Getting into comedy as a 40-year-old single mother

Helen Brooks

I turned 40 this year. I also made the strange decision to get into stand-up comedy, having never even so much as held a microphone before. What followed has been the beginning of the most exciting and the most ridiculous journey of my life. As a single mother to three children, the world of stand-up - last minute gigs, late nights and long drives - has presented certain struggles to me. But the rewards have been innumerable. Let me share some with you...

Struggle: People's expectations

When I told my friends I had started doing stand-up, they would have been less shocked if I'd said I'd become an astronaut. I don't have a performance background, and what I do have is three children and no time. I kept it a secret at first, revealing it to select people as I felt more comfortable. Comedy felt like something a younger person would do, something that wasn't for me, a world I could never hope to break into. It wasn't for people like me. I was almost embarrassed to tell people I was going for it.

Reward: People's reactions

The support I get from the people around me absolutely affirms my decision to go on this comedy journey. I feel like I am providing a great role model for my children, who see me working towards goals that fulfil me and make me happy. My friends are my biggest cheerleaders; it's brilliant to hear how excited people are to come and watch me.

Struggle: Fitting in

Like many people, I came to comedy with preconceived ideas of what the scene would be like. I worried I wouldn't relate to people, that I would be too old, that my experiences wouldn't resonate with younger comedians and audiences. The imposter syndrome is real - is this scene really for people like me?

Reward: Finding a community

What I discovered was the most vibrant, diverse and accepting community. I feel so lucky to be around so many different voices who share experiences from vastly different walks of life that I would never have intersected with otherwise. I have made new friends and found spaces that inspire me again and again. It is amazing that this is just out there, waiting! We aren't the same and that's the beauty of the comedy scene.

Struggle: Time

The big one. I never have enough of it. It's hard, there's no doubt. I write at night when the children have gone to bed, which means late nights then early mornings. Planning gigs has to be done meticulously, and I never go anywhere without my diary. There have been plenty of opportunities I've missed because I can't find childcare.

Reward: Fulfilment

Sure, I'm always busy and I never have enough time, but I have found such creative satisfaction in comedy. It's exciting and fizzing with ideas and opportunities to grasp and I LOVE IT. I've started to see my achievements - performing in great venues, being long-listed for awards, getting my writing broadcast on the radio. Comedy absolutely enriches my life.

Despite any of the struggles I've faced, and do still face, becoming a comedian is the most inspiring, rewarding and affirming journey I have ever taken.


You can follow Helen Brooks on Twitter: @hells_bells_23

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