In the early stages of Kirsty Webeck’s comedic career, she was thrown into the deep end by someone who kindly offered her a spot on the line up of a big comedy gala.
There was an audience of 700 people, and looking back, Kirsty admits that she probably wasn’t quite ready for such a big gig, and “barely had any jokes” to offer.
But for those five minutes she was on stage, she learnt more than she had previously at any other point in her career.
“I went along, I did it. I rose to the occasion as much as I could,” she tells Kate Mills in the latest episode of The Leadership Lessons, a Women’s Agenda podcast supported by Salesforce.
“I learnt so much from that five minutes. From that day forward I was a different comedian, and I was working differently, my jokes were getting better rapidly.”
Kirsty is now one of Australia’s top comedians, and while all her comedy shows are currently on hiatus due to the pandemic, she’s harnessed her skills in other ways to keep going.
She publishes a weekly podcast, The Best, which is connected to extra content on her Patreon. She’s also been doing online events for corporates – things like hosting office drinks, putting on Zoom comedy shows and making weekly pep talk videos that organisations distribute to their staff.
It’s not what she had planned for this year, but she’s making the most of it.
Kirsty shares that without someone taking that early chance on her, she probably wouldn’t be in professional comedy today. After all, it’s an industry that’s notoriously hard to break into.
It’s this kind of early career support from leaders in the comedy industry that Kirsty sees as essential for rising comedians, especially for women, or comedians from other minority groups, when they are trying to break through in a space that has always been male-dominated.
“There is a lack of support for comedians who might be a step or two below where they need to be to be performing in professional venues,” she explains.
“Sometimes, all someone might need is just a little boost up to be able to start performing in those other rooms.”
And as we continue to wade through the muddled mess of 2020, comedy is one of the few things that is still cutting through. Kirsty says it is comedians’ ability to soften tough issues that gets people to listen.
“There’s always the two ends of the spectrum with comedy. It can be used to commentate on what’s happening in the world, but it also helps people get away from it all,” Kirsty says.
“I’m not the kind of comedian who comes out with hard-hitting statements…It’s not my brand.
“But I’m envious of people who can use it to harness the power of commentary, and maybe being able to change hearts and minds through softening the messages.”
While it can be hard to look at the world today and feel positive or hopeful, Kirsty has an overwhelming feeling that women’s leadership, across industries, is having a real moment of impact.
Kirsty says she has been getting lots of enquiries from corporates about doing keynotes for women, all about looking for ways to break through the ranks.
“I find that incredibly spiriting and interesting, that organisations are starting to place an emphasis on how to develop the women within their teams and they’re willing to put money behind it as well,” she says.
And if there’s anything 2020 has shown her, it’s that we have an opportunity to seize this time, and take it as far as we can.
“I hope it helps people move towards things that they would truly love to do, or that they have been thinking about doing for a long time but haven’t.
“I hope it gives people this mentality to seize the day. Be the best they can be, and whatever they want to be.”
The Leadership Lessons podcast series, hosted by Kate Mills, is a set of interviews with brilliant female leaders across industries, sharing their perspective on the critical decade ahead.
The Leadership Lessons is supported by Salesforce.