Back in September I had the chance to present a small (but significant) aspect of my research at the Mock The Weak conference at the University of Teesside. The conference organisers Sarah Illot and Helen Davies had brought together a variety of researchers, academics and industry professionals to discuss comedy and the politics of representation. It was a great opportunity for me to explore some of the themes I am engaging with in one of my chapters – the use of self-deprecation and, conversely, body positivity in stand-up comedy by female performers.
The paper I presented was called Positives and Negatives: Reclaiming the Female Body and Self-Deprecation in Stand-up Comedy (snappy title eh). Here’s a shot of my PowerPoint up and ready to go (with a cameo from Rosie White who chaired the panel).
The audience offered some great points for further consideration and asked some interesting questions. Many hadn’t seen the work of the comedian I used as my key example (Luisa Omielan) and so the decision to play a short clip of her work was definitely the right way to go.
One of the really useful things about the conference was that it kicked off with a workshop for early career researchers in publishing. Having just (I mean literally just – as in the day before going to the conference) finished making amendments to an article following on from peer review, it felt timely to reflect on the challenges this throws up for PhD researchers. It was exactly the kind of workshop you wish you had attended before you started your PhD. In the session we had the opportunity to hear about the experiences of Dr Rosie White, who was awarded her Doctorate in the late 90s, and early career researcher Megan Sormus, and talk through the process from submission to publication. All the PhD candidates in the room discussed the difficulty of getting our heads round the REF (Research Excellence Framework) and what, if anything, this meant in terms of the work we would hopefully go on to publish whilst studying. The ever-present pressure to spin all the different plates (getting the research written, gaining teaching experience, getting articles published) simultaneously was also explored. I definitely left the room feeling more aware of what I should be focusing on and some of the key things I need to consider the next time I submit work for publication (it seems very much like I lucked out – approaching a journal cold and their responding swiftly and positively). There’s a great summary of advice form the workshop here.
The conference included a broad range of topics and approaches (Rob Hawkes on Stewart Lee and trust, Kate Fox on Northernness and class in comedy, were just a few of the highlights) as well as illuminating keynotes from Anshuman Mondal and Sharon Lockyer.
The two days concluded with a panel discussion which gave a really eye-opening account of the complex issues involved in comedy and representation, and featured contributions from a range of perspectives, including comedian Kate Smurthwaite, Lynne Parker from Funny Women (both of whom I have interviewed as part of my research), trans activist and comedian Clare Parker, comedy writer and director Matthew Greenhough and Akua Gymafi founder of the British Black List, as well as the keynote speakers and conference organisers.
The conference blog is still active and includes interviews with several of the presenters for the event. Check it out here.