Part of the Humourology series
Season 2, Episode 7
Penny Mallory – Driving Ambition and Amusement
Author, Speaker, Rally Car Legend, and master of mental toughness Penny Mallory joins Paul Boross on The Humourology Podcast to discuss how humour is essential for elite performers. Find out how being funny can help you through the finish line, this week on The Humourology Podcast.
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Author, Keynote Speaker, and former rally car champion, Penny Mallory joins Paul Boross to discuss comedy’s crucial role in a champion’s mindset. As a master of mental toughness, Penny knows that a sense of humour is essential for those that want to be elite. Whether you are in the driver’s seat of a rally car or the driver’s seat of a business, Penny knows that a sense of humour is the key to success.
This former racer raises resilience in drivers and business directors alike. From fierce competitors to commanders of the boardroom, Penny has the expertise to make you elite. Find out how, this week on The Humorology Podcast.
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Penny Mallory – Driving Ambition and Amusement
– Happy people are more productive. Happy people are nice to be around. If you have people that are nice to be around, you’re going to attract the best people. You cannot dial it out of a business because you’ll just dial any joy and actual talent. The coolest people will want to succeed and if there’s no joy or humour in an environment, they’ll migrate to somewhere where there is. So I would say the business case for humour is overwhelming.
– Welcome to “The Humourology Podcast” with me, Paul Boross and my glittering lineup of guests from the worlds of business, sport and comedy, who are going to share their wisdom and their use of humour with you. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals, increases the value of your laughing stock and puts a punchline back into your bottom line. Please remember to like, subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. My guest on this edition of the Humourology podcast is an award-winning author, TV presenter, keynote speaker, performance coach, and former rally champion, who is now a leading authority on mental toughness. She was the first and only woman to drive a world rally car. However, her life hasn’t always been a smooth ride. As a child she saw alcoholism and mental illness destroy her family. Fleeing home at 14, homeless and fending for herself on the London streets, her life couldn’t have been more dangerous or bleak. Yet an inner strength and self-belief enabled her to take control of her future and fill it with fun. She has perfected the art of psychologically powered performance and peppered it with a plethora of pranks. Penny Mallory, welcome to “The Humourology Podcast.”
– Oh, Paul, I’ve never had an intro like that. That’s so good.
– Oh, well we love alliteration here on “The Humourology Podcast,” Penny. Podcast, Penny. There you go.
– Well, I love alliteration. Absolutely. Yes, you can keep going with that theme, by all means.
– Well, we’re headed to have some fun, but I’d like to start with a question because you’ve been very candid about your tough start in life and leaving home at 14 and living on the streets and in hostels. Did humour help you through that time, or has it subsequently helped you come to terms with it?
– I didn’t actually spend any time on the streets. I have to say I went straight to hostels, but no, I totally lost my sense of humour at that time in my life. Nothing was funny as far as I remember, I’ve had to learn, learn to laugh, I suppose, learn to find the funny stuff. It was all a bit serious and a bit heavy back in those days, if I’m honest.
– So you’re implying that it actually has helped since, when you can look back and see the funny side of it now, can you?
– Well, I’m not sure that there was a particularly funny side to what was happening at the time. I suppose I’m still struggling to see that, but I can certainly look at life generally with more humour. It was, it felt serious at the time. It felt bleak. And I absolutely don’t remember laughing very much at that time because I mean, it sounds really dramatic and I really don’t mean it to be, I don’t want to over dramatisize this, but I obviously every day I thought how do I eat today? How do I stay alive today? So there wasn’t much joy in that, there wasn’t much humour in that, but I’ve had the most amazing life and I can look back at every point now and laugh about it. Or laugh about it but I don’t think I could laugh while I was in it.
– Yeah. But in order to get over things, I think sometimes a sense of humour can rationalise it or put a different perspective on it, don’t you think?
– Oh always. I know that now, ’cause I grew up and I got old and I got wiser like we all do, but I don’t think that I recognised the value of humour back then.
– So, what do you think the turning point was to actually recognising it?
– I don’t know the answer to that question. ‘Cause I’ve always been quite a serious person, always sort of preoccupied by stuff and taking life probably a bit too seriously. So the fact that I’m doing this podcast is brilliant ’cause it’s going to make me really think about all the funny stuff. And actually that I’m probably not that serious really. I’ve just had a bit of a serious outlook because of stuff that’s gone on, but I’m not sure that there was a point in time when it changed, but certainly my life got more relaxed. I was more able to laugh. Well, I suppose when I got in a rally car, to be honest, that’s the first time I ever was properly happy when I got in a rally car, so that was in my 20s, early 20s. So yeah, the first 20 years were a bit, bit too serious probably.
– So what was it about getting in a rally car that actually made that shift for you?
– Oh, it was. I’m going to get carried away at this point because it’s like it was yesterday. I turned up at this rally school. I was on my knees. You know, I had nothing going for me at the time, but I had this dream in my head, since I was six, that I wanted to drive. And I got into a rally car and I had the funnest day I’ve ever had in my life. I smiled more. I felt more at home. I felt comfortable. I thought this is where I belong, the smell of the mud on a hot exhaust, the sound, everything for the first time in my entire life made me feel so happy. And probably you saw a smile on my face that day, bigger than you had done for the previous 20 years. So it was everything about just feeling like I belonged, that I’d found my thing, that gave me so much happiness.
– Had you also found your tribe with people as well?
– I hadn’t at that point because it was literally a day, a rally school. You’re meant like you, anyone can book it. You’re meant to go have a lot of fun and go home and get on with your life. But I went and thought, this is, this is everything. So all I met was the instructor who to this very day is a good friend, by the way. So he has reappeared in my life in various forms, various jobs that I’ve done and places I’ve been, he’s always been there weirdly. So yes, it was the start of building a tribe where I felt I could belong, but it was the environment that I felt that I could belong because I’d had such a weird 20 years leading up to that. And I’m a prolific house mover, I moved every year or two. So I’ve moved 50 odd times. And so finding a place where I belong is really important, as well as the people, of course, the people that always brings the joy to any situation, but because I’ve been a traveller in a sense, just I can’t put roots down. And that all goes back to the childhood thing. Finding an environment where I felt comfortable was enormously important to me.
– Can you pinpoint for us, but what actually was going on inside you at the time? I’m intrigued because I can see your face. And if our listeners are just listening, they won’t see it, but your face actually lights up when you just think about rally cars and that’s in psychological terms, we call that an anchor whereby I can say the word rally to you and, and you will change state.
– Yeah, absolutely. It’s true. I’m so glad that you’ve noticed it because I can feel it. That’s why I said to you, careful, ’cause I’m going to get carried away because I know when I start talking about it, I enter a different zone, a different place. So I’m very conscious that, you know, I love talking about it ’cause it makes me feel happy. So yeah, talking about being around cars, you know, if I smell mud on a hot exhaust, it takes me back, you know, how, you know, all of our senses, just certain smells and tastes and all that kind of stuff just sends you back to times and places/ It’s exactly the same for me. But it was the most exciting time of my life. The most thrilling, the most challenging in a funny way, the hardest, because I wanted it so bad, but I couldn’t, I was never going to make it happen, it was an impossible. It represents the start of something amazing that happened to me really.
– It really was the start of a new life. And the fun that you went on to have.
– Yes, and just like a lot of things in life, you don’t realise what you got ’til it’s gone. I hadn’t realised until I drove for eight years. I didn’t realise really until the end of it, what an extraordinary thing I’d had, because when you’re in it, you’re so consumed by keeping it going and doing what you can. You’re sort of in the moment with it. And then when you, when it leaves you or you leave it, you look back and you think, oh my God, I didn’t even quite realise what was going on. It was so fantastic and so much fun, so much fun, but you know, anything, any sport is incredibly demanding and stressful and disappointing and amazing. It’s such a mixture of everything. I hadn’t been prepared for any of that when I got into a rally car at the rally school, I was completely unprepared for what was about to unfold. I just had the best time, honestly, it was amazing.
– Now ’cause you have written books, you do courses all over the world, you instruct people on world class thinking, I know that having read, “World Class Thinking” you dispel the myth that elite performers are special. What qualities do you think that elite performers need in order to succeed? And is humour a part of that?
– I think you have to be able to laugh at yourself because part of elite performance is I don’t like the word, selfishness, but it’s about, it’s about really clear focused. If you laser focus on one thing all your time and attention goes to achieving that thing, everything else will be not attended to. That would appear to be a selfish approach, but you don’t get to the top of anything. with any other approach really. It is so demanding. And it requires so much of you. Obviously, if you can laugh at yourself whilst you have the approach, that’s extremely helpful. You can be such an utter pain in the arse to everyone around you. When you are an elite performer, trying to put everything into one mission, you can become really difficult to be around and unpleasant. So maintaining humour, being able to laugh at yourself and what’s going on is really important.
– What part do you think humour plays in the resilience to become an elite performer as well? I mean, presumably you have to be incredibly resilient to get to the top level at anything.
– Well, you, of course you do. And that’s about relentlessness. It’s about being so fixed on that one thing that nothing will stand in your way, which means you’ve got to be prepared to knock every obstacle. You’ll find a way around it, through it, under, over it, whatever, because nothing will stand in your way. And in order to have that sort of discipline and relentlessness, you have to lighten that load with some humour, I think and that ability to laugh and let off some steam, ’cause it’s really intense, it’s really heavy. And I think it would drag you, it has a potential to drag you down if you can’t balance it with some laughs and some funny stuff.
– Do you actually specifically train people you’re working with, CEOs and everything that they have to see the funny side at some level?
– I Don’t train anyone to do anything actually. I challenge people to think. I don’t say I teach, I don’t say I train. I coach, I encourage, I talk, I challenge other people with very difficult questions that perhaps nobody else has asked them or they don’t, they’re not feeling courageous enough to ask themselves. I think I don’t particularly focus on building humour into their lives, but I do challenge people to see the lighter side because, you know, for everything, you know, if you have a massive challenge or a massive setback, there is always a flip to everything. You know, it’s not always just your perspective. There’s other views on the same subject. So it’s about shifting perspective, seeing the lighter side, seeing the opportunity in it, but perhaps seeing the humour in it too, yeah.
– Yeah, well, I mean, humour is about shifting perspective, isn’t it? It’s seeing it from another angle.
– So penny, what makes you laugh?
– I’ve been worrying about you asking me this question because I’m not politically correct. And that has got me into trouble. So the stuff that makes me laugh shouldn’t make me laugh. You know, if I’m being PC about it. So what makes me laugh is people falling over on the ice. I can, I properly have to cross my legs. I can hardly get breath, people slipping and falling on the ice, hilarious. People who fall over on a beach and can’t get up because the wave keeps knocking them down again. That’s sort of, it’s sort of a bit slapstick, but that kills me. And that’s really a wicked sense of humour isn’t it? ‘Cause it’s not that I’m wishing badness on people. It’s just that tickles my funny bone. What else makes me laugh? See, it just makes me laugh thinking about it. She’d better not hear, but one of my daughters loves animals to pieces and she rescued, when she was a kid, she used to rescue animals, but she did it really badly. ‘Cause she didn’t really understand, you know, that you can’t keep a beetle in a matchbox, it won’t survive. So if she did that and it died, it would make me laugh because she was so committed to animals. But, and I was like, well, you can’t be committed unless you understand what’s going on. Obviously it’s, so that sort of thing makes me laugh. And I’ll tell you what else makes me laugh, is man, women jokes, gender stuff. Again, you have to be so careful what you say, but I’ve been married a couple of times, divorced a couple of times. I’m not very good at relationships. So I quite like taking the Mickey out for myself and men and driving and all that stuff makes me laugh. I just have to be super careful these days because I can, everyone can be offended. And I, see I’m not offended by anything really. So I forget that other people get offended. So I have to walk a little bit on thin ice and that’s a shame, isn’t it?
– Well, if you’re walking on that thin ice, it could be a hilarious moment for you ’cause you’d fall.
– It could be, ’cause I would be slipping all over the place. You see, I run every day. I fell over the other day and it’s quite, when you fall over as a grownup, it’s not, but I fell over in all the mud and I’m laughing thinking, this is so funny. And that makes me laugh. And then when my other daughter that I was just referring to, she runs with me. Sometimes she falls over and instead of being the proper, natural, nurturing mother going to pick her up, I just stand there, laughing at her too. So it’s bad, isn’t it, ’cause everything I’m describing sounds like it’s everyone’s misfortune, that I’m laughing at. It just, just makes me laugh.
– But it’s inherent in human nature. I’ve worked a lot in Germany and you seem to have a very Germanic sense of humour because they’re always talking about a fat man falling over. You know?
– Are they? Are they ?
– Yeah, well, those are like the people I’m hanging around with and everything, but there just seems to be, but that physicality and actually as a psychologist, it makes sense because you are very kinesthetic. And so when you see something that physical that happens, it has that automatic effect on your psyche, I would say.
– Yeah, but that makes me sound like a really bad person, doesn’t it? I’m just being honest. But it does, makes me feel a bit bad.
– But hold on, Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton were all built on this, these sight gags as well, which is what you’re talking about.
– But interestingly, I never found that sort of stuff funny. It’s too. I don’t know.
– You want real people to fall over and get hurt, Penny.
– I do, I do. Yeah, I do. You know this sound, oh God, this is going to be such a bad interview, isn’t it, makes me sounds so awful, but I do, I just, I don’t like set up stuff. So some of the, you know, the ‘slap-sticky’ stuff on what’s that show where every, it’s just lots of clips of people, “You’ve Been Framed.” Some of that makes me laugh, but that’s a TV show, make, obviously makes lots of people laugh. So I, maybe I’m not so odd.
– No, you’re not odd at all. ‘Cause it was one of the most popular formats in the world for about 20 years. So you’re not odd, Penny. Whatever makes you laugh, makes you laugh. Talking of which, tell me a true, funny story about something that’s happened to you.
– All my funny stories are just embarrassing ones. So one particular, this is, oh God, I’m going to really regret saying this. I was filming. I was filming “Driven,” which was a car show on channel four, many years ago with Mike Brewer, Jason Plato, every day was the funniest funniest day of my life. I’ve never laughed so much making “Driven,” it was hilarious. Mike Brewer is, or certainly was the funniest man. And the two of them together was, it was just pure comedy the whole time. We were filming in a car park one particular day and I went to the loo and when I came back out of the pub, some of my camera men said, “You might want to look behind you.” And I had a trail of loo roll coming out the back of my jeans. So those sorts of things I think are really funny. And that’s just, it’s embarrassing of course, but that’s the sort of thing I find funny. And I’ve met a guy in a pub on a blind date with my skirt tucked in my knickers at the backs to the bar, stuff like that, just rubbish.
– How did that date go?
– He, somebody pointed it out before he walked in. Thank the Lord. But I was so flustered and blushing, he must’ve thought that’s what I was normally like. That date didn’t go enormously well as I recall, but yeah, just it’s, that’s just sort of humiliation thing that I can laugh at. But my honestly, Mike and Jason, if I’ve been so lucky, so blessed, so when I did “Driven”, honestly, every day, my face was aching from laughing because they were just bouncing off it with the three, the three of us were just such, it was just a funny team. It was just all built on laughter. And you’re making me realise now the importance of laughter, ’cause that job was relentless, just filming day in, day out, month in, month out, you don’t stop. It’s long hours. If you can’t laugh, you can’t do that job. It’s impossible, so that’s, yeah, I’ve never really reflected on that until this very moment, but that’s probably why the show was a big success as well. ‘Cause we were having such a good time.
– There’s a saying in psychology that if you want anybody to go into really any state, you have to go into that state first. It really is, you know, you change other people’s state the things. So you say about it being successful. The whole Humourology project is about people understanding that things can become much more successful if you have a lightness, if you have humour in there and you’ve just given a perfect example with “Driven” and that obviously came across to people at home as well.
– Well, I guess it did. You know, in hindsight we probably just let everything you know, you think, oh, I could have done that so much better now, but we were having genuinely fantastic time. We were three genuinely good friends and same, you know, every show I’ve done, actually I’ve worked with some really cool people who make me laugh and that definitely definitely makes an impact. And actually looking back at the shows where there wasn’t that chemistry between me and the co-host or whatever, actually probably the quality of the show is less because we had less lightness, less laughter, less connection.
– I think that’s completely true. And I think that’s a takeaway for everybody listening to this is to understand that if you create an aura of laughter and of lightness in your company, this comes across and more business comes.
– Absolutely, and of course who isn’t drawn to someone funny? You know, I don’t want to sit around with miserable people. I want to sit around with people that make me have to cross my legs so that I don’t wet myself. And I just want, everyone’s drawn to funny people aren’t they, it’s a really important quality.
– Why do you think that is? Because I mean, it is, I think universally true, but why do you think it’s true?
– I’m just guessing it changes your state physiology. You know, the chemical balance changes, I’m guessing.
– You get neurochemicals in your brain as a result of laughter. So it’s feel good basically. You have the feel good factor and it pervades to other people. So it’s basically drug addiction.
– On some level. You are addicted to being it, so you are, if you are funny and if you make other people laugh and you make other people smile, people will keep on wanting to come back for more.
– Exactly that, and if you think about, you’re probably much better at relationships than I, ’cause most people are. But if I look back on the relationships that were really successful, it was the ones that, you know, they might’ve ended, but they were the ones I look back on really favourably, are the one when I was with somebody who just made me laugh. And the ones that didn’t make me laugh was really hard work. Yeah. Is so important. So important.
– It’s a release valve as well, I mean, do you think everyone has the potential to be funny or do you think it’s something that only the elite have?
– No, not at all, everyone has the potential to be funny. It’s just that if you’re taking life too seriously, then it’s only because you, I’m thinking of some kind of water level here, you know, you can take life too seriously. Just don’t give any space for joy and laughter. So you’ve just got to learn or unlearn the seriousness and to let the lighter stuff take more space in your life. I don’t know the last, obviously last year and a half, whatever, it’s just been so distressing for some people that there’ll be an awful lot of people, I guess, really struggling to find the joy in anything right now, ’cause they’ve had such a diabolical time, but there will be funniness in it all. And I remember listening to an interview, I can’t remember with somebody, some actor or something saying, you know, should some jokes, should some funny stuff be out of bounds, and they said, no, there’s funny. There’s funny and cancer, there’s funny in death, there’s funny in everything. And then of course you get to some real dodgy ground. You think, well, where’s the funny in that, but you can, I think you can find humour in almost everything.
– It’s how it’s put forward, if it’s done with love. I mean, I think, you know, sometimes there, my background is the Comedy Store and for 10, 12 years. So I’ve seen every level of comedy and I think everything can be laughed at, I completely agree. But some of us personally have things that we don’t like, or aren’t delivered to us in a way think is acceptable. But I think you’re quite right. That everything can be funny on some level.
– So taking that, what would the world be like without humour?
– I can’t even imagine it, that would, it would just be pretty poor, wouldn’t it? Be really hard work. Everything would take longer. I don’t even want to think about it. Don’t even make me think about it. ‘Cause it’s so such an ugly thought, the world without humour, not even going to answer it, Paul don’t want to go there.
– Well that, that’s an answer in itself, Penny, to be honest with you.
– Yeah, it’s just too horrible a prospect, isn’t it, really?
– Yeah, no it is. And it’s frightening and it’s not until somebody says that to you, that you actually go, oh my God.
– There is no way to diffuse any of this stuff. And it’s very interesting that you said you’ve spent the first 20 years being very serious and now you see the value of it because you know, unlike most people, you haven’t had it for a period of your life. So probably it’s, it’s even more bright, is it not for you?
– Well, I suppose so, the contrast is there isn’t it, as a child I didn’t laugh at all. I didn’t, I don’t have any photographs of me being happy, they’re all, as my ex would say, my resting bitch face. I have a miserable face in all my childhood pictures. ‘Cause I was a really unhappy kid. And then, and then that becomes a kind of, that’s how I am, I’m a miserable person. And it takes a little while to grow out of that skin and discover that there’s another world out there and that’s not you at all. But yeah, I definitely spent 20 years completely missing out on the prospect of seeing the funny side of stuff.
– It must’ve been a protection mechanism on some level, mustn’t it, of just protecting yourself from what was a cruel world to a child.
– Yeah, it was, it was protecting myself probably, but also it was a practical thing, like I didn’t have anywhere to live. So I have to go and find somewhere and then that disappears and then you’ve got to find somewhere else and it’s relentless, it’s boring and it’s depressing. But you know, as I’m talking about this, I’m thinking, hang on a minute, there was a girl in that hostel that we used to laugh and just, you’re making me think of things I’ve forgotten all about. I did, I did laugh in those times. I’m quite cross with myself now for not realising that.
– But that’s great that you actually recognise because there must have been little moments because I talked to people who’ve been in wars, you know, and they go, “It’s horrible, it’s serious, but you need that sense of humour to be your shield at times just to get you through.”
– Yes, and of course you just know, you’re just opening up my mind to that now. So we have to do the whole interview again because I just remembered things that you’ve made me recall.
– Tell me, tell me something that you recalled.
– Well, I’m thinking of the first time, in this hostel I ever stayed in, there was a lady called Michelle and Michelle was funny and I’ve just remembered this. I’ve forgotten all about it ’til today. And we were both on our uppers of course, but we used to laugh and we were very unlike each other. We were very, you know, not similar types of people. I can’t remember what we laughed about, Paul, but we did laugh and it’s all coming back to me.
– Well, is that great, that actually that it’s triggered a good memory in the midst of all that darkness. Yeah.
– Absolutely. Thanks for that.
– Oh, come on, it’s our pleasure at “The Humourology Podcast.” Do you find yourself funny?
– Well, that’s different to, can I laugh at myself? I’m probably just not clever enough with words and my brain probably isn’t sharp enough to come back with the funnies as quickly. You know, I’m really envious of people that can just, you know, in half a second, come back with something brilliant and I’m a bit slow on that stuff. And I don’t think I’m particularly funny, but I’m very good at laughing at myself, but I know they’re different.
– Well, they are, but we’re actually, that’s funny on part of the Humourology project, we don’t say that everybody needs to be a gagster or a joker. Actually some of the most valuable people in a set-up are people who can laugh, who can laugh easily, who can laugh long, laugh loud and make the atmosphere for everyone else. So it’s kind of, everybody needs an audience to an extent.
– You talk about when you are doing your lectures and keynotes and things, you talk about the four Cs, I know as being the basis for everything control, commitment, challenge, confidence. Would you consider a fifth C of comedy? Yes, yes, absolutely. I’ll have to redo all my graphics though. But yes, you’re absolutely right. It should be on there, shouldn’t it? Comedy.
– Absolutely. Because actually the mental toughness thing, it is an element of course, and you’re responsible today for making me think about all sorts of things that I’ve not thought about before, but the humour in stuff, the spinning things around, the new perspectives, all of those things would encompass comedy and just the lighter side of stuff. So important actually that we do that all of us and it is part of building mental toughness, isn’t it?
– I was going to say it’s a huge part of building mental toughness, but then I would say that anyway, but-
– Wouldn’t I? But it surely has to be because if you can’t see the humour in something, you are going to be dragged down by it. And so, you know, if we talk about control, I worked with Sir Clive Woodward and he talks about controlling the controllables. But actually, humour, I would say is about understanding what is out of your control and being able to lighten it and laugh at it.
– Yes, which makes life bearable apart from anything else, isn’t it, because you know, none of us could control the weather today, but we can control how we manage the weather. So I can go out in the weather with wellies and an umbrella, if I fall over in the rain, it would be quite funny.
– It will be quite funny, but you know that Billy, Billy Connolly said, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.
– Exactly, so it is about understanding what you can control, just not getting over, over stressed about what you can’t control. But of course we all have more influence than we ever think. We do have, even with the things we can’t control, you can influence things more, you do have more control. You have all the control of how you react to everything. So there’s more that can be controllable than first meets the eye.
– And your fourth C, I think it is, is confidence. Do you think that the humour enhances confidence? ‘Cause I personally do.
– Well, you’ve done the comedy clubs, haven’t you? And I did a course. I’m going to regret admitting to this. I did a one day thing at the Comedy Store because I thought that of all the things, you know, that’s most people’s worst nightmare, isn’t it? Standing on a stage, trying to be funny, just why would you do that to yourself? So I thought so I must. So I did a thing and I had more confidence than I thought I would have. And that’s about having enough gags, enough stories, enough funnies, sort of stored up for them.
– Well, humour and confidence. How interlinked are they?
– Ah, you see, I can think of instances of confident people who are really funny and people who lack confidence, who are also really funny. So I’m not sure what the answer to that is.
– I think it shows confidence to be honest with you, if you, if you can make people laugh, if you can laugh at yourself, I think if you can show a lightness, I think that is what people detect and go, she’s confident in enough to laugh at herself.
– Yes, but you see in my own experience, so in the old days, when we used to do live events with a live audience, one of the first things I would say on stage was, I would tell a joke. And it was a joke about taking the Mickey out of myself. And so I drew it, strung it out a bit and it always, always worked, it was always funny. It just doesn’t work online. I haven’t found a way to make it work virtually ’cause there’s no feedback, you know? So really hard, so I lacked confidence in doing those gags online, but being able to have the confidence to take the Mickey out of yourself, live in front of, you know, hundreds of thousands of people is a useful thing, but I think the confidence has to be genuine and it can’t be pretend confidence ’cause you can’t pull it off properly then. So I really, really don’t mind taking the Mickey out of myself all day long. It makes me laugh that I can do that.
– Well, I’m interested in-
– You want to hear the joke, I’m not going to tell you. You have to believe that.
– Well, ladies and gentlemen, book Penny Mallory to hear the gag, but I’m interested in the fact that you think you have to be confident. I think, I mean, to an extent we can all create ’cause is anybody truly 100% confident?
– Well, I don’t know, ’cause actually now you’re saying that I’m thinking that all the comedians are the ones that actually are dying inside, aren’t they? Or is this just a myth? But they are, they might often lack real self-confidence in their, you know, in themselves. So they put this cloak on and the mask and go on the stage and be funny.
– I think very many comedians are quite shy, but you wouldn’t know it as soon as their foot, actually a lot of actors as well, and probably a lot of speakers as well.
– Yeah, and I would count myself as one of them. I’m a naturally shy person.
– Yeah, except nobody would say it with your background of speaking, television, rally driving that you didn’t have confidence to put yourself forward. So it’s kind of an anathema to say, you know, all these people are like that. It’s a trigger, it’s a trigger. And we all learn to do something. And which is for our listeners very useful when they hear that somebody as successful as yourself is, you consider intrinsically shy. But I bet as soon as your foot steps on the stage, you become that confident Penny Mallory, don’t you?
– Yeah, you absolutely do. I’m worried, a little bit worried about my first live keynote, which will be in the next few months, my nerves, because I’ve got really confident doing it from a screen on, you know, my desk, and then, and so I will have some confidence issues, but I’m quite good. I’ve faced it enough times in my life to face the fear, do it anyway, all that stuff. So yeah, the minute I step onto stage all that, and it’s a bit like, you know, five, four, three, two, one, go and you drop the clutch and go, you’re on, you know, here’s the performance and you do have a whole new sort of persona and there’s a lot of confidence attached to it. But you know, confidence is really about certainly in the terms of mental toughness, it’s about an inner self-belief. I really believe I can, I can do this. I absolutely believe I can. You don’t need to tell me I can. Nobody needs to tell me, ’cause I know. It’s about real true, no pretence. It’s real genuine confidence. And that is less prevalent than you might think. So lots of people will put on a mask and put on a show, but the really genuinely confident people have such a high level of belief in themselves and their ability. It’s a different type of confidence.
– But that belief is born of, I mean, you just touched on it with, you know, I’ve done this, I’ve done rally cars, I’ve done live TV, I’ve done this. Isn’t it born? Because I would say all my confidence is born of I’ve done other things that are hard. I’ve come out of my comfort zone or whatever, plenty of times before. So you have a resource and that’s where your belief system comes from.
– Well, it does because just like in the thing you, confidence is a concept, isn’t it, you can’t see it, feel it or touch it and smell it, well you can feel it, but you build it through experience. So, you know, I went, I trained to fight in a boxing ring when I was 42. And you know, the first day of training, I was rubbish. 11 months later, 1,000 hours later, I was better. I mean, I’m still not brilliant, but I was 1,000 hours better and 1,000 hours fitter. And I could get into the ring with some confidence because I’d worked really hard. I’ve put myself in lots of positions like this, whether it’s climbing mountains or marathons or triathlons or whatever it is I’ve done. I always try to put myself on the edge of total and utter fear to sort of prove to myself that I can. And that builds confidence ’cause you think, well, I’ve done that so I can do this. And this might, it’s different, but I did that and I did that and I did that, so I do it. I do these things to build my confidence in myself, because I think you just have a more successful, cheerful, optimistic life if you’re feeling in control, if you’re feeling confident, it’s just nicer.
– But that means that you have to push yourself to the limits of your previous confidence because confidence grows. So you have to go to the limits all the time. And for people listening, all successful people are pushing their limits constantly and, you know, and then having the ability to laugh at when it doesn’t go 100%, but still move forward. And I think the laughing at it is part of the process whereby you go, that didn’t work now, but guess what? I’m going to give it another go, you know, I’m interested that you did boxing, you know?
– Well, the boxing thing was, I would say is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life because it’s so frightening and you think you’re going to die. And you know, I got into the ring first time over age 42 and in the blue corner was Kirsty from Coventry, she was 21. She was half my age and she was built like you would expect a female boxer from Coventry. She was made of stone. She wanted to kill me, you know, ding, ding round one, she lands a punch on me and I’m on the floor. And then I, in a funny way, you’ve made me think, I have a thousandth of a second to think about it while I’m down there, but I’m laughing at myself, going, get up, you silly cat, this was not in the plan, get a grip and get up and have her. So I did. God knows how short that moment of laughter was. Like, this is absolutely not okay. Get yourself up, and that’s, you know, all that stuff builds resilience and discipline and brilliant, brilliant stuff that I can lean on for the rest of my life, ’cause it never gets that hard, life doesn’t get that hard when you’re six minutes to stay alive, but it might as well be six hours because in the ring, the bell never rings.
– It goes to the Mike Tyson place of there’s a, you know, of everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
– Correct, yeah.
– I love that. Talking about plans, if I asked you to write a business case for humour, what would you include in it?
– Happy people are more productive, happy people are nice to be around. If you have people that are nice to be around, you’re going to attract the best people around. So you cannot dial it out of a business because you’ll just dial any joy and actual talent. You know, really the coolest people will want to succeed. And if there’s no joy or humour in an environment, they’ll migrate to somewhere where there is. I would say the business cases for humour is overwhelming.
– I Think you’ve touched on the return on investment as well. You keep getting the cool creative people because of the environment you’ve created.
– I think people are beginning to realise more and more since we haven’t spent time together, how important it is that, you know, how much we do feed off each other, we need each other. We need the physical physicality of being with each other. It’s more than just a social thing. There is so much, I think we’ve taken for granted all of our lives that we need from each other and humour will be one of them. And it’s really, I find it much more challenging to do online. You can still do it, you can still have a laugh, but it’s not quite the same as getting that, you know, you can actually get a real energy from people that I don’t think you can online. And that energy part of that will be the humour and the comedy and the laughs. And we’ve, every one of us needs more of that back, don’t we?
– Absolutely. Have you ever taken a joke too far and crossed the line? I can see from your face.
– But you see, I find that funny. I would get quite a lot of joy in pushing everything over the line because I will get a bit of a sick pleasure in seeing the looks on people’s faces. So I’m much more careful now than I’ve ever been, but it’s not because I want to be it’s because I have to be, I don’t want to get into trouble and I don’t want to upset anyone, but you see, because I’m not offended that I’m, I forget that other people do get offended by stuff. So I’ve quite often taken jokes too far. I think when I first started speaking, maybe 15 years ago, I would just die 1,000 deaths if I saw now, what I was saying. We said quite like rude stuff as well. I like all the below the belt stuff. I like all the stuff you’re not meant to like, that’s what makes me, so it’s really boring having to be careful about what you say. I really hate that about these times, just having to, you know, tiptoe through the minefield that is jokes and humour. I take most things too far if I’m honest. Given the choice, given the chance.
– Good, that’s probably why you’re fun to be around, Penny.
– Well, you’d have to ask my friends that, but yeah, I think that, I think I’ve just realised that actually, as we’re talking that part of, part of me is always pushing everything a little bit too far. ‘Cause I like it.
– ‘Cause you like it, good, that’s good. We now come to the part of the show called Quick Fire Questions. ♪ Quick fire questions ♪
– Who’s the funniest person in business that you’ve met?
– Well, I’d have to say right now, Jason Dawe, because I worked with him the other day. And if that’s business, then you know, we were filming something together. He’s very funny. I like him very, very much.
– And what makes him so funny?
– He’s always smiling. He’s always upbeat. He’s always, and he’s really quick witted, he can just, yes quicker than I am. He’s just sharp and smart. I like smart people. Smart and funny. Wow, what a combination?
– Well, I think we’ve seen who you want on your dating profile. Yeah.
– What book makes you laugh, Penny?
– I once bought a book when I first started speaking because I wanted some funny stuff that I can rewrite and twist and put in my speech. And it’s, it is probably funny. It’s about, it’s about jokes. It’s a joke book. It’s, is it “After Dinner Speeches” or “Best Man Speeches” or something, but some of it’s utter rubbish of course. There’s my number, hang on. What else did make me laugh? I listen to audio books now because I’ve got contact lens glasses nonsense going on. So I listened to audio books and most of the stuff I’m into is crime and murder and real life stories. So that is not, that don’t really make you laugh. Anything that’s true. A true story. I’ll tell you what Eddie Izzard’s book made me laugh.
– He’s a funny guy.
– Eddie’s, I worked with Eddie for many years and I still know him
– Did you?
– well, yeah.
– I’m so jealous. I love him. I find him very funny.
– All right. Well I’ll tell him. I’ll actually clip this and send it to him and say, Penny Mallory loves you.
– Yeah, and do you know why I also love him? Because he runs 1,000 marathons in a row and doesn’t make a big deal of it. He just gets on with it and his resilience is extraordinary. He doesn’t give up. He’s relentless. I love him for so many reasons.
– I mean, he is the most sort of tunnel visioned, relentless, extraordinary person I’ve ever met in my life. When he decides to do something, he just gets on with it. We were in New York together a few years ago and I was training to do my first marathon and I’d been training for five months and he said, “I’m doing my first marathon.” And I said, “When did you start training?” He goes, “I haven’t started training yet.” “When are you doing it?” “In three weeks.” It was kind of like, and I was like, man, but guess what? I think he did sort of six on the trot or something.
– Yeah, he is unbelievable. And really he should speak more about his mindset and because there’d be so much people could get from it. How, what is, what are his strategies? How does he do it? What goes through his head? How does he pick himself up? Keep going?
– Well, I’m very lucky to have spent time with him talking about this stuff. So one day, hopefully we’ll do it on film. Talking about film. What film makes you laugh?
– Well, I would say my mind goes straight more to TV than to films, that okay?
– It’s fine.
– “This Country” makes me laugh. Do you know that one?
– Yeah? “Gavin And Stacy” makes me laugh. “Benidorm” makes me laugh. So I don’t know what genre or category you would put that in.
– I mean, it’s quite sitcommy but with a twist, isn’t it?
– Yes. I’m not big on sitcoms, but I can see that those three things I’ve said you could probably put in that category. I don’t know, actually, I don’t really know how to put it in a nutshell what it is about those that makes me laugh ’cause some of them are it’s, I mean “Benidorm” is, it’s really funny. But then I know somebody who thinks “Benidorm” is the unfunniest thing ever made.
– What word makes you laugh, Penny?
– Oh buttocks is the one that springs to mind. I don’t know why.
– ‘Cause it’s a funny word.
– The first word that. Fart is a funny word and all the naughty, rude, body parts, you know, they make me laugh.
– Buttocks is number one. I think that’s the one that sprang to mind for some reason. I don’t know why.
– We had a long conversation earlier on about that you think anything’s funny. Is there any areas that make you feel slightly uncomfortable or something that’s not funny?
– Yeah, there would be a few areas where I would, but not from my own perspective. I would just be mindful of other people, but there are certain things, but certain experiences people might have, you know, really traumatic stuff that, you know, I would understand if they’d say that it’s not funny, but I’ll tell you what I find deeply unfunny is sarcasm because I really do think it’s the lowest form and lazy humour, it’s such a lazy way to try and be fun.
– Ask me who invented sarcasm, Penny
– Who invented sarcasm, Paul?
– I did.
– It can be funny if it’s done well, but the people that tend to use it are the people that are copying out from being a bit sharper and wittier in my book. So you could be, sarcasm used well could work, but generally speaking, I have a very poor view of it. Although my nickname at school was sarcastic. So obviously I’m calling the kettle, the pot black or whatever the expression is.
– Pot calling the kettle black.
– Pot calling the kettle black, thank you.
– Would you rather be considered clever or funny?
– Could you tell me what your answer to that would be?
– It’s not my interview, but I’m happy to share. I actually think that in order to be funny, you have to be clever. You just talked about Jason, who you worked with, that he was funny and clever and quick as well. And you like that combination. I think people can be clever in specific areas, i.e. maths or, and thing without being funny. But overall clever, I think is where you have to be to be funny. You have to get it. You have to be emotionally intelligent.
– Yes. Okay. Well, I’m glad you, yeah, I agree with you. I think you’ve got to be clever first. So I’m going to go for clever, final answer.
– Thank you then. Let’s see if it turns green. And finally, Penny, we always end on Desert Island Gags. You can only take one joke with you to a desert island. What is it?
– This’ll be the gag that everyone says, oh, for Christ’s sake, not that one, it’s not funny. Two peanuts walk into a bar. One was assaulted. See?
– See? It’s getting a laugh out of me. And there’s going to to be a few moans, but there’s those kinds of gags, which people moan then laugh and then tell it to their friends tomorrow.
– True, true.
– Exactly. Penny Mallory, you’ve been humorous and wonderful. Thank you so much for being a guest on “The Humourology Podcast.”
– And Paul, thank you for having me, but also I can here tonight properly thank you for reigniting some memories that I haven’t had for many, many, many years.
– It’s our pleasure. “The Humourology Podcast” was hosted by Paul Boross and produced by Simon Banks. Music by Steve Haworth, creative direction by Les Hughes and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe, like and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky production.