Female Comedians: Droll or Disaster?

As women, we are expected to tolerate sexism on a daily basis, whether that’s from an undermining boss or a pack of wolf-whistling builders. Feminism has come a long way, and I admire and respect the women who continue to fight for it. I am not one of these women. Of course, I will scowl at a perverted passer-by, or give a chauvinistic work colleague a piece of my mind, but I find myself falling into the pattern of ignoring the bigger picture by apathetically blending in to the widely accepted, stereotypical views on women. For example, accompanied with my road-rage, I will frequently blame a driver’s incompetence on the face she is an “idiotic woman” (with my skills behind the wheel being the exception to the rule, naturally). Furthermore, it seems that as a society we are programmed into the opinion that women are not funny… At all.

Ordinarily, many females ignore the so-called ‘sisterhood’ that supposedly joins us together. Time and time again we let each other down. In particular, we show absolutely no support for our fellow women who have taken to stand up comedy. As far as we’re concerned, it’s their bed and they must lie in it. Alone.

I asked friends and social media acquaintances whether they found women comedians funny. My answer came predominantly from women, and was a resounding “No.”

What is it about being female that automatically makes us so pathetically unfunny? Guaranteed, if a joke was made by a male and a female in a friendship group, the man would receive more laughs hands down. Is it because when we see a woman making a gag, we are immediately reminded of our mothers, and revert back to mortified teenagers? If that were true, shouldn’t we also have the same reaction to men and imagine dorky Dads? It’s a mystery.

I was informed that acted comedy, such as Absolutely Fabulous, was much more acceptable for female comedians to participate in. Apparently in that situation, their wit is bearable. It is just when subject to the intense pressure of a panel show such as Mock the Week that we put our heads in our hands and groan at the mere sight of a woman guest.

When Mock the Week was a staple element of my television viewing, I have uncomfortable, cringe worthy feelings emerging when I think back to whenever someone like Shappi Khorsandi was on the panel. It is not that she isn’t a funny person, but when plonked in between two loud, barking male comedians, she may as well not have been there. Chivalry doesn’t exist in the comic world, and it’s all about getting your own voice and awesome jokes heard. I suppose it is survival of the fittest to some extent, and if others can make their jokes more heard than yours then you may as well admit defeat.

Maybe men have more confidence when spouting their views, and take it on the chin when they are not well received. I know plenty of completely unfunny men who have no problem in saying exactly what they think. This so-called “lad banter” is a part of daily life and it is as humourless as it has ever been.

Perhaps it is not that men are funnier, but that they have more experience in what the audience wants. For example, it must have taken Michael McIntyre several years to realise the viewers adored his shaky haired, buffoon-like persona. I doubt he is like that in real life, and he probably got boo’d off many stages before he found his charm. Women just need to be braver, and learn that surviving on wit alone is not enough.

What happened to girl power? We should be celebrating what is great about women comedians, not pointing out what isn’t. I think to some extent it all stems back to girl hatred. “Attractive” comediennes have already lost by being too good-looking. Sarah Silverman, you are guilty of this. Shame on you. No girl is going to find someone funny who is also a regulation hottie. That’s just not fair. The ones we give the best chance to are, to put it lightly, those who are slightly plump, old or most definitely not hot.

Sarah Millican is a favourite comedian of mine, and not just of the female variety. I think she reaches out to a wide audience by using her slightly odd voice and mannerisms to her advantage. She knows her audience and has obviously realised what works with them. Thanks to this, she becomes the one exception to the rule. When I ask: “Are female comedians funny?” I often receive the response: “No… Except Sarah Millican.”

All I’m asking, girls, is that we try a little harder to back up those of us brave enough to actually embark on this treacherous career path. It has got to be damn hard to be up against abrasive people such as Frankie Boyle and not cry every time. Take pride in your wittiness. Tell that joke bold and proud. Enjoy when it works and hold your head up high when it just doesn’t.

Isn’t it a bit ridiculous that this stereotype is still around? Why does this level of sexism still exist within this field? What makes comedy so male dominated that it has fallen behind the rest of the world, and appears to be stuck in the 1950s?

Join the debate: Are women just as funny as men? Potentially, yes. I’d like to think so. Except Miranda. There’s no excuse for that…

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