My guest on this episode is the comedian and cabaret artist, Jenny Wynter.
Known as the Sultan of Spontaneity, the Impresario of improvisation and the Kween of Komedy, Jenny is the author of the book Funny Mummy, the creator and star of the web series How Me Parent Good and the host of two podcasts, Funny Mummies and Let’s Talk.
We discuss things to consider when setting up a Patreon account and how to invite your biggest fans to support you in whatever ways they can.
Links and show notes from this episode:
- read Jenny's blog post "Dear people who love the arts but are overwhelmed right now"
I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this episode. You can email me here.
Thanks for listening!
Matthew Carey 00:00
Hi Jenny, and welcome to Studio time.
Jenny Wynter 00:03
Thank you so much. I'm excited.
Matthew Carey 00:06
It's great to speak with you again. This is the first interview I've recorded during this time. It's mid April as we're recording. So I thought I'd ask you during this time of social distancing and isolation, what have you been doing with yourself?
Jenny Wynter 00:24
Well, it's funny, isn't it? Because I feel like as artists, we're very used to things being unstable, unpredictable and not quite knowing how your year is gonna pan out. I think when the Corona news first came out and social distancing started, I was struck by complete panic and shock. I really did not do much for about 10 days just felt very paralyzed by it all and down. "Oh, my gosh, what's happening? What's the point of anything?" Then I swung the entire different way and was struck by this absolute creative inspiration monster. It was "Right, I'm gonna buckle down and make all the online comedy I can!" I don't even really see that as pivoting so much because I've always wanted to put my focus on to online. But I would always get distracted by the fact I already had so much live stuff happening that I wouldn't really put as much attention on the online as I would like to. So this was like, "Right, off we go then." I've been writing so many songs, recording and experimenting with video clips. We bought a green screen. Honestly I'm ashamed to say I think I bought this green screen about four years ago. It's been sitting in the cupboard that whole time. When my husband could see I was in such a funk, he ripped it out of the cupboard, set it up downstairs and we turned the rumpus room into a little TV studio. I feel like I've had this ridiculous output into the online space. It's sad it takes a pandemic to do that. That's really been my lifeline, and I feel like I'm still kind of on this roller coaster where I'll still have days where I just feel a bit down and like, "What's the point, meh?" But then I have the upswing of "Oh, wow, there's so much creatively that can be done." So I think I'm just riding that roller coaster at the moment.
Matthew Carey 02:15
That's something that a lot of people I've spoken to have been feeling. "There's an opportunity here, and I don't want to let it pass." But at the same time, something about the air of uncertainty in the world, sometimes makes it hard to gather ourselves, our focus and our attention enough to dig into those things. But it's interesting that you mentioned that because I know that a big theme for you, is that comedy is pain relief.
Jenny Wynter 02:45
Yes, absolutely. We need it. I've never felt so convinced of that, but the world needs it. I'm so interested to hear your thoughts on this actually, because the thing I'm struggling with a bit is - I'm putting all this stuff out there and ridiculously, it's actually going really well. I'm getting more views on my stuff online than I've ever had before. Something's happened. But I feel conflicted because at the same time, so many artists have had their income completely pulled from them. I do include myself in that category. There's this push pull now against, we need to be creating things and try and find new ways of doing it...but not put out free stuff anymore. I'm feeling that pressure is like, don't work for free because the arts needs to be valued. So it should be up behind some kind of paywall or whatever. I do believe that artists need to be being paid for this and I'm trying to work out how can I get paid for this, but at the same time, I feel like the world really needs this. So many people are facing economic uncertainty right now. I'm feeling that very heavily, too. There's that push pull between being paid, but also what the world needs expressing and I'm very interested to hear what you think about that.
Matthew Carey 03:59
I've seen Some of the work you've been creating, I've seen a couple of the songs that you've written and uploaded to YouTube. I actually watched one this morning, and I saw your green screen in action, which is fantastic. I think that the opportunity here, and the thing that struck me from what you said is that you seem to be getting a lot more engagement from the stuff you're posting than you would normally. Because it's not just the artists that find themselves at home. There's a whole lot of other people that are spending more time at home, looking for different sorts of entertainment, looking for different sorts of relief from the fear and the uncertainty that's going on. It's a great time to be creating in that sense. The fact that you can turn out output so quickly means it can be very current and topical. I think artists deserve to be paid as well. What we create is of great value. I think it's interesting to think think about the ways in which we seek to be paid. I see people performing concerts from their living rooms. And I think that's a wonderful opportunity to think about new performance spaces, new venues, new ways to get our art from our heart to our audiences. But I don't necessarily know that people want to pay to see somebody random play in their living room. I think that this is a great opportunity, a great time to be developing a connection with your audience. Building upon that, you've got the time, they've got the time and you can be creating stuff, they can let you know what they respond to. You can then use that feedback to either create an actual conversation or create a conversation through your art. That way, God willing, when the comedy clubs open up again, there's a whole new bunch of people that want to come out and see and support you playing live. There are people in your case that can certainly support you in ways that involve purchasing work that you've already made. People that discover you and want to support you can buy a copy of your book, and this might be the time when we work out if platforms like Patreon take off and whether they're really viable.
Jenny Wynter 06:25
Absolutely. That's really interesting. I have finally launched my Patreon in response to the pandemic. I had been flirting with the idea for some time, but was waiting until I felt ready, which is the curse of the artist not actually doing things. I did launch it and again, I'm sort of struggling with how to structure it. At the moment basically all my stuff is still available for free. I put it out to everybody - patrons and everyone. I've actually had like a nice core group of, I suppose, my massive cheerleaders who are so supportive. They've been the first people to jump on board. That's really nice. Even though I can't live off that money, it's enough that my goodness, Jenny of 15 years ago would have been absolutely thrilled to have that much money per month, just for doing what she loves. It's very validating, and very encouraging. I think because you can get quite depressed at times about the state of things, I'm surprised by the level of emotional support to me that that's provided. There's enough people going "Actually, we love your stuff this much we're actually happy to throw some money at you regularly at the moment," has just made a difference to my confidence, I suppose. I'm wondering, because I know people do just give exclusive stuff for their patrons. Perhaps when I get up to a certain amount of supporters, I might think about doing that. But at the moment, I guess I'm thinking of that support as these are your cheerleaders who are just your backers, they're just happy that you're creating things and putting them out into the world rather than... It sounds a bit mercenary to say.... that I'm holding my art hostage and there are the only people that get to see it. I don't think it's that hardcore. But rather than thinking "Only these privileged people get to see my stuff." So that's where I am at the moment, but we're breaking new ground, aren't we?
Matthew Carey 08:12
Certainly. And I think it's always interesting to think about the metrics we use to measure how our art is being received. I know that we need cash flow so that we can afford to buy groceries, we need to eat and house ourselves and look after our families. I'm not suggesting that we should do this for free. But as you are indicating, sometimes just the validation of people putting their hand up and saying, "Yeah, I value what you do enough that I want to voluntarily contribute $5 or $ 15 dollars towards your work each month. I think that it adds value to the world and I want to show my appreciation for that. I want to show that I find it valuable."
Jenny Wynter 08:59
Something that occurred to me around the time I was launching my Patreon was totally understanding that not just artists have been hit by this. There's small businesses, it's such a ripple effect. So many people I know have lost their jobs or the income has gone down. So really realizing that there's probably a lot of people who really do value the art and actually really do want to support but now's not the time because they've got enough uncertainty of their own and struggles and so forth. So I came up with this idea of paying artists how you can. If you can pay them in cash, that's brilliant. Cash might be king, but it's not everything. So I put together this blog post and actually, I've put together an infographic the idea of, if you can't contribute cash, there are so many other ways to support artists that do have monetary value to us actually, because the money that we would need to be paying Mark Zuckerberg to get more visibility on Facebook. Our audiences can actually help us do that by sharing, commenting and engaging. Even just to use a different emoji - instead of just hitting the thumbs up, hit the laugh one, because it does help Facebook to show those things that we're posting to more people. That's what I'm trying to encourage my audience to do. If you can't contribute money, that's actually totally fine. I understand that. But if you can try to pay the people that you love how you can - by engaging with their stuff and sharing their stuff and becoming a champion - that actually makes a massive difference. It really does.
Matthew Carey 10:31
Absolutely. When we're talking about whether or not to share what we do publicly for free, there are models...when you think about Wikipedia which is available and free to everybody. But every now and then it reminds you that Wikipedia costs something to keep in existence and encourages you if you use Wikipedia regularly, to contribute an annual amount towards its upkeep. Of course, there are more people going to the Wikipedia site then going to jennywynter.com at the moment.
Jenny Wynter 11:08
Only for now Matt only for now.
Matthew Carey 11:11
That's because people don't know the incredible content that's on your website. But right now they're hearing all about it.
Jenny Wynter 11:18
This podcast is going to be the game changer, I tell you.
Matthew Carey 11:21
Yeah. Turns you into the Wikipedia of comedy.
Jenny Wynter 11:25
I am the Wikipedia of comedy. And that'll be ironically, probably the first sentence of my Wikipedia page. Do you have a Wikipedia page? I don't think I do, actually.
Matthew Carey 11:36
Maybe that's something one of your fans could do for free. Create a Jenny Wynter Wikipedia page.
Jenny Wynter 11:42
Oh my god. That's a great idea! Actually, it's funny. I think I know the person I'm going to ask. This person came to a show that I did many, many years ago. I think we met through blogging - as in stumbled across each other through blogging. She used to follow my blog, and then came to my Melbourne Fringe Show and has just been the biggest cheerleading fan, ever. Anything I do, she is the first one to get behind it. She was the first one to get in touch with me when all this hit and said, "I want to support you. Give me your bank details." If I had 1000 fans like her, my gosh, I'd be set. Just amazing. So I think actually she would be such a great person to write it - because clearly I want someone totally unbiased.
Matthew Carey 12:31
Yes. That is an interesting question as well. How can we take those superfans and in a positive, generous way, leverage their attention and leverage their amount of interest in the work we do? How can we let other people see how fanatical they are about the work we do and use that as a way to get other people on board? What have you found, because Jenny, you've got a big community. I know that it grew from your Facebook group, the Funny Mummies community. You've got a groundswell of community happening there. What are the effects you see there? How to one person's energy transmit to others?
Jenny Wynter 13:14
Yeah, that's a very interesting question. I mean, it's infectious, isn't it? Because I think as people, we want to get passionate about things. We love sharing how passionate we are about things. That's why shows take off when they do, whether that's on Netflix or in a festival, or a podcast. The ones that build are the ones that people are talking about. So I think we want to hear what people are passionate about, because when we're talking to someone who we feel is on the same page as us... I guess with my Funny Mummies community, literally, we're all on the same page. But we are all on the same page. It attracts people who have a similar sort of sensibility. This is just digressing a little bit but on that page, we don't censor a lot. I do remove posts. If you They've crossed the line or if they get reported, but generally there's not a lot of moderation needed on that page, people are pretty great and really respectful. We've had maybe two incidents that have had to be dealt with over the last year and a half. People are awesome. But I always figure if people aren't enjoying the stuff that's on there, they'll actually remove themselves. And that's absolutely fine, because that's probably not my audience in a way, not that I'm particularly blue as a comedian, but I do get a bit risque sometimes. If people are easily offended, it's not my crowd, and that's fine. So I think that we are attracting like minded people. I guess in terms of how that feeds into it, from the "Jenny Wynter the Comedian" perspective, the Funny Mummies community is my audience. It doesn't mean that everyone on that page knows my work intimately, because a lot of them have been added by other people or, you know, I've come across it elsewhere, but I think they're absolutely primed for the kind of stuff that I do. It's this lovely group that I've created. But then when I create other things that I think they're going to love, I've got them right there ready to go. "Hey, guys, look what I made." But I also very conscious that that's not ever the only thing I contribute to that group. I just post other things that are amusing me and just have my presence there. It's not about "Oh, by the way, this is the Jenny Wynter Fan Club." It's not that. But it does mean when I do have things to share that I genuinely think they're gonna love, I want to show them and ask "What do you guys think?" That's genuine. I'm so proud of that community. And I feel like that's been an amazing thing for me to just feel that I have an audience there.
Matthew Carey 15:40
Absolutely. I think it's a real asset that you've created. Like you said, it's not selfish because you created the space for Funny Mummies to exist. I guess you invited a few people to come and join you and then others saw that this was a place online to hang out where people like you are there. What's your experience like that? When you drop a new YouTube video into that community, what sort of response do you get?
Jenny Wynter 16:10
Amazing! Well particularly, I suppose the other positive thing of Corona for me has been that a) it's changed the way that I write my material in that I'm very focused at the moment on being very, very current. You touched on that a bit before. But for instance, the song that I was inspired to write that I then did my first green screen video too, went amazingly well. So I think at the moment, it's had almost 60,000 views on Facebook, which is massive for me. Like that's a big shift. I've had a web series before that I think did about that many views for one of the episodes, but other than that, stuff that I share on Facebook would maybe get a couple of thousand views - but nothing massive. So that's actually quite big for me. That was about mums having to now school their kids from home because of Corona. Normally, if I'd written something and filmed it, it wasn't in response to a current event. This is just a funny song that I wrote. It could have been written 10 years ago, it could have been written tomorrow. I think the timeliness of it and being able to harness that has been massive. When I've posted those things on Funny Mummies, and on my comedy page - on Funny Mummies the response honestly has often been, "How can I share this?" We're a closed group, which I've deliberately done because I wanted to keep the integrity of the group and make sure that we are all on the same page. I really feel quite protective of it. [People in the group say] "I want to share this. How do I share it?" I've then said, "Go over to my comedy page. Here's the link," and people have been really amazing at getting behind and sharing my stuff. I've also been able to say "Look, if you really like this, if you've got ideas for other clips that you'd love to see or you'd like to see a song about something, please tell me because I'm here at home and I will want to film things!" So far someone's asked me to write a song about teenagers and just encouraging mums that the teenagers will come back, and will come good again. I've actually had this idea too - I really want to write a kid's album, which is really for the mums like an instructional video of how to get the kids to help more around the house and do stupid video clips, but it's really for the kids to watch with their mums. For them to laugh at together. So I've got this idea of crowdsourcing that entire album, just through Funny Mummies and saying, "Hey, guys. I want to do an album. Let's do this. Can you suggest title tracks? Then everyone can vote on them, and whatever the top 10 tracks are at the end, that's gonna be the album." I'm excited to do it and I'm afraid to do it because as soon as I actually put the idea out there, then I have to do it. So I've been procrastinating.
Matthew Carey 18:49
Two things that jump to mind is that if there's going to be some positive to come out of this current Coronavirus time... the idea that mums around the world are seeing their kids doing their schooling from home means that a song written by a mum in Brisbane, Australia isn't just topical in Brisbane. It isn't just topical in Australia. That song is going to resonate with mums around the world right now. 60,000 views is probably just the tip of the iceberg for people that's going to resonate with. If that's just the first touch point that people in new places that have never heard of Jenny Wynter before, can use to connect with you, then that could lead to something that's really interesting. Going into the idea of the album, and all the ideas you've been having things you could create at this time...One thing that I know of you is that you're incredibly prolific. You have more creative ideas than any person could execute in one lifetime. So how you think about filtering those ideas and working out what the thing is that you're going to do today?
Jenny Wynter 20:06
I think the other thing about this pandemic for me is it's making me feel a whole lot less precious about which idea is the right idea. Because you can't deny at the moment, there are just bigger fish to fry. Art matters, absolutely. I really feel that more now than ever, but at the same time, nothing really matters. There are people dealing with so much more. So it's actually been quite creatively freeing to realise it doesn't matter. I just need to pick the thing that I feel really fired up about right now. The thing I constantly struggle with is, as you say, I have more ideas than I'll ever be able to execute. I do sometimes get distracted by the next shiny idea, which means that the thing I was just working on, is sitting there waving at me going "Hello?! What, I'm nothing to you anymore?" What I'm trying to do is actually plan my day. So that's all I do. In the morning, the way I get things done now is ask "Okay, what am I actually going to film today? What am I going to record today?" I write that down on paper, then that is the thing that's going to get done today. [This means] I don't get carried off with the next bright idea, and nothing ends up happening because I'm just passing a baton from shiny idea to shiny idea. That's it, I suppose. It's a combination of not overthinking it, and deciding "Let's just make stuff. It doesn't matter." I want the stuff I make to be good. But if I sit there twiddling my thumbs too long, and thinking about which is the right thing, and what strategic blah, blah, blah, then I just won't do anything. And for me at the moment, it's so fun. And it really is, for my mental health, just the best thing to just be making things. I feel like the other side of that is I'm feeling a lot more experimental with my stuff and just excited about trying out different things and letting them fail and will for instance, as you know, about a year or so ago, I experimented with this Monday morning. Facebook Live show called "Wake Up With Wynter". The idea was it was just a 10 minute show every Monday morning 7am pitching it at mums. The idea was 'Monday mornings suck,' but let's get up together and I'll make a show. It was a combination of just silliness around my house and making up songs. So I really enjoyed that. But not enough to keep getting up early on Mondays! So I did it for one school term, and then I let it go. But some of the people actually on my Funny Mummies group occasionally bring that up and say, "Oh, I miss that show. That was so fun. Would you do that again?" I thought that'd be fun, but that's too hard. So now in light of Corona, I thought that would be really fun to do a live streamed sho w again. I used my group as market research and I said, "Hey, what do you guys think? Would you want me to do a morning show [or] would you rather an evening show?" The overwhelming response was evening, evening, evening. They apparently don't care about engaging with their children. It just "Please, after dark.Let's just hang out." It was interesting because I've been seeing a lot of people live streaming. A lot of artists and like you were saying, from their lounge room. A comedian who I know actually posted something on Facebook recently saying, "I really hate doing zoom calls. It's not the same. I don't enjoy doing this, that and the other. I'm sorry, I don't mean to offend anyone. I really do not like these live streamed from your lounge room shows. I just don't enjoy it. I'm not going to watch them. No offense." It made me think about that. I thought, "Yeah, well, fair enough. Each to their own." But for me, it really made me think. I've got the green screen. I don't want to just do a "This as Jenny from her bed show." I want it to have high production values and to make something that actually is its own thing. It's not just here's the next best thing...me in my house. It's actually me trying to do a variety show or a proper Today Show kind of thing with all the supers and then cut to the weather report and cut to the sports. So all these concepts that I think you fleshed out with me when we were talking about ideas a year ago. Why not try and do something that's a dodgy, pretend Today Show format? And now I am doing that, but it's actually with higher production values, but still taking the mickey out of it being that kind of format show. So I did one live stream and my husband, I'm very, very lucky, is very technically apt and savvy and so he's working out how to use this broadcast software where you can do things like make it a Facebook Live Show. It can still be live streamed, but he can cut seamlessly to pre recorded things then cut back to the studio. He can put up graphics and it's phenomenal. We're still working that out. We've done one of those shows, and there were mistakes. There were plenty of mistakes. I knew that would happen and I thought, who cares? It doesn't matter. I think you get too precious about these things. I just wanted to leap in and do it and try it. We'll learn from that and then we'll get feedback from people and play with it. That's the beauty of it, too. The people that are the diehard fans who were there right from the beginning, get to see it evolve. Yeah, I think that's it, too, is just not being too precious about stuff and just going for it because seriously, what's the worst that can happen? A world pandemic? That's already happening. It doesn't matter.
Matthew Carey 25:26
That's interesting. I think that touches on something that is going to be important for us to keep thinking about when it comes to streaming stuff, even zoom calls and the idea of students studying from home. This, if we call it a new world, this new normal of doing things at a distance requires us to think and reimagine how we do those things. Clearly doing a stand up set from your living room isn't going to have the same vibe as seeing it in a comedy room. Because we just don't have the benefit of being close to each other, you don't [experience the way] hearing other people in the room laugh and applaud lifts the energy of the whole room. [So the question is] if these are the constraints I have, what can I do within them that is particular to this medium? If you were doing a live gig, you couldn't have those bottom thirds saying "This is what the title of my segment is," and you can't have the images that you'd have on the green screen. So this is something that you're doing that you couldn't do in [the traditional] setting. I think that's really exciting.
Jenny Wynter 26:43
Absolutely. The idea that you just need to put a camera on what you do and then livestream that...I think that would be a big mistake because they are completely different art forms. I do really feel for a lot of artists, [for whom] the live thing is 100% of what they do. They need that audience to actually make their work happen and resonate. Ugh. Even me doing stand up, like you say. I'm not doing stand up at the moment. At all. I wouldn't attempt to do that on camera. But my comedy skills now are so much more about the sketch and improvising and talking to the camera and trying to build my connection that way. I'm still writing comedy songs, but it's absolutely adapting it for the medium, and taking advantage of the medium to do things that you couldn't do otherwise. That's actually really fun. So in a way, I'm falling in love again with comedy because it's a new way of doing it. So that's quite fresh and exciting. It's interesting. On that live stream show, I did get my sister to come. My sister is isolating also. Because we're allowed our one family member over (or whatever it is at the moment, they keep changing the rules) she came over to do that live stream show with me because she plays keys. That's brilliant because if it was just me sitting there trying to be funny on screen, I think I could do it, but there's a real mental game going on there. There's a mental game going on with comedy anyway, because you do have to have confidence that what you're saying is funny. But when you've got an audience there, you can hear. You're getting that feedback. Whereas if it's just you, you can think "I'm finding this amusing, but is this even landing? Is this terrible? Is it crickets?" When my sister's there, it's only one person, but she absolutely is my muse. My whole life, she has been the one. I know how to tickle her, and know how to find her funny spots. So for me, it's trying to make her laugh. And that's the show. That's the pleasure of it for me, and she's a great audience member. She laughs a lot. We have a lot of fun doing that. So that's how I get around that side of things. But I can feel that muscle is going to build where I feel like I will get more confident that [eventually] I'll feel relaxed enough to know. I can trust that this is amusing and this is funny. It's totally different. It's a different rhythm too not having the laugh track I suppose.
Matthew Carey 29:06
Yes, certainly. And I think that the idea of being in a live room, you're trying to make the whole room laugh if you can. But when you're in an intimate space, like being on somebody's screen, I guess if you just know you can make one person laugh - even if she's your sister - you know that you're reaching one person. If you can reach one person effectively, there's a good chance that that's going to scale to another person, another person and another person. Then if you find the audience that resonate with your worldview and your experiences, like you already have in the Funny Mummies community, then there's a good chance that if your sister Ang finds it funny, then there's a bunch of people in that community that are going to find what you do is funny.
Jenny Wynter 29:56
Matthew Carey 29:58
I think one of the reasons why you're so well equipped to grab hold of the opportunities at this time, Jenny, is because you've had so much experience and background in improv. Also in terms of your willingness just to give things a try and not to be too precious about them and just "Let's throw this up. This might work, this might fail. If it fails, I'll move on to the next thing." For the people that are listening ...how did that improv background affect how you think about your art?
Jenny Wynter 30:41
Well, improv has affected not only how I feel about my art, but how I feel about life. The tenet of improvisation really, the fundamental rule is "Say yes." Be open. Don't block your own ideas and don't block others' ideas. Say yes to things. And I think that's absolutely informed how I feel about life. I was so, so fortunate. When I was 27 I went over to Canada for a couple of years and trained and performed with the amazing Loose Moose Theatre Company. And I have to mention them because honestly, I just feel like everything good I do on stage really comes back to what I learnt there in some way, shape or form. They really taught me so much about failure, and about how to embrace it. I know people say embrace failure, and it sounds so trite, but actually, if you really can learn to not just be okay with it, but actually really move towards that willingness to fail - that's where the magic lies. The best things that I've ever done on stage, I think, have been where I've taken massive risks and been willing to just push through that fear, uncertainty and anxiety. It kind of culminated about a year and a half ago [when] I decided to do a fully improvised solo cabaret. And I remember the first night, oh my goodness, just being completely terrified, absolutely terrified and just wanting to slap myself and ask "Why? Why Jenny? Why would you do this? You can write you've written before. You're perfectly capable of writing material." And just thinking, why am I putting myself through the stress of this, but that was the most magical gig and some of the most magical shows that I've done have been that. Even if I haven't done a fully improvised show, but I've done a written show, always the most magical moments are the improvised ones and the unscripted ones. They just help me learn that when you're too precious and too controlling about things, yeah, you might have a bit more control, but you're actually robbing yourself of the chance to have the real magic happen. Know that failure is just part of that process and failure stings, or it can sting, but then it's over. You just move on. And you're okay. Again, I think it's just putting it in perspective. You can get a bit hung up on "But what happens if I put my stuff out there and people hate it or they don't like it or whatever?" Okay, well that'll suck for a bit, and then it'll be over and you're a big girl...move on. To me, I just feel like that's the price of entry. That's the price of doing things that you're passionate about is that sometimes they're not going to work and that's gonna sting a little bit, but you learn from it and just keep going. So I guess that's it. And I think that's affected every area of my life and the decisions I make. Not to feel afraid of the fear.
Matthew Carey 33:37
Which is an important thing to hang on to an important thing to keep coming back to, and it's something that some people are more willing to accept than others. I want to talk a little bit about your book, Funny Mummy. Funny Mummy, to me seems like the combination of storytelling and processing that you've been doing for maybe 10 or 15 years. I mean, it's the culmination of your life to-date. But I've seen elements of these stories that you've been developing and working up for years. You are somebody who's taken, elements of your life that have been pretty painful at times, and have turned them into comedy, but in a generous way, and a generative way that drives the material. Can you tell me about why you chose to put the Funny Mummy story into words into publish it last year when you did?
Jenny Wynter 34:38
I've wanted to create a book for a really, really long time. I remember - I think I write about this in the book actually - a moment about eight years ago where I had a lump in my breast. Spoiler alert, it all worked out fine. But that moment of going, "Oh my goodness," before I got my test results. I was thinking "My gosh, okay, what if I do only have a year or a couple years left? What if this is the absolute worst case scenario?" Because I am a dramatic person at heart. "What would I want to do with that time?" And honestly, one of the biggest thoughts that came to me was, "I would write a book." I would feel so upset if I had not written a book, which was so weird because I was all about performing. It wasn't for one second, the thought was I do these shows, or I'd create this show or this blah, blah, blah. No, I wanted to get my stories down in a book. It took me a while to get there, but it's been something that I've wanted to do for a really long time. It was so different. Even though some of those stories that are in the book I have told on stage, something about the written form does change those and I was able to go into some of those stories in a much deeper way. Especially talking about things like my mom's death. My mom died when I was very young. Obviously, I feel like I'm very comfortable with that story. I've told that story many times. it was 36 years ago now so I feel like I'm quite at peace with it. However, when I was writing about it, I really delved into it from a different angle. One of the suggestions from an editor that I worked with was to really try and tell it from the point of view of that little girl, really see it through her eyes. So I really went there. My goodness, I've never felt like I wrote so much from my guts [as I did] in that portion of the story, particularly. It was very painful to write that. I remember being really shocked actually, by how painful that was. I felt like "But I'm over this, you know? I've already grieved that. I'm fine." But I couldn't believe that writing, in a new way, accessed this whole other emotional side of that. As a result, I think the piece is so different. It's still comedy and it's still pathos. But I think it was very illuminating to me how different it is to actually write something like that. And I'm so glad it exists. And I want to keep writing more. I get really inspired by people who write prolifically. I would love to be like that. It's just I keep getting distracted by all these other wonderful things to work on.
Matthew Carey 37:29
Well Jenny, I really recommend the book to everybody. It's a good read. It's a beautiful story, although you certainly describe your ups and downs. For people that identify as artists and creatives, I think you articulate lots of things that are going on inside of us and you articulate them so well. I've known you for 10+ years, and I've heard some of these stories before. As I read the book, and I've read it twice now, I consider the idea of looking back and connecting the dots, piecing how things fit together from the position you're in now. There's this story about how your mum was a performer. And you described sitting at gigs, watching her perform. Watching her desire to be appreciated by the audience and the adulation that the audience would give to her. I know you're describing and understanding now the idea that you had to make a sacrifice as a young girl, so your mum could go out and do these performances in the evening. You watched her respond to the audience's appreciation, knowing that nobody in the audience loved her in the same way that you did. And then, you've had this career, where your identity as a mother has been really up front and centre. Clearly you've been through a process of reconciling how you felt about that, and what it means to you to be a mother to your children now. You talk about this in the book, but I think that this is something that's fascinating for any entertainer or performer who has children. It's our job to go out and work in the evenings. But as kids, we see that most other children have parents who are home when they get home from school or shortly thereafter. They spend the evenings and weekends at home with their parents. I've certainly thought about my gigs and my travel - about how that affects how my son feels about our relationship. I had the opportunity to speak to Richard Pryor Jr. on the podcast a while back, and so much of his journey was him processing his relationship with his father. He described how Richard Senior's journey and process was looking at his relationship with his parents. These things are generational, but I think you bring up so many things that are fascinating for all artists.
Jenny Wynter 40:17
Thanks, Matt. I really appreciate that. Yeah, it's a funny thing, isn't it? And I feel like my kids response to my career changes as they get older. It can change week to week actually. But I feel like certainly my oldest, she's gone through chapters of absolutely loving what I do, because it means she gets to come with me to festivals, gets to feel important, come backstage and meet other performers. So there's parts of it that she would love but then there was also a lot of resentment sometimes, at me being away or not being there at nighttime, and the stresses that that put on the family [...] As she's grown up a little bit. And we've had some really great conversations where she's actually come to understand more [of] my side of it. Even though I would never deny any of my kids the right to feel how they feel about anything that's happened, I'm encouraged that she can understand that the times that I left it wasn't, "Oh, I hate you guys. I don't want to be away from you." It wasn't that, that she actually had an understanding of what I do. I think when she sees my art, it's interesting. She read the first chapter of my book, and it really upset her. She loved it, but was very upset by it. She's heard that story many times, but hadn't heard it in that way. It really floored her but because Ella's a writer as well, she loves writing and she's a wonderful writer, she really appreciated the writing of it. I think, because she has this appreciation of the artistic side of what I do, and really values that - that's really changed how she felt about me being away. Whereas I think when she was little, that's just too much. You can't think "Is what mommy does valuable? Are the arts valuable?" There's none of that. It's just "I want my mom and she's not here." So that's changed as they've grown older, too. I'll tell you, I am working on my next book, I've decided that's my other thing I'm working on in quarantine. It's going to be all about mums who are wanting more, whether that's in the arts or relationships or whatever. One of the assignments that my mentor Mandy Nolan has given me Is she wants me to write through my mum's eyes. Really try and dig in from my mom's perspective, what was it like, especially 30 years ago, as a single mum trying to be an artist? And really go there and write it in the first person as my mum. I've been putting that off because I know that's going to be really difficult but I think that'll be actually quite fascinating to go "Gosh, what what was that really like for her?"
Matthew Carey 43:01
I think about it from my perspective, here and now and the idea of us as artists and entertainers going out and working in the evenings when a lot of parents might be home at night time with their kids. But I guess looking back, this is not a new quandary a new thing for people to have to reconcile themselves with. Looking back a couple of decades when women started going into the workforce much more the idea that you weren't going to be a mum who was at home all day must have been heart wrenching at times. Feeling like there was this expectation that that was what you're going to do. But you have this passion and this fascination and this need to go out and explore other parts of yourself that you can't do in the home. So it's not a new thing, I guess. But it's something that we continue to wrestle with.
Jenny Wynter 43:54
Yeah, absolutely. And it's interesting now of course, because given all the COVID stuff, people are having to manage paying at home a whole lot more with their kids, whether they choose to do that or not. Managing working from home with trying to still be a good parent. All my performing obviously now is from home and now I've got the added bonus of my kids, fortunately for me, are all massive performers and creative people too - so they actually love doing stuff with me. [They ask] "When are we doing another video clip?" So I get to experience that lovely side of it too. How that will influence how they feel about me going off then to do live things, I don't know. Time will tell, but it's interesting that they get to have a bit more of a step into the 'performing from home world' at the moment. I'm I'm interested too because I think about lot of people working from home. How will their kids then change how they see their parents work? I think that's really interesting. We'll have to see.
Matthew Carey 44:50
Will you ever want to leave home again, now that you've got a whole broadcast studio setup?
Jenny Wynter 44:54
Maybe not. I do have to say again, I don't know how to translate this into a full time income yet, but when my video got over 50,000 views in two days, [I started thinking.] To have 50,000 audience members see my work on stage would take years for me, unless you start getting on TV, but in doing what I do, which is stand up comedy clubs and festivals, it would take me a couple of years to get that kind of exposure. I'm not saying that therefore live is dead because I love performing live, I really genuinely do. But I can forsee one possible path for me, which is where the bulk of what I do is online, and then I do the live stuff just for pleasure.
Matthew Carey 45:42
Well, we should talk about that before we wrap up. I mean, there are plenty of places for people to find you online at the moment. Not only is there the Funny Mummies Facebook group, and jennywynter.com your website. There's the web series that you referenced earlier on which is called "How Me Parent Good" which is a great production that you did maybe a couple of years ago now and got your kids involved. You celebrate yourself as a bad mom. But there are so many lessons in what you're sharing, and it's done with such heart that I think people really respond to it. And now you've got not one podcast, but two podcasts. Why two, Jenny?
Jenny Wynter 46:29
Cuz I'm ridiculous. There's the Funny Mummies podcast and that's super lovely. That's having chats with just hilarious mums - some of them are comedians and some of them are just people that I know who I think are really funny - having chats about life in general. Then, in response to Corona actually, I just spontaneously put the call out one night and I thought, "Why don't we just record some chats?" [They can be with] anyone whether I know you personally or not. I just put the call out through social media and said, "Do you want to have a chat tonight and we'll just record it about whatever topic you want. You just choose one and we'll do that." So yeah, it's called Let's Talk. I think I've got about six episodes up at the moment. Again, that's where talking about which project to focus on...that's where I'm totally not precious about it. I've gone against the traditional advice, because it's not to me a career building project at all. That's just like a really fun little passion project. I'm not releasing it regularly. There's no shedule it's just whenever I feel like it, I'll go "Yeah, I feel like recording a couple of chats." I'll just put the call out, and then whoever calls up, we record it and put it out. I think the concept too with that is I *hate* the phone. But I think in light of now, not being able to actually meet people face to face, which is my preferred mode of chatting I'm just going to try and get over that phone phobia and actually have phone conversations with people as much as I can. Then being the show pony that I am, record them, and release them.
Matthew Carey 47:53
You know, I listen to an episode of Let's Talk last night with a lady that had a midlife career change and that conversation was absolutely fascinating. I think that one of these things that you're discovering, and that people are discovering about you, Jenny is that there's benefit not just in seeing the work you do on stage or seeing you at work, but there's a real joy in just getting to know you. I hope that some of that has come across in this conversation. We didn't touch on really any of the pages of notes I took to ask you about so I hope that we get a chance to do this again sometime soon. In the meantime, for those people that want to find and follow you online, where's the best place for them to start?
Jenny Wynter 48:38
I would say start at my website and then there's all the links to find me at other places there. jennywynter.com and the other places I'm most active would be Facebook and Instagram. I'd love to talk to you more again. I love our conversations, and it'd be really fun to do it and not put your notes to waste.
Matthew Carey 48:56
Well, this has been great Jenny, you bring it so much joy to my life and to the life of so many others. At a time when the world is feeling some pain, we're all very grateful for your comic relief. So thank you very much for your time today.