Wednesday, 22 February 2012

"Sexism" in comedy, those poor downtrodden lady comics


This is a highly emotive subject that rears its ugly head every few months without fail, I'm tired of getting involved in the shit storm that follows each time it comes back around so I think it warrants a one off blog that can be recycled each time the tiresome debate re-emerges

It usually starts with a lady comic (comedienne as some like to style themselves) being incredibly affronted & then making a big stink over :-

  • Not being able to get a gig at a certain club
  • Not being able to get gigs with certain promoters
  • Being hit on, invited for drinks or having romantic advances made towards them 
  • Not going down well in a room with a "blokey" or allegedly "sexist" audience
  • Being introduced by "sexist" comperes as "Pretty" or "Lovely" instead of funny
  • Living with a notion that "Women aren't funny" is purportedly a commonly held view
  • Being treated more as a sex object than an artist by certain audiences
  • Outrage over edgy material from blokey comics, rape gags, porn gags, nob gags etc
  • Why aren't there enough women in comedy?
  • Stand-up comedy being so much harder for a woman than it is for a man, yadda yadda yadda

Each time I have been involved in these debates they degenerate in a wider macro-squabble about "sexism" misogyny or feminism in general and you usually end up with "Girls are better than boys" and vice versa being the crux of the polarised argument

Every time I have been involved and put forward my opinions I have been labelled a chauvinist, sexist or misogynist by the bigoted hardcore misandrists that always seem to hijack the debate and try to make it their own

Interestingly I have encountered a small number of "Great White Knight" male feminists in these debates too so it's not always split GIRLS vs BOYS either

"Women just aren't funny"

Jo Brand, funny but you wouldn't shag her
Women aren't funny? There are some very funny female comics at every level on the London stand-up circuit, pro, semi-pro and open mic, I'm sure everyone can think of a number of funny women that have made them roar with laughter at some point in their lives, facts also speak volumes, Victoria Wood has sold out the Royal Albert Hall several nights in a row, Sarah Millican has sold almost 200,000 copies of her latest DVD and the widely adored, (pun pun) BAFTA award winning Jo Brand has pervaded and enjoyed success in most areas of comedy

On the open mic & semi-pro scene I have been literally reduced to tears of laughter by the genius of up-and-coming  musical comedian Kate Lucas, delighted by ballsy & hysterically funny Essex girl Hannah Deasy and was once a  fan of manic posh girl Lindsay Sharman.

Bottom line? anyone who uses the "Women aren't funny" slogan is either a truly bigoted dullard or a massively playful troll out on some huge leg-pulling marathon, from a comedy writing perspective the real humour lies in the extreme reaction this provocative "Female comics just aren't funny" statement never fails to generate, usually from lady comedians who ought to know a lot better, and some might say, ought to have more of a sense of humour or at the very least an endearing streak of self-deprecation about them.

Sexist Google
Why aren't there enough women in comedy?

Who says there aren't enough? there's a massive amount more than there was back in the late 1980's when I first stepped on stage, back then I could count every female stand-up in Britain on my own hands, most interestingly stand-up comedy courses attract almost a 50 / 50 male female split which proves the interest in becoming a stand-up is equally spread, so why do more than two thirds of that female 50% drop out before completing their first year of slog on the open mic stand-up circuit? is it a matter of resilience? do they want it badly enough? is the prospect of many years of travel & hard work before finally earning enough to break even just too daunting? your guess is as good as mine

There are ten times as many submissions from male sketch writers than female on BBC's newsjack which invites submissions from all comers, why is that? are women ten times lazier writers than men?

Women, stop pressing flowers & baking cupcakes, write some sketches

Improv is full of female performers and some very funny ones too, every bit of impro I've ever been involved in has had an equal male / female split in numbers, why? is it more girly? easier? less frightening because you have the comfort of a group and the knowledge that you can't fail? who knows, character and sketch comedy also have higher female quotas than stand-up so I'm pretty sure the debate isn't really WOMEN IN COMEDY per se, rather it's WOMEN IN STAND-UP, the toughest of comedy genres

"It's so much harder for women than it is for men"

Obviously I'm not a woman so I can only speculate as to whether there's any truth in that sweeping generalisation or not, conversely the funny women that frequently make this claim aren't men either, so how the heck do they know? why do they think they're special and everyone else has it so easy? stand-up is by its very nature a tough game and audiences can be quite intolerant of anyone that doesn't entertain, but from all I've observed I'm pretty damned sure it's just as tough for a bloke as it is for a female, see, that's the great thing about comedy, it's either funny or it's not, you're either good or you fail, it truly is one of the last great meritocracies where all sections of society can triumph regardless of age, gender, creed, skin tone, class or a host of other demographic labels

Do audiences treat male and female comics differently? in some areas I guess they do yes, in the 1980's compering variety nights in Northern working mens clubs I had ashtrays and pint glasses thrown at me by rowdy crowds who were only there to see the strippers, would they throw pint-pots and bakelite ashtrays at female acts? never! I've seen male comics violently assaulted during and after gigs but I've yet to see a female comic leave a hostile comedy gig with anything but a fractured ego, indeed the most recent assault I witnessed was on open micer Luke Capasso who had a cider bath and a pint glass thrown at him by a "Feminist" who took violent offence to his remarks about  her girlfriend

Totally outrageous to see that this psychotic woman could launch a potentially deadly assault on a comic  right in front of my eyes and then storm out of the building, almost taking the door off it's hinges with ZERO consequences, watch the slow motion footage you can clearly see her push him away take a step back, raise the pint glass high (watch the shadow on his T-shirt) and launch it right at him, fortunately the glass bounces off Luke's chest and smashes on the floor, if it had smashed on his chest he would certainly have been seriously injured.

Imagine that scene again where a MALE punter throws a glass at the MALE compere, what do you think would be different if that were to happen? OK now imagine a MALE punter glassing a FEMALE compere, would he have been able to leave the building  unmolested and without any further consequence for his potentially deadly assault? I very much doubt it, I'm willing to bet my shirt he'd be serving 5 years in prison, my point here is twofold, women get away with violence towards men routinely, empirical research backs me up fully on this fact EVIDENCE secondly, women in comedy are far less likely to be victims of violence than their male colleagues FACT!

It's a struggle to buy into this "Women have it so much tougher than men" myth, mainly because for every perceived disadvantage a female comic tells me she thinks she has I can see how it can be turned into a positive advantage 

Are men and women different? hell yes, but most of the time in the comedy world the differences work more in a ladies favour than against her, so why do we so often hear women playing the poor downtrodden victim? if a man can't get gigs at a certain club  or with a certain promoter he doesn't blame it solely on his gender so why do so many women feel the need to pull out the "Sexism" card so frequently when they're not getting their own way?

I think the bottom line is that women are far more political and manipulative than men and therefore much more likely to self-victimise in order to make political capital and thereby gain greater access to scarce resources, e.g. stage time, paid gigs, competition placings etc

Sexism in the UK comedy scene? Oh yes, big time!

No cocks allowed
There's an old saying "The squeaky wheel gets all the grease" and by bitching, nagging and politicking by lobbying, guilt tripping and protesting against this perceived "sexism" in comedy women have actually made it a much more sexist business, what on earth do I mean here? well how many ALL FEMALE comedy nights, comedy clubs and comedy competitions have arisen in the last ten years? I'm talking about LAUGHING COWS, FUNNY WOMEN, FUNNY'S FUNNY, FEMALE COMEDIAN OF THE YEAR et al

Yes it's somehow blatantly acceptable for women to have female only comedy clubs and indeed female only comedy competitions, something which would be totally unacceptable and "sexist" if men were ever to do it, why is that? politicking about perceived sexism by men against women has given women the license for this blatant gender apartheid, they have responded to alleged social injustice with extreme and exclusive social injustice of their own

Laughing cow, cheesy and easy to spread
Nobody wants to be branded a sexist these days and many segments of society bend over backwards to promote "Diversity" a quest that ironically only seems to cause greater divides, Lindsay Sharman & Rachel Parris fell victim to positive discrimination this week when their booking offers for a green party fundraiser gig were withdrawn because in the words of an organiser, "I was asked to increase the diversity of the acts so we got a 63 year old transsexual comic instead of a second female act"  Lindsay Sharman angrily blogged her subsequent hissy fit over the way it was handled and the surprisingly honest way she was bumped, this lead not only to her offending a number of trans comics but yet again to more tales of sexism & woe from the usual feminist comediennes, quotes about the evil things horrible male comedy promoters have affronted them with are as silly as

"I have had bookers say to me Sorry – We had a woman before and they were shit.” 
I'm pretty sure that must have been a wind-up, sweetheart!

“I have been introduced as The very pretty young lady Laura Lexx"
Shock horror! have you considered the fact that you may possibly actually be "pretty"? lucky thing! no sympathy from me for that one

Smurthwaite, "really pretty"
Why on earth anyone professing to be a comic would express such outrage and indignation over a complement is way beyond me,
but nothing takes the cookie quite like this quote from busybody, leftist, anti-religionist, anti-masculist & pro-abortionist activist Kate Smurthwaite...

"I do want to book you, though, cos I think you’re really pretty – Do you want to come for a drink with me?

Awww poor Kate, I can see how that would so mortally offend an Oxbridge leftist feminist, if Kate fancied him she'd have been straight out for that drink with him mind, after all she is actually now MARRIED to  "really handsome" male comedy promoter, David Mulholland.

Some Fundamental Truths

In any public speaking scenario there's a golden maxim "First Impressions Last" it is often quoted that an audience will make up its mind about a performer within the first 5 seconds of them being on stage, if you put yourself in a spotlight in front of an assembled audience EXPECT TO BE JUDGED!

There are bundles of old clich├ęs like "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" that support all the scientific evidence that proves this, so if you go on stage dressed to thrill don't be surprised at the impression you make, I've seen female comics introduce themselves as single, do material about their sexual frustration, rampant rabbits and desperate need for sex whilst dressed in revealing, alluring clothes and then have the gall to complain that the compere introduced them as "pretty" or the men in the front row were only interested in ogling their cleavage and not focussed on appreciating them as artists, I often hear women saying certain promoters make advances towards them or look at them in lecherous ways, is that really surprising? do other performance artists feel the same way? your image is a key part of your stage presence / persona / like-ability equation, you alone are responsible for it and the kind of attention it brings with it

But get this ladies, you're not special, I've seen plenty of women ogling sexy male comics, I've heard female comics chatting about handsome male colleagues, of course, IT IS PERFECTLY NATURAL we are all evolved monkeys, sexual attractions and tensions exist in every walk of life, I know of at least 2 cougar female promoters and one competition organiser who routinely hit on handsome young male comics, nobody calls them "sexists" why is that?

You will be judged on your appearance FACT
Attractive comics may get hit on or wolf whistled at, get ugly or deal with it
You may be positively discriminated for or against in the name of "Diversity"

What really actually matters is how you deal with it, when life appears to throw you lemons do you suck them and pull a sour face or do you make Lemonade?

As comics we have a duty to always find the funny, most good comedy is borne out of pain, politics are for politicians, some of the least entertaining people on the planet, let them do what they're supposedly good at and focus on doing your job, take a look at your pain and FIND THE FUNNY!

Promoters don't want to book acts who politick, whinge, call them isms or diss their clubs, why should they? who want's to book acts that are so tetchy they take offence at simple complements? who wants to have to tiptoe around on eggshells to avoid upsetting overly sensitive primadonna artistes who should actually be having a laugh and giving the gift of laughter to the assembled masses?

If you are a funny lady and you have experienced genuine "Sexism" I'm very sorry for you, but hey, you can write some great material about it can't you? find a way to make it entertaining, maybe even make it enlightening to middle aged male misogynists.......but in a funny way, that's what you're there for after all isn't it? good, now run along and make us a cup of tea ; o )

All of the above