Tamar Broadbent, Writer, Comedian, Actor

Positivity is important in life, as well as in art. I like to make audiences laugh and walk away feeling, in some way, positive and hopeful, because I think life is hard and it is a big responsibility of art to make people feel happy, regardless if this feeling lasts for just five minutes, or it is something they can carry away with them for a lifetime. It took me a number of years to know what I want to do as a writer, now I know it’s definitely to make people happy.

Tamar Broadbent

A British comedian, singer, award-winning songwriter, improv trainer and actor. Tamar Broadbent is all about everything and anything creative; she seeks creativity in everything she does. Tamar is also an event moderator, and last year she was the first woman to host the Nordic Business Forum; a significant annual business conference that inspires attendees to take their leadership skills and business to the next level. When asked to describe herself in three words, Tamar said “I’m positive, joyful, and a storyteller”.

Whether you watch Tamar performing in an improv show or singing one of her comical, catchy story songs on stage, you cannot help but crack up laughing or smiling feeling the positive energy she gives off while doing the things she loves the most. You will definitely notice her charming onstage presence. 

Broadbent earned her bachelor’s in English from Bristol University, and then went on to train at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama for a year. She always knew that she wanted to do something in the art space but didn’t know what it was yet. It wasn’t until she was leaving drama school in 2012 that Tamar came across comedy. It started with traditional stand-up comedy which she learned through watching other people perform around the U.K. and it took off from there. Tamar watched her first improv comedy show in 2015 and that’s when she fell in love with it, then decided to study this form of comedy at the Free Association in London.

“Improv is very addictive because it’s different every time and that’s pretty magical, there’s something really special about it. And once you start doing it, it becomes impossible to stop.” Tamar added

Tamar combined her love for writing songs and her desire to be a comedian, to make comedy songs about millennial life and the things you go through as a young woman. She wrote 20 to 30 story songs over the years and recently got two of her songs released on Spotify, “Businesswoman” and “Instagram”.

“I’ve had such fun with making comedy songs, it’s not a new thing but you don’t see it as much because it’s harder to put on television. So, the majority of television is traditional stand-up comedy, while comedy music is more of a live performance thing.” Broadbent said 

She has written musical shows, short stories, songs, and has performed in various theatres around the world, including the U.K., U.S. and Australia. Tamar moved to Amsterdam in 2018 to join Boom Chicago, a well-known American theatre, whose alumni include Seth Meyers and Kay Cannon, where she performed and taught improv comedy.

“To me, comedy is all about finding joy, anywhere and everywhere one possibly can. I learned my sense of humor from my mom and my family, I have always had a positive attitude in life thinking “what can you do when you go through tough times but laugh and go through life?”. I always said to myself, I want to find joy in hopelessness, trauma and the tough challenges in life.” Tamar added

Women to Watch™ Media met Tamar Broadbent in the heart of Amsterdam and discussed comedy, inspiration, challenges, success, failure and more…

Was there a moment when you knew that being a comedian is what you really want?

It’s so funny because I don’t definitely know that till now; I am a comedian and I have always been one growing up, but I don’t just want to be one thing. I want to be so many things; I want to be a comedian, but I also want to be a writer, a singer, a songwriter, an activist. I want to write sitcoms, I want to write a novel, I want to do an album, I want to travel and do a travel blog. Comedy will always be part of my writing; it will always be a part of what I do and who I am. 

When I was younger, I wanted to be an actress or a singer, but I didn’t want to be a comedian because I didn’t see it as useful to me.  I didn’t know that women could do it. We were told to be pretty and clever when we were little, but not to be jokers in any way; we were not encouraged to be funny. I learned the power of being funny in my early twenties. There is a lot of power in comedy and maybe that’s why women were kept away from it, but this has changed.

When did you come to comedy?

I didn’t make my way to comedy until I was leaving drama school, thinking to myself “What am I going to do now?”. I realized that it was going to be really difficult for me to stand out; it was 2012 and the casting calls that came through were very limited, as there were less parts for women back then. I knew that I wanted to do something in the art space but I didn’t know what it was yet. 

Knowing that I couldn’t sit around waiting to be casted in something, I thought I’d check the comedy scene. There’s a great circuit in comedy in the U.K., meaning if you start performing and get good enough, then you can be paid to perform all over England. So I could see a way forward with comedy; if I work hard enough, write a lot of songs, write a lot of jokes and just keep going to shows, then I can do more and more gigs.

That’s how I discovered and learned stand-up comedy; through watching other people do standup in theaters or tiny pubs in the middle of nowhere in the U.K. and it kind of went on from there. I learnt about improv comedy in 2015 when I watched a show. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I thought to myself “oh my God I would love to do this”. Knowing that there’s a mechanics to it, a science and premise for game, I thought I can learn that.  So, I decided to study improv at the Free Association in London and it changed my life. 

Did you have a role model growing up? 

I would say ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ because she was so strong and fierce, and it was really fun to watch a TV show about a female hero who was so tough yet wasn’t hard and unemotional like a lot of the modern strong female leads nowadays. She was a normal teenage girl who had this huge responsibility, she made the right decisions and fought for what was right. She had good friends, who she valued highly, and she had her heart broken. I wanted to be like her; she was super girl. 

Do you have a favorite comedian or someone you look up to? 

Honestly, no. I have different types of artists who inspire me, I really love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, I think they do all the things that I love, and they are really paving the way. I also admire lots of song and film writers, so it’s really hard to point out one person who I look up to, I just let it all wash over me. 

Did you have a support system growing up?

I had a wonderful mom; I owe her everything and I’m very grateful for her support. She’s my biggest fan, she had a lot of confidence in me and that really helped. My brother and sister are also very supportive. I also have strong female friendships, which I think is very important.  

Name something that guides both your personal and professional development.

Maybe having a therapist, which is a new thing for me, investing in my own mental well-being. It helps me keep track of things and keep the balance when I’m going through something. I’m very lucky that I haven’t really struggled with mental health, but I have been through patches where I’ve felt unhappy.

I think that having a therapist is important and empowering, especially when you’re in a relationship; it allows you to not put all your issues on another person and expect them to help you. Friends and partners can help of course, but it’s not anyone’s responsibility to make sure you’re okay, this is something that you need to take care of.

I’m really proud of taking the decision to invest in my mental well-being, because we invest a lot in our physical body trying to be healthy, and I think it should be just as important and normal to invest in our mental health without being ashamed of it. Obviously, this is a luxury that I can afford right now, and I know it can be inaccessible or unaffordable for some people, but I think if you can have a therapist, then you should. 

How can someone find laughter and humor in hardship? 

I don’t know how you can find it but if you do it’s really worth it. My grandma was a great and a very funny woman, but she wasn’t very generous with money; she would never part with anything and she would barely put a five-pound note in a birthday card, and that was her kind of flaw. It was so sad when we lost her in 2014; it was a very tough time for the whole family, especially for my mother. One night, after the funeral, the whole family gathered and went out for dinner. When my mom took out her wallet to pay, she pulled out a credit card and said “oh I got mom’s credit card with me” then she put it back in her wallet. So, I looked at her and said, “This is what grandma would’ve wanted, isn’t it?”. This just made my mom crack up laughing in a way that she had not laughed since grandma passed away. So just a moment like that in the face of something really difficult helped us survive the hard time we were going through. 

Someone said, “In the depth of your darkest moments, smile”, what do you think about this? 

It’s beautiful, I love it. Smiling is contagious; it’s very difficult not to smile when someone is smiling at you, therefore it brings us together. Also, laughter and humor can break tension and bring people together. Something that I want to do is smile through darkness and help somebody smile through darkness, not to discredit depression which cannot be fixed by just smiling, but I think it helps. 

How do you regain focus in challenging times? 

I do have days when I get quite bad anxiety, days where I wake up and I just can’t get out of bed, or it feels too overwhelming to start the day. In those situations, I tell myself that I can’t control how I feel but I can control what I do, and I know that doing something would help me feel better. So I would exercise, do some admin work or prepare a meal, because doing something productive will mean that I have made progress and I got up. There is nothing worse for me than the feeling of not having gone for a run and not having tried to write anything, while sitting around all day thinking I should’ve done this or that. So I make a decision to get up and do something productive or just take the day off and watch TV the whole day. For me personally it’s always better to do something instead of sitting in the feeling of struggling, anxiety and unhappiness.

The last show I wrote “Best Life” was all about that; it’s a snapshot of modern millennial life, what success means in the modern world,and the things we tell ourselves, like “I should be buying a house by now” or “I should be at this point in my career or “I should be in this type of relationship”, when none of this means anything. It’s just different ways of abusing ourselves and not appreciating the things we do have. 

I think that there is really something powerful in the idea of being grateful for whatever you have and what you’ve done today and rewarding yourself by being kind to yourself knowing that you are enough, and what you’ve done is enough. It’s not bad to be ambitious but I think it can be damaging to be too strict on yourself. 

What are you grateful for today?

Having this lovely chat with you. Lattes, I’m really into coconut milk lattes at the moment so I’m really grateful for those. Also, for the staff of “Coffee Company” and “Coffee Roastery”, they’re always really nice when you go in, and that’s great. I’m grateful for my family, my boyfriend and my friends. Being able to perform improv, and I’m really grateful for the occasional very good red wine, I love it so much.

What does success mean to you? 

It has changed over the years, but I believe that success is probably happiness, so as an artist success is being happy with the things I’ve created, or the work that I’m doing regardless of where that work gets me. So now I am writing a pilot script which I want to be proud of even if doesn’t become a show and go on TV. Same goes for writing songs; I don’t have to reach hundreds and thousands of people; having any number of people enjoying them is success to me. 

Also, having strong friendships and performing with Lizz Kemery and Cené Hale is a wonderful thing that I’m proud of and I think that’s success. Making someone happy and making someone in the audience laugh. Of course, I will be thankful for the people who cared about my work and enjoyed it, but these are the things that will make me happy and proud the most when I’m an old lady looking back at my life. 

How excited are you about your songs being released on Spotify now? 

I’m so excited because a lot of these songs I played live and they’ve been in my shows everywhere I go, but now to have them actually produced is really cool. Sasha Hoedemaker, the musician who produced the songs, is so talented and so great to work with. I really want to get all my songs recorded and out there for people to watch and listen to. 

Do you get inspiration from things that happened in your life?

I get 95% of inspiration from things I went through, that’s how I come up with ideas and that’s also my way into humanity. I usually write about something that I’ve been through, imagining why that happened and what’s funny about it, and then put it in another scenario. So it’s a spark of something that’s real and human and then it grows from that. 

How did you get over your insecurities and limiting beliefs? 

I would love to say that there was a simple way to get over my insecurities, but I suspect it’s just years and age, I’m 30 now. So, growing up, maturing, and having done work, and feeling confident in the work I’ve done is part of it. 

It’s not completely gone, there will still be days where I feel I’m not a prominent Hollywood actress, they are all so very beautiful and women have to be beautiful to be in film while men definitely don’t. It is rare to find a film about a woman who is average looking, which makes me feel angry and makes me think that it’s still not equal. So there are still days when that affects me but in general I just think “let it go, you get one life”, I got tired of disliking myself and judging myself based on appearance and I can say that I’m much happier in my own skin now.

What’s your greatest accomplishment or something that you are really proud of? 

I’m really proud of my Edinburgh shows, specifically the one I later took to New York, it’s about the meaning of success nowadays compared to what it meant for the older generation. In preparation for the show, I asked my grandma what success meant to her growing up in the 1940’s, and what mattered to her was love, family and friendship. But now success is more about Instagram likes and how many followers you have. But once you strip all that away, what is really left? It’s family, love (self and romantic love), and friendships, so creatively and on a personal level this is what I’m most proud of. 

You’ve talked about success, but what is failure in your opinion? 

Someone once told me “If you’re not failing then you’re not succeeding enough”. So for me failure is a fantastic word, I love it, it means you tried, you took a step out of the door today. One shouldn’t be ashamed of failure because it only brings you closer to success, and if you don’t fail as an artist, you don’t really get to the beautiful things.  

I also believe that done is better than good; so don’t wait for your ideas to be perfect, just get them around, that’s how you learn to get better and stronger; by trying again and again. Failure itself is so funny, it can hurt so much at the time it happens, but it’s often something you laugh about when you look back. 

How do you cope with the disapproval of the world?

The other day I mentioned menstruation in a scene, and some of the audience groaned which made me so angry because it’s still not okay for women to talk about this stuff. I saw so many filthy material being talked about on stage, so why is this okay but talking about period is repulsive? We get taught by the world to be disgusted by our own femininity, this is an indoctrination that we’re still getting over, and we’re still learning to be confident in our own body. 

I was taught to write about what I love, not what I hate, and I want to spread love and joy. I’m not going to censor myself or change myself for people who don’t like or disapprove of who I am. If someone doesn’t like what I say in my shows, then they can stop coming. There will always be haters and the way I like to combat haters is by spreading joy.

What’s your favorite comedy show? 

I don’t think I have a favorite, I have what I like at any given time, so at the moment I love “The Good Place”, I think it’s the kind of show that’s easy to watch and that makes you really happy, it’s wonderful. I also really enjoyed “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”. And I really love “Dead to me”, I was so addicted to it, I thought it was awesome because it’s a perfect example of a show that’s so funny but really dark at the same time, talking about grief and a real situation yet having so much humor in it. I also love Jane the Virgin; I think it has one of my favorite characters I’ve ever seen on television which is Rogelio, he’s a phenomenal comedic actor and the character is so well written, he has a life of his own and can go anywhere. I love it when a character is so strong that they just jump off the page and out the screen.

The shows you mentioned are starring brilliant, funny women comedians, yet I still hear people saying, “men are funnier than women”?

If we look everywhere, I bet people are saying that about most things. I bet they would say men are better at this and that, this is just a standard inbuilt misogyny that is outdated and not true, the evidence is there if you look for it. There are women comedians who are doing great things out there, it just takes time for some people to catch up and break their narrow mindedness. 

But it’s also possible that these men don’t find women funny because they can’t relate to the jokes that women make. It could also be that men don’t want women to be funny because they don’t want a girlfriend who’s funnier than them, as it’s important for them to be the funny ones. That’s not how all men are; my boyfriend is such a supporter in every sense, a supporter of me as a comedian and of women in general. 

Why do women hesitate to pursue leadership roles where they are? 

I find questions like this tough because I can’t speak for all women, but I think it probably has something to do with the fact that we are not necessarily encouraged at a young age to be leaders. I know that when I was very young, I enjoyed being clever and being a leader, then I hit puberty and I think something happens to women when they hit puberty which makes them step back. Maybe it’s the beginning of being sexualized where you grow into this body that almost feels like it’s not yours. I remember my whole value belief system started to change and I started having a lot of insecurities, thinking the prettier I am  the better I am, and the more successful I was going to be. I was worried that I was ugly and therefore useless, and I wanted the boys to be attracted to me rather than find me interesting or respect me. 

It’s complicated but certainly what I found when I was doing stand-up is that I was valuing myself for what I have to say and what my opinion was, and I realized I haven’t done that for a really long time, at least not in public. So standup comedy taught me to get up there and showed me that my voice matters, which is powerful. 

I think it’s hard for women to be powerful and take the reins to be powerful because society hasn’t convinced us that that’s a good thing for us as women. Of course, it is, but powerful women don’t necessarily get the man in the front cover or the Disney movie. I think things are changing; being a teenager now is probably much better than it was in the 90s and 2000s because there is more emphasis on feminism and gender roles. ‘Moana’ is a legend, I wish I watched that movie when I was younger. I do hope more women come forward and become powerful. It’s never too late.

Written by Yasmeen Smadi

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