“I’d love to see diversity in all its raw, box breaking, oddball glory.” | Eryn Tett talks identity, absurdity and the 2020 Funny Women finals

Tell us about you/your act.

Hey, I’m Eryn. I’m an alternative comedian born and raised in Singapore, now living in Manchester. I do stand up comedy, host and produce a webseries/gig called ‘Unpaid But Great Exposure’ and make silly videos. Described as “fast moving…and absurd” (Diva Magazine), my stand up is made up of word play, short jokes, odd observations and surreal storytelling set to a charmingly uncomfortable rhythm.

What’s your favourite thing about working in comedy?

I just like making things. I also like sharing my world perspective with other people. I like to invite them to see things the way I do and be like, hey, isn’t this really silly?

What challenges have you faced working in comedy?

I guess because of the nature of the industry, I’ll never truly know the extent of what’s been holding me back or what my biggest obstacles are. That’s the gift of comedy, we all get to go home and self analyse. Dig deep into our biggest insecurities to try and figure everything out. 

I think it goes without saying that it’s just always going to be harder for a female to go on stage, because it just is. There’s that extra bit of ‘putting the audience at ease’ before we can really start, because we just aren’t the default setting. Along with the fact that we are somehow responsible for our whole gender, and represent all women as soon as we hit the stage. Females don’t really have the same luxury as being immediately treated as individuals, it’s weirdly a thing we have to earn over time.

I’m also fully aware that I have a very confusing look. Some people are happy to accept it and for some people it’s just a straight up no. And boy, do they let me know.

For me personally, I’ve struggled with knowing where I belong. As a comedian who toes the line between absurdism and straight stand up, finding my place and knowing which road to take has been a bit more complicated. Quite similar to my cultural identity – I grew up in Asia but I look and sound(ish) English, it can be hard to fully fit in on either side of the spectrum. I think I’ve just learnt to do my own thing. 

How do you think that comedy as an industry can better address these issues?

Like most things, it’s just presenting diversity until it becomes normal.

People don’t really know anything about the underground comedy circuit, which is where most of the weirdos live. They’re consuming mainstream comedy which is way more selective with what it’s putting out there.

But I also think we are a little bit confused about what diversity looks like. I sometimes see the ‘quotas’ that are being filled (one woman on the bill, thank you, done) but at the end of the day, everyone’s on the same vibe, got the same rhythm and are talking about the same things from the same point of view.

I’d love to see diversity in all its raw, box breaking, oddball glory.

How do you feel reaching the final of the Funny Women Awards 2020?

I’ve entered a few times so pretty stoked to get to this stage!

How has COVID and the restrictions on live performance affected your approach to this competition?

I’m not gonna lie, I was dreading the Zoom gig. But turns out, it was actually just fine, haha. It’s obviously not the same as being on a stage, in a room full of people, where you can ride out the vibe. I think I tend to take more energy from the audience than I give off, so this was like, urgh gonna actually have to whip up some of my own this time. Which is definitely, probably a really good skill to have, so very much a useful experience 

Has doing this competition in the current circumstances changed how you’ll approach comedy when things go back to normal?

I think it’s taught me to maintain a certain level of confidence in myself even when my life/the whole world is falling apart. Which I will be forever grateful for. When things get back to normal, I’ll always be able to hold onto that.

How do you think comedy in general is likely to be different post-pandemic?

I’m not really sure. I’m generally quite cynical so my imagination would only spiral us into somewhere dark and horrible. I just… I think maybe the rich are getting richer. And I don’t think that’s so great. 

What I’d love to see though is a world that’s been so starved of entertainment going out to search for it, and falling down all the weird and wonderful nooks and crannies of the UK comedy scene.

What are your hopes for after the competition?

I’m always looking to connect with people who are on the same page as me and collaborate on something cool. The dream is to spend my life making comedy with talented groups of people. Nothing sounds better than that.

In the meantime, I plan to continue writing and producing sketches, as well as finishing the first season of my sitcom I’m writing. 

In the near future I hope to develop my solo show ‘Eryn Tett Finds Her Audience’, an alternative stand up comedy show which takes a more literal, ‘data collecting’ approach to the common advice to comedians, ‘find your audience and build from there’. Hopefully I’ll be taking it to some Fringes – COVID allowing! I suppose this leads to an even higher goal of a mine – when I’ve actually ‘found my audience’ and get to invite them to my future touring stand up shows, and we can all be oddballs together. 

Aside from the competition, what else have you been up to over lockdown?

When we were deep in lockdown I really took it as opportunity to just go full time comedy. I was writing and making stuff every day. It was either that or a full spiral into existential dread, and now one of my little stock animations is in the Funny Women Comedy Shorts Shortlist. So I picked well.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to get into comedy?

Just give it a go. I feel like there’s a lot of things as women that we feel we shouldn’t do, or couldn’t do, or wouldn’t be able to be a part of. But actually none of that is true. If it’s something you want to do, do it.

My advice would just be – don’t try and be anyone else. Do your own thing. Do what you think is funny, and try and communicate it as best you can. And don’t worry, you’re not representing us all. I’m a full advocate of us all being able to die horrible comedy deaths completely on our own, as the insecure narcissistic individuals we are.

Eryn is performing at the Funny Women 2020 finals on Tuesday 22nd September 2020.

Book your ticket here.

You can keep up with Eryn’s work by checking out her website and following her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

You can subscribe to her YouTube channel here and the Unpaid But Great Exposure Channel here.