So, what's so funny about menopause?

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Hearing that the subject of menopause featured in a number of shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, we had to find out more, so we took a Hot Flush whistle stop trip to Edinburgh. There were at least five shows on the packed programme looking at women’s health issues and with menopause and its’ symptoms at the core. In our short trip we were lucky enough to take in two shows and meet and talk about the shows with the comics themselves.

It’s all too easy to talk about menopause negatively thus reinforcing its misery, so it was refreshing to see it being dealt with so effectively by female comics who having experienced it personally or professionally know what they’re talking about. It really was a case of listen, laugh and learn. The black humour of menopause was shared by women in the know, with some already in the know, some who wanted to find out more and some who looked like they’d been brought along to get ‘in the know’!

A stand-up comedy routine about leaking when you laugh, sneeze or cough may bring to mind old-school, dodgy Les Dawson sketches where drags, ‘Cissie & Ada’, gossiped and grimaced about ‘hilarious’ things including women wetting themselves as they get older! But Elaine Miller’s show, ‘Gusset Gripper’, couldn’t have been further from this portrayal. As a woman’s health physiotherapist, a mother who’d delivered her babies with, as she said, ‘heads’ and now a recovered incontinent, ‘Gusset Gripper’ shared the wonders of the pelvic floor, explaining why women need  to pay it careful attention approaching menopause.

In a series of frank and incredibly funny anecdotes told mainly at her own expense, supported by props, costumes (!) and a catchy song that’s still an earworm for me weeks later, Elaine made sure the audience left her show being extremely well-informed of what happens ‘downstairs’ when things aren’t as they should be. The audience at her sold out show lapped it up, picking up via the medium of comedy, the good news that there are simple steps you can take to fix things when they go a bit awry with your pelvic floor. Her key message being, don’t put up with the all too common painful sex and urinary incontinence, ‘come to clinic’, seek help. We loved that this show also counted as CPD for healthcare professionals, training that was as educational as it was enjoyable.

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From 'pelvic floors', we hotfooted it over to Harriet Beveridge’s show, ‘menoPAUSE’, an account of her own ‘Oestrogen Armageddon’. Harriet delivered a hilarious, totally relatable take on how she blundered through perimenopause finding herself increasingly irritated by life’s little triggers, feeling less and less like herself. She shared her various comic efforts to get to grips with her own symptoms.

In one sketch, realising that she needed help, she grappled with the all too familiar attempt at trying to get an appointment through the automated service from her GP. It was a clever little scenario that captured how tricky it can be to talk menopause and all of its mysteries with a GP who not recognising symptoms of perimenopause, doesn’t offer appropriate help. It really wasn’t a GP bashing show but rather a shoutout to women to become informed about their choices in managing their own menopause. The women in the audience laughed loudly, nodding enthusiastically in recognition of the shared, mysterious experiences of Harriet’s tales of hormonally-induced woe that chimed with their own.

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We loved that these shows took on a subject that is often as far from funny, as a subject can be! These comics made us laugh out loud at things that would normally make us groan whilst at the same time conveying the serious message that women really don’t need to put up with whatever symptoms are bothering them in menopause. What a powerful tool humour can be.

We caught up with Elaine and Harriet afterwards, both passionate advocates of women’s health needs. They’ve been delighted by the response to their shows and are both planning to do more ‘laughing in the face of menopause’. Catch them if you can!