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Humorous keynotes on work-life balance, women’s issues and mental health


Nelly Thomas

travels from Australia

Comedian and innovative thinker best-known for her passionate, intelligent, natural and thought-provoking performances

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About Nelly

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Nelly Thomas is a well-known and loved comedian, a popular MC and a talented speaker. She travels all around Australia and to most parts of the world to share her talks on work-life balance, women’s issues, mental health, and health in general. The keynote speaker Nelly Thomas is described as a passionate, natural, intelligent and thought-provoking performer.

Our keynote speaker Nelly Thomas is amongst Australia’s most popular comedians. She has been described as hilarious, natural and intelligent. In addition to being an award‐winning performer, she was listed as one of Australia’s “most innovative thinkers” in The Age Newspaper’s, The Zone and was recently featured on the ABC’s Big Ideas: The Smartest Stuff on TV, Radio and Online. It would, without a doubt, be a challenge to find a more engaging, thought-provoking comedy experience.

Most recently, Nelly has released a new comedy DVD The Talk (a sexual health and ethics DVD for teens and their carers) and has published her first book with Random House Publishing in 2012 to popular and critical acclaim. The book, which can be classified as “part memoir, part manifesto” is called What Women Want and exposes the big and pressing issues of the modern era: politics, education, sex, relationships, health, family and Beyonce’s bottom.

The charismatic speaker Nelly Thomas sprung into comedy suddenly, winning the Triple J National Raw Comedy competition in 2003. In the ten years that have passed since then, she has directed Barry Award winning Maria Bamford, toured nationally and internationally, established her own Melbourne comedy room, created and toured several shows (including the highly acclaimed and unique The No Means No Show). In addition to all this, she has performed in over a dozen festivals in Australia and around the world. She is frequently featured on television shows, guest co-hosts on ABC radio and is a prolific tweeter. She’s also grown two humans of her own, one of them just a few months ago.

Nelly does a lot of work in the community and government sectors, in particular, as a highly sought‐after speaker, MC and producer of custom‐made performances, specialising in social commentary and health promotion. Our speaker Nelly Thomas has many years of experience in these and related fields (especially women’s health and adolescent health) and has begun graduate studies in psychology at the University of Melbourne in her spare time to bolster this work.

 (No, she doesn’t have “work‐life” balance ‐ she talks a lot about it though.)

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    Speaker Nelly Thomas Keynote Topics

    • Work-life balance
    • Women’s issues
    • Mental health and other health issues
    • Facilitation work
    • MC work

Interview with Nelly Thomas

What types of topics do you generally cover?

I cover almost any topic, but I specialise in health and lifestyle issues, social commentary (on current events) and women’s issues. Prior to becoming a comedian I worked in the social welfare and educations sectors so I tend to get asked to do a lot of work in those areas. My most requested topics are probably work-life balance and “women’s issues”.

Do you have a favorite memory from your career as a performer?

My journey into comedy was unusual. I sort of fell into it when I was 28 and “strongly encouraged” (read, harassed) into entering a national comedy competition. I won the heat… then the semi-final … then the state final … then the national final in front of an audience of 1,200 people, live on television! As I was accepting the award and making a speech, I was so overwhelmed that I started crying and I remember my lovely partner Lachlan jumping up in the crowd, waiving and yelling, “I’m here, darl!”. My most cherished career moment, among many.

How do your speaking engagements and comedy routines differ?

The short answer is that my comedy routines are usually less polite! In comedy clubs you have total freedom to say whatever you think, in whatever way – including sharp language. That is the genre, the audience know that when they walk in. In my speaking engagements, I never swear and I’m also mindful that I need to stick to relevant topics. In comedy clubs I talk about anything, in speaking engagements I make sure the material is relevant, interesting and appropriate to the particular audience.

What are your thoughts on work-life balance?

It’s a myth created by the self-help industry! But, we have to try to get it. I literally don’t know anyone who has managed to perfectly achieve a balance between work, family, health, self and life, but we have to strive to do it. One thing I know for sure is that preaching to people and offering unrealistic plans for work-life balance achieve nothing but guilt and anxiety. However, it’s good to be reminded to make it a priority and why it’s so important for your health, your family’s health and your work. Women, in particular, need to hear this.

Why should event planners choose you for their next event?

I’m professional, experienced, easy to deal with, reliable and I do not take on work that I am not 100% sure I’m right for. My aim is to make the event great so I choose my gigs wisely, prepare thoroughly and make sure we all have a good time, myself included.

I think my greatest strength is that I don’t just jump up on stage events and do jokes, nor do I get up and give a lecture – rather, I deliver information in a funny and entertaining way. I offer the audience a laugh, some relief (ahhh, we do that too!) and important information to think about.

I am also a very experienced and competent MC and I make sure events run to time, that they keep moving, that questions are fairly distributed and that the atmosphere remains light and convivial, even when the topic is dry or heavy (I have many years experience MCing events on very difficult topics such as domestic violence and the like). A good MC takes control so everyone else can relax, and a good key-note speaker entertains as they impart knowledge. I do both.

Finally, I can work a range of audiences. I have done gigs in comedy clubs, rough pubs, in schools, for unions, for big business, for lawyers and just about any other group you can imagine. Most recently I did a gig for the Women’s Barristers Association and they said:

“Nelly Thomas is the gold standard of comedy.  This year the Women Barristers Association celebrated its 20th anniversary.  We needed a speaker who was funny enough, and brave enough, to entertain a room full of politicians, judges, magistrates and barristers.  We wanted someone who would have the room in stitches while tackling the big issues. Nelly was 10/10 on each count.  She was professional, well researched and a pleasure to work with.  We are so grateful to her for making our night a success.”

If I can make some judges and politicians laugh, I’m confident I can make anyone laugh!

See keynotes with Nelly Thomas
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Keynote topics with Nelly Thomas