Anyone who knows me on the circuit knows me as that comic in the green room that is riddled with stage fright, obsessing nervously over every single one of my jokes. However, I have been told that on stage I am a mountain of confidence and assertion (unless you’re a closet misogynist then I’m “feisty” or “fiery”… rage isn’t an attractive quality in a lady apparently). Yet, if any of my peers thought I was filled with anxiety, they have no idea how far I have come thanks to joke telling on stage.

Esther Manito

Esther Manito

I was 30 when I was diagnosed with GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) which meant I could spiral at any moment over a funny look, a snide comment, or a weird interaction. I did the things the Dr advised me to do; I ran, I meditated (although not for me as I just spent the whole time making mental lists re: all the things I needed to worry about) I saw a therapist and I read 1500 self-help books all promising to rid me of anxiety and make me a proper person.

Then I had two babies, two beautiful, gorgeously wonderful babies, that I was home with every day and I began to feel the anxiety take its grip again, clawing away at my self-esteem. My anxiety (let’s call him Bob) made me feel like I was a terrible mother. Bob made me overthink every little move, every interaction. Thanks to that arse Bob I had no faith in any of my decisions. I tried to please all around me, especially Bob, I even tried to fake the image of a ‘Good Woman’, but inside I was roaring “there are so many things that are driving me crazy, and why won’t Bob just do one!!!”. Then a close friend asked me to join them trying stand up comedy, and I agreed. I took all the frustrations, all the things I felt I just couldn’t live up to, all the things that just felt unfair and biased against women and ranted on stage.

What is even more special about stand up is that it gave me the confidence to be proudly filled with rage, I embraced my rage and lost the worry over being ‘Good’. I have reclaimed an emotion that we are told to repress and I have pushed it into my comedy (a bit like boxercise but without any of the benefits of fitness, or a lycra clad man called Jay telling you to “feel that burn”). All the everyday little things that drive me crazy like: Oh I don’t know I’m just thinking off the top of my head, lets say… a partner that never wipes the surfaces after making toast. Well, I take it and add it to my list and take to the stage to rant for 60 mins at the plethora of emotive daily tasks laid at the hands of women.

So, that is why comedy has been a euphoric joy to me, it has let me take these small things which may seem so silly and pull them apart to reveal the still archaic gender roles we have engrained in our subconscious. I mean, why do I care if there are crumbs? Come to my show and I’ll tell you.

Esther Manito: #NotAllMen is at Gilded Balloon in August at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival