“I was always dying to put on a show, but I needed a lot of encouragement because I was quite shy,” she tells Magazine+.
“I was dying to be one of the show kids. I was extremely jealous of the Billie Barry kids but never would’ve asked, ‘Can I be one?’ because my brothers would’ve just slagged me.”
The youngest of three children, Emma’s confidence wasn’t always sky high. “I had delayed speech as a kid. I think I spent a long time observing people. So I probably held back a little bit, but I think it was good because I started observing other people from a really young age.”
It wasn’t until she was in her 20s that she really came out of her shell and began to flourish. “It did take me a while because it didn’t really come from a show family — it was a gradual thing.
“My idea then was that if I did a background job somebody would just ask me to step into the limelight.
“At the time, in any interviews I read with famous people, they always said, ‘Oh, I just fell into it.’”
From the beginning, she was forced to fight her way into the male-dominated industry and says she also had to fight for her place on the scene after she had kids.
The mum-of-three states: “I think that’s what you see across a whole lot of industries: women get pushed out at a certain point in their lives.
“When I was pregnant with one of my boys, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to get pushed out. I knew that there would be this thing of like, ‘Oh, she just had a baby, don’t bother contacting her.’ Whereas I was like: ‘I just had a baby. I need to earn money’.”
Being a woman in any male-dominated industry is hard, but Emma says that double standards when it comes to parenthood are tough to navigate.
“It’s just infuriating. I was afraid that when I was having babies I’d be slowly pushed out — no pun intended. I really killed myself in a way. I didn’t take maternity leave, and I think a lot of women do that.
“But I mean, the female comedians who came before me in Ireland — there were about four of them. Fair play to them for sticking with it because it couldn’t have been easy,” she adds, explaining how she wants to see more women stay in entertainment as they age.
“I want to see a lot of older women doing comedy and going up through the ranks. So, women who are in their 20s now, I want to still see them doing comedy in 20 years’ time.”
Encountering misogyny wasn’t just something she experienced during her career. In her early days she was told that there was no market for female comedians.
“I was told that if I was looking for women and mams to be coming to shows, ‘Don’t bother because they don’t go out’.”
Despite the naysayers, Emma has recently sold out dates at Dublin’s Liberty Hall and supported fellow comic Joanne McNally on a number of her sold-out Vicar Street shows.
Now she is set to appear on Crime World with Nicola Tallant on her upcoming series, the Dingle Whiskey Movie Club, which explores the most popular gangster films of all time.
Emma, who will be dissecting her favourite film Pulp Fiction, says the movie had a huge impact on her.
“When I watched it, it fascinated me completely. So it was released in 1994, but I didn’t watch it then, because I would have been 10, but it was always one of those movies that I was like, ‘I must watch that.’
“I was nearly scarlet to admit I hadn’t seen it.”
“So I first watched it in my early 20s and I just loved it. Visually, the characters, all the kinds of sub-stories and the way they’re told was so different. I had never seen a movie like that before and that started me on a kind of a Quentin Tarantino road, checking out all his films.”