Comedy is just one feather in Maddy Anholt’s cap. She discusses her new show Herselves and talks about being a female entrepreneur and holding her own in a male-dominated industry.
I had a Skype call the other day with a possible partner for my production company. It was all going really well, we got on, he had good ideas, I think I had good ideas and I was excited but just as the call was about to end... BHAM - there it was. “You mind me asking how old you are? You’re pretty young for a woman to have her own company.” “29,” I said, through gritted teeth, and mumbled my goodbyes.
Maybe he meant it as a compliment, but it sure didn’t feel like one. It felt like a Tuesday night prime cut of misogyny. But hey, I’ll give the guy a break; maybe he was nudging at the fact that last year the percentage of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 dropped to 4%, just not very eloquently. If he was, he was right. Which is why I decided to do something about it, but I’ll get to that.
I come from the world of comedy. That’s character comedy, not stand-up comedy – people get very sensitive about that. And the world of comedy is... weird. It’s weird if you’re from a minority. It’s weird if you are a woman. It’s weird if you’re tall “for a woman”. It’s weird full stop. You are fighting with constant unseen enemies, most of them in your mind (which is why social media is a b*tch but I won’t go into that.) There’s no straight line to success – nope, even that doesn’t work anymore... not that I’ve tried.
But all this weirdness, this “for a woman” malarkey, is what drove me to write my new show. My new comedy, Herselves, which will be on at the Underbelly for the whole of August at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is all about women and their goals. I don’t mean ‘hitting millionairedom by the time you’re 20 goals’, I mean everyday goals – freedom of self-expression, dealing with male bureaucracy, avoiding man-spreading on the tube. I play 16 characters – 15 women and one man. Some of my characters achieve their goals and some don’t. But it’s not ram-it-down-your-throat-feminism; it’s surreal escapism. It was me sitting there late at night talking aloud in the voice of my South African character – Adrianna Van Niekerk – going... what would happen if...? And yes, it’s weird.
Herselves is a very special show for me because, as I approach the big 3-0 at the end of the year, I really felt this was the year to give zero f**cks. I made a decision in December 2016 I would write a show all about The Fight Back. It would be the show I wanted to write when I was in my early twenties but I was too scared no one would like it, that I might look strange, that people would judge me or that I would look unattractive on stage. I realise now if you care about any of those things then there will be no truth in your material and there’s not a lot of point doing it.
When I was conceiving the idea for my show I didn’t realise I was going to have twins – a new show and my own production company. But I did, and I was as prepared as I could be. Out came Herselves and then out came MadMaddy Productions. They stemmed from the same thing: impatience. I was getting impatient with the industry, with comedy and with all the weirdness so I figured if there was any way I could get investment I would start my own comedy production. And I did. MadMaddy Productions is a company that gives a platform to upcoming and established comedy talent to develop, film and create new work. And so, in a reverse to the Spice Girl lyrics, one became two.
Herselves plays at Clover, Underbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 2nd – 27th August at 13:30. Visit www.maddyanholt.com or follow Maddy on Twitter: @maddy_anholt.
Tickets available at www.edfringe.com