Published in The Music (NSW) and on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2016
Gen Fricker On Overcoming Criticism And “Imposter Syndrome”
As the Australian comedy scene shifts towards inclusivity (though “sometimes rooms are just fucked”), Gen Fricker tells Daniel Cribb how she overcame “imposter syndrome”.
“I’m so surprised that some people still think comedians just get up on stage and make it up as they go,” comedy aficionado and triple j host Gen Fricker tells. “So many audiences think that it’s just magic; that’s kind of the trick of it and also what you’re working towards.”
Fricker knows all too well about hard work, spending her one day off doing promo for an upcoming slot at Festival Of The Sun. Having attended the festival as a punter last year, she’s keen to get back and perform this year, but navigating such a stage can be a tricky one. “It’s hard, because if you’ve got a comedy stage running during a music festival, people aren’t necessarily going for the comedy stage. It’s always like a drop-in kind of thing, but you can also get some gold,” she explains. “The Thursday night shows are excellent, for example. You can also have a looser time; it’s less restricting than a comedy club.”
It’s the constant battle every comedian faces – what might work for one audience could bomb on another. Either way, it’s quite a similar craft to music, which is why the two often partner well together. “The process is quite similar… A lot of the time, it’s being alone and just crafting stuff and then taking it to an audience and crossing your fingers.”
But while they’re so similar, there are still big differences in each scene. “I think in some ways comedy is easier to come up through than music because there are less people to compete with,” Fricker says, having scored some of her first opportunities through some funny tweets. “You can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, and the overheads are way less.”
So what does an aspiring comedian need to do in order to stand out? “Aw, man, I have no idea,” she laughs. “I don’t even think it’s having a strong viewpoint or some kind of brand, I think it’s just a really hard work ethic – just turning up to every single gig and writing all the time and being humble. I think having a specific ‘brand’ of comedy comes later because that’s when you begin to know what you’re good at talking about and what you want to talk about.”
A comedian’s best joke might be one that bombed 100+ times as they workshopped it. “I think it’s having the confidence to trust in the material and yourself. It’s a mix of ego and self-reflection; you want to protect your material because if you just throw out everything that bombs and you don’t work on it then you’re never going to get better, but sometimes rooms are just fucked.
“I don’t really have any confidence,” Fricker laughs when queried about her own path. “Total imposter syndrome, really. I’ve just never had that bravado, which I think is the constant self-reflection. My main thing is having to stop myself from completely throwing out things or getting dark on stuff because that’s just how I’m geared; I’m very self-critical. Being a woman in the industry, you’re kind of already going in where everyone is going to criticise you more because you’re kind of the novelty, I guess.”
With that said, Fricker has noticed a positive trend in recent years. “I really do think it’s getting better. There are so many things that have happened even in the last two years. Obviously the popularity of Amy Schumer has really opened people up to the idea, and the internet is such a democratising force… There are so many awesome young female comics coming up who I’m such a fan of – Naomi Higgins, she’s dope, and there’s a sketch group in Sydney called Freudian Nip and they’re awesome.
“There are heaps of cool women coming through and it’s less of a one woman huddled in the corner and more of everyone hanging out and creating things; it’s not the same thing over and over again.”