various activist projects - including supporting migrants who have no recourse to public funds. With more and more women entering the comedy circuit, she says the supportive circle of female comedians has given her the confidence to try comedy full-time. But, she admits, there is still progress to be made in the industry.
“It’s been by and large really supportive and brilliant,” she says. “I sort of felt like I’d found my people when I started doing comedy, and other women I’ve worked with are in particular really supportive.
“I think it’s still got a long way to go in terms of true equality in regard to gender, race and class, and it still can be very sexist with you having to justify your presence, or being used as - or thought of as - a ‘token’. There are always those idiots who still prevail that ‘women aren’t funny’ (I’ve had both genders state this to me!), but I like the simplicity of comedy - it’s either funny or it’s not. So, in the long run the landscape will shift and move around that and there are many brilliant people creating initiatives to support future diversity i.e. Best in Class - a working class talent showcase - and FOC it up - Femmes of Colour comedy club.”
The final for the Funny Women Awards will take place at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, Thursday 19 September.
Funny Women CEO, Lynne Parker said: "I've seen the comedy circuit grow and expand in diversity since our very first event in 2002, and women have made a huge contribution and impact on the art form.
"This is the 16th time we've run the Funny Women Awards and our final, as ever, is a rich melting pot of talent. I'm extremely proud of what Funny Women has become."
Categories for the 2019 Funny Women Awards are the Funny Women Writing Award, Funny Women Shorts Award and Charlie's category the Funny Women Stage Award.