Ladies and Comedy

Why the argument for who is the funnier sex is a bullshit non-issue.

Each year during the comedy festival some bone-head will pen an article on whether women are funnier than men, or why they are more men than women doing shows in the comedy festival or they’ll use gender as a stick to beat someone with in a bad review.

If you have half a brain and some appreciation of comedy the following blog is preaching to the choir, you know there are plenty of excellent female comics out there. Its not a case of ‘are women funny?’ of course they are. There have been funny women as long as there has been comedy. So why does the argument keep coming up? Is live comedy really a macho, male dominated sausage fest of cock jokes? (Don’t answer that) Or is it that lazy journalists and bloggers are needlessly stirring up an issue that doesn’t exist because they think it will shift more units? (Don’t answer that either)

Arguing that the business of live comedy is inherently sexist and bias toward men is an unwinnable argument from both sides because it is based on the attitudes of individuals that make up an audience. It could be sexism that means certain female stand ups aren’t more popular or it could be a simple lack of ability and talent, and that is something that is a reality for all comics. It’s a different scenario altogether in film and TV where producers and networks make decisions about who they prefer, so for the sake of this blog I’m limiting my focus to live comedy.

Live comedy can be rough, in fact it can feel almost gladiatorial at certain gigs the liquored up crowd braying at you and hoping in equal measures for your success or failure. It can be a terrifying job and it doesn’t appeal to everyone, it takes a certain personality type who can cope with the potential for failure every time they pick up a microphone. There are more male comedians than female, but does that mean that men are funnier because they have numbers on their side? Certainly not, if anything it means female comedians are funnier per-captia than their counterparts.  I’ve been to gigs where men heckle the female comics more than the male comics, sexual heckles and abuse is common in the workplace for female stand ups. I’ve also been to gigs where the audience has been ambivalent, rowdy or instantly hateful toward a comedian, its a shitty part of the job but everyone who has been doing comedy a while understands that there is potential for a gig to turn. However these are environmental factors that don’t contribute to the ability of female comics they just aid the attrition rate for all comics.

Whenever some journalist pens an article about women in comedy whether in the positive or the negative they feed an issue that doesn’t exist. However when a reviewer criticizes a comedian based on their gender, (usually female) this is a real problem. For example the awful review of Jen Brister’s show at the 2011 MICF, which had the line sic “very few women can pull off funny funny” This review was subsequently edited on the Herald Sun’s website to exclude this line so if you search for it you’ll get the PC version. During comedy festivals all and sundry put on their critics hat and head off to pen reviews. Most of the time these are tier 3 bloggers and website hacks. However at many of the larger comedy festivals tier 1 Newspapers put out the call for anyone to review shows irrespective of whether they are a real estate listings editor or a fishing journalist. This kind of grasping desperate unprofessionalism not only hurts comedy it hurts the role of critics and feeds the prejudice monster. Editors, journalists and bloggers should all take care when writing their opinions because their prejudice has a long reach. When its been written and published it cannot be unwritten, no matter how fast your PR engine kicks into gear.

We do not need to ask the question, ‘Are Women Funny/Funnier?’ ever again because they are.  I don’t need to list all the brilliant female comedians ever to make my point because I’m certain that you can think of a whole bunch on your own. Women are funny and always have been end of discussion.

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