From Page to Stage: A Laugh Affair by Orla Doherty

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Val Troy Orla Doherty ChatterBoxx.JPG

Orla Doherty

It’s been two years since I joined Writing.ie online writing group Writers Ink. Two years of successes, failures, laughter, tears, and lots of surprises. The decision to end a 30-year squash coaching career, and focus only on my writing, was quite daunting at first. My life thus far has been filled with adventure, mishap, hilarity and some sadness but all of these experiences are underpinned by an ability to find the humour in it all.

When I first joined Writers Ink I tried my hand at the weekly Wednesday prompts, an image or a quote to get the creative juices flowing. Short prompts morphed into longer stories which I submitted into Thursday Threads and this is where the Writers Ink magic happens. Getting feedback from moderators Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, Maria McHale and my peers in the group was such a boost. Writers Ink is my safe space, a space to experiment and push my boundaries in a group where everyone is willing each other to succeed. Most of my writing is generally, but not always, grounded in my own personal experiences and the words flowed easily. I was looking for a home for these anecdotes so I made a decision to start a blog. https://orladoherty.com/ The more stories I wrote, the more I realised that I was making people laugh. My stories were relatable and honest, and I established quite a following.

But something else very significant happened shortly after I joined Writers Ink in April 2021. A piece of fiction written by a fellow Inker Val Troy caught my eye. It was a scene at a wedding where the protagonist found herself in a compromising position battling her structural underwear. I remember howling laughing at it, as it resonated so much with me. Not just the story itself, but the manner in which it was written.

I commented on the piece and made a point of reading more of Val’s stuff on a regular basis. As comedy writers we naturally gravitated towards each other.

Fast forward to October 16th, 2021 and after six months or so of continuous feedback on each other’s pieces in the group, I found myself in Dublin at a squash event and suggested a meeting of Inkers at McSorley’s pub in Ranelagh. Val was first in the door on what was a very wet night. We negotiated covid restrictions and found ourselves a small table by the bar. It was as if the universe said ‘Take a seat you two, there’s a long road ahead, so take a load off while you can’.

We could never have imagined that our encounter in Ranelagh would be the catalyst for our comedy writing collaboration. We co-wrote a comedy screenplay, ‘Men Oh! Pause’ which was long-listed in the Female Pilot Club’s screenwriting competition. This was the validation we needed. Somebody out there read our play and liked it enough to push it forward to another round. We were thrilled.

We met regularly at my apartment in Malahide, where all the magic seems to happen. We have been known to sip Prosecco while snacking on wagon wheels developing new projects. It’s the writer’s diet.

The connection between us as comedy writers is quite extraordinary. We are polar opposites in many ways. Val is a former accountant, married with three teenagers, enjoys analysing and strategizing and likes to take her time. I’m gay, living with my partner and her two kids, and I suffer from a terrible dose of impatience. I enjoy instant gratification, quick decision-making, and am scandalously impulsive. So how does it work? It just does. There’s an invisible energy between us that bounces back and forth like electricity. We constantly have each other in hysterics and in public, many of our friends have suggested that ‘you two should be on the stage’. That got us thinking.

I spent a year on the Irish stand-up comedy circuit, but I stepped back from it just before Covid because I preferred writing to performing. But Val was determined to give it a go. And that’s what she did. In April this year, she performed her debut stand-up gig at Sin E, a small pub in the heart of Dublin city with a thriving comedy club, Hysteria Comedy. She is a natural. Funny, sharp, and confident. The crowd loved her.

So, what next? We’d discussed branding ourselves as a writing duo, but needed to find ways to build our profile and an audience. Both of us are regular contributors to the Funny Women online magazine – a UK organisation promoting women in comedy for the last 20 years. Following Val’s success as a stand-up we reached out to Funny Women to share that success. Immediately afterwards, Lynne Parker, founder of Funny Women, casually mentioned that she was looking for someone to re-launch the Dublin Chapter of Funny Women and to produce and host a live event in Dublin. Far be it from us to say no, we jumped at the chance. Producing such a show would strengthen our comedy writing credentials, build our profile, and potentially open doors for other opportunities.

ChatterboxxAfter some serious brainstorming, we came up with our comedy duo name – ChatterBoxx. It fits us well. Val is all about the chatter, I go on rants about my box, albeit in a delightfully inappropriate way, and generally with reference to perimenopause. A box is also a term for ‘stage’ in showbusiness, and there are two X chromosomes in the female gender, which aligns with who we are. We then launched our profile on Instagram @we_are_chatterboxx. Check us out. We went back to ChatterBoxx HQ in Malahide and put our plans for the show in place. We targeted some of our own favourite comedians and coerced one of our favourite writers, Barbara Scully, to join us on the night, where she’ll read some funny extracts from her book Wise Up!

On June 19th, ChatterBoxx will host our first-ever live comedy show in the main room in Whelans, Wexford St, with an all-female cast. We are tickled pink to share the same stage as such iconic performers like Ed Sheeran, Christy Moore, Artic Monkeys….and now ChatterBoxx. Tickets are on sale at https://www.whelanslive.com/ticket/funny-women/

We have a few surprises up our sleeves on the night and are delighted to know that so many of our writer’s group will be in the audience. Without Writers Ink, without Maria and Vanessa, and our community of Inkers none of this would be happening.

Sometimes magic does happen, and our laugh affair is blossoming like a glorious explosion of peonies on a summer day.

(c) Orla Doherty

Tickets are selling very quickly for the show. Click here to get yours https://www.whelanslive.com/event/funny-women/

The duo can be found on Instagram:

ChatterBoxx: we_are_chatterboxx

Val: val.troy

Orla: orladohertywriter

About the author

Orla Doherty is an emerging writer bursting to share life stories through fiction and humour. Having discovered the power of authenticity, she awakens readers to the reality that almost anything is possible. Overcoming many challenges around mental health, sexuality and the Catholic Church, her natural persuasion to tell stories with humour has a singular way of engaging readers. Influenced by Roddy Doyle, Marion Keyes, Maeve Binchy, John Boyne and David Sedaris, her essays are fresh and breezy, touching on serious topics, providing the reader with insight into tackling life’s obstacles head on. She is currently working on her debut novel, Bigger Plans, and has been published in Good Day, Cork Magazine, Funny Women Magazine, and appears regularly in Writing.ie, Irelands leading on-line magazine. She has a monthly blog https://orladoherty.com where she shares true stories of the adventures she’s had, much of which is written with dry humour and delightful inappropriateness.

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