Entrepreneurial spirit will save the planet
Magda Szubanski had the businesswomen of Moonee Valley rolling – and massaging each other – in the aisles at the Australian Events Centre on March 24.
Guest speaker at the luncheon, which celebrated the tenth anniversary of Moonee Valley Women In Business, Szubanski entertained more than 500 attendees with tales of her family and her life in comedy, and shared her thoughts on feminism, friendship, and the importance of being brave.
Magda, who has graced our screens as iconic characters including Sharon Strzelecki and Pixie Ann Wheatley, shed some insight into the challenges she, and fellow female comics faced when they were breaking into show business in the 1980s.
Back then, she said, it was a widely held belief that women made only token appearances in comedy shows: “Someone once asked one of my male colleagues if he thought women were funny and he replied ‘not really, no,’” said Szubanski.
Szubanski, who grew up with funny women, wasn’t about to let that dent her ambitions in comedy. “The men I worked with lived in a different world than I grew up in,” she said. “They couldn’t tell me women aren’t funny because my mum Margaret and my Aunt Mary were hilarious, and my father bought me up to believe I could be anything I wanted, so I know which truths hold for me.
“It’s what my eyes perceived versus the dominant paradigm, which constrains us all,” she said. “You have to understand what the matrix is, lift yourself out of it, and throw out the things that want to keep you down. Fathers, the best thing you can do for your daughters is to encourage them to be their own best selves.”
From battling the unconscious bias that made it difficult for Szubanski and colleagues Gina Riley, Jane Turner and Marg Downey, to get screen time for the sketches they wrote on Fast Forward, the quartet went on to make Cath and Kim, the most successful sitcom in Australian television history.
“We had our friendship and we thought we were funny,” she said. “People want to keep you in your box,” she said. “It’s easier and less threatening and it’s incompetence. If you’re talking to someone who doesn’t get your idea, then you’re talking to the wrong someone! Find someone else to listen.”
And Szubanski shared her top tips for dealing with hecklers and doubters. “In mixed groups I feel like I have a right to be there – I'm there because I know stuff. If you don’t respond in a defensive way, you won't communicate defensively,” she said, recommending her audience Google comedians’ tried and tested responses to hecklers, and employ them when confronted by naysayers.
The recipient of multiple accolades throughout her career, Szubanski is a regular on Australia’s top ten most liked and trusted list and her book ‘Reckoning’ was the Australian Book Industry Awards’ book – and biography – of the year in 2016.
She said she believes the empathy women bring to the business sphere is going to create the world we want to live in.
“I'm very much of the view that feminism is something that profoundly benefits all of humanity,” she said. “It excites me that those broad-minded values and that entrepreneurial spirit is going to save the planet.”
And she encouraged the assembled guests not to fear failure saying: “I've had failures but who remembers? People don't care. No one no matter how successful anyone else is, they’re still just as insecure and just as uncertain as you are, and just as likely to fail.
“A brave action makes you brave. The only thing that's certain is you’ll kick yourself if you don't try.”