“Women aren’t funny” is a phrase I have certainly heard a lot in my lifetime, a phrase that highlights prejudice on an unwarranted scale, a phrase that; put simply, is no longer true and indeed; never really has been.
Comedy is certainly a male dominated career choice, with a large percentage of the top earners owning outwardly biased genitalia. But as the modern era progresses, and with true gender equality in the western world a major aim of the 21st century, why does this phrase refuse to die?
This article was inspired by listening to Stuart Goldsmith conducting an interview with Josie Long (one of my absolute favourite comics) in his podcast the “Comedians Comedian podcast”. Despite all-round success, acclaim and respect from her peers, Josie outlined many forms of abuse she found to be commonplace among female comics (making the interviewer, Stuart, audibly blanch) which she shrugged off with an optimistic resilience long in the making. The threats ranged from death (a favourite of internet trolls under anonymous, twitter shaped cyber bridges) to rape.
Long is extraordinary in her optimism in the face of such vicious abuse, when describing the abuse levied at her via the inter web she goes as far as dismissing herself as being self pitying (Prompting a heartwarming “JESUS no you’re not!” From Stuart, which made me whoop. Out loud. In a library.).
“I’m honestly staggered” continues Stuart, “that almost all of the female comics I know on Facebook have a secret identity name so they can’t be googled where as none of the male comics I know, felt the need to do that.”
Josie goes on to describe her experiences further, from people questioning her being able to do her job to further threats in a way that almost seems to shrug the issue off. Her resilience is exemplary, and is probably one of the main reasons she is so successful, but it shouldn’t have been made to develop thus far. Though Josie is an incredible person, there will have been other comics, brilliant comics, comics who could have changed the comedic landscape forever who have fallen by the wayside, browbeaten into submission by a widespread sexism.
And remembering, Josie’s career has been based in THIS century. Imagine the things comics like Jo Brand would have put up with! This is an issue that, though getting better, is still there, ever-present in an undeniably male dominated discipline.
Earlier this year, the BBC announced their solution. A quota which puts an end to all male panel shows. Programmes like QI, Have I got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks must contain a panel that includes women. Heralded by the BBC as affirmative action, though met by negativity from many comics who claim that this style of inclusion does little to help the cause, believing that announcing a quota like this in the manner simply makes the women present on panel shows seem “token”. And to an extent I agree.
The quota itself cannot hurt to bring excellent female comedians to the public’s attention. But the announcement is foolish, there are enough fantastically funny women waiting in the wings to take a seat next to Stephen Fry or Ian Hislop. Take Josie for example, she’s hilarious.
If you are interested in hearing hour long, in depth interviews with the wonderful comedians working on the circuit (a few personal favourites: Phil Jupitus, Josie Long, Bridget Christie, David O’Doherty, Ed Byrne and James Acaster) check out the wonderful Comedians Comedian podcast with Stuart Goldsmith on iTunes, or click on the link below and get sated!