Brighton Fringe: Kathryn Henson

When starting her comedy career 6 years ago in New-York city, Henson would stand on the streets for hours advertising her shows trying to get audience members. She now lives in London and has regular gigs and continues to learn about the industry, saying that “maybe in ten years I’ll know everything there is to know”. Henson has changed and been through a lot since she started comedy, including two big moves due to coronavirus which she openly says was a challenge to her career. Although she would partake in zoom gigs she says, “there was no joy in them for me”. I was interested in what other challenges she has been faced with, especially as being part of the 11% of stand-up comedians who are women.

Henson explained that although there are differences in the way female stand-up comedians are portrayed and treated, there are “2 sides to each coin”, stating that there are positives and negatives, and it is about how you mould them to your benefit. She explained that some female comedians may use that for their interest to move up in their career as “we can utilize the fact that we’re women to get ahead in this industry”. Although females only make up a small percentage of stand-up comedians, Henson says “being a woman has never really held me back”, however, acknowledges that this may not be the case for all. Henson is clear in the fact that she thinks all comedians should just be seen for their humor rather than any exterior factors and says that the conversation of the challenges female stand-up comedians can face “is always going to be important as long as it’s happening, but at what point is it about healing and moving forward”.

Henson said, “It’s hard to be somewhat struggling sometimes to see people that I know that are so talented struggling and know that it’s not always just because I am a woman “. She explained that since moving to London, she has seen the class systems play a big role in the success and failure of comedians, being largely based on if you have a manager and who you know, it “isn’t necessarily a merit-based system”. Although Henson explains that it’s hard to “play a game that’s already been decided who wins”, her love and determination for comedy is inspiring and encouraging. “My goal as a comedian and a person is to try to unify the world more, it’s very divided… I hope to do that through my comedy”. In stand-up comedy, she says that “funny doesn’t always equal you’re going to be successful”, as she has seen incredibly talented comedians struggle in the field. 

Although Henson says, “the industry of entertainment has been set up in a way where people do tend to step on each other to get somewhere”. She openly prioritizes happiness and says ” I don’t know if where they get they end up being happy”. Henson’s attitude to grow as a comedian without hindering anyone else’s process is motivating and speaks for her open and attentive character, as well as inspiring less accomplished comedians as she “appreciates anybody trying to follow their dreams”.

Henson highlighted the differences between stand-up comedy in New-York compared to London, whereas in New-York “everyone is starting from the bottom”. She explains that she has seen a lot of people getting advantages and head starts because of their money. However, they have not been open with that fact. “If these people don’t want their rich parents… I’ll take them”. She jokes about the irony of people not accepting where they have got their success from. The witty and raw comedian expresses that there are many other factors that play a role into a comedian’s success other than their talent, saying ” the worst part of comedy is the part where you’re not on stage”. Despite the uncertainty and “unfairness” of her field, Henson remains loyal and motivated. “It would be nice to have a little bit more security, but that’s comedy”.

“I’m not going to have an honest conversation with most of the people I’m gigging with”, Henson says as she explains the reasons and motivations behind some of the actions taken in stand-up comedy. But, she says “at the end of the day we’ve all been through shit” and expresses that the bottom line of her profession is to make people laugh and have a good time while “hopes to bridge more gaps that she divides… using my personal experience to help others with their personal experience”. Henson’s determination and consistency is contagious while she explains that in an ideal world stand-up comedy will only come down to comedians’ talent, yet you can still make your way and adapt to the reality, which she has been doing for the past six years. “I hope to create something one day where I can make positive change”.

Words by Hannah Old

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