Women aren’t funny
It’s August. It’s Edinburgh. The city is alive with the sound of festival go-ers. No, not the tent carrying kind, the ones with spare cash to fork out £3 for a pint of diet Coke. The cobbled streets of the Royal Mile are filled with tourists making it feel like one, never-ending, sweaty, tube ride through central London, with a tube stop mimicked by a tourist stopping to ask you directions (at which point you realise you have no clue about the city you have lived in for so many years. “Camera obscura you say? I think it’s somewhere near the upside down, giant, purple cow”), and the cherry on top? There is nowhere to sit. Anywhere. Ever.
I jest, I love Edinburgh at festival time. Honest.
To make the most of it, I asked my niece to come along to a show I had found out about. It was called ‘Activism is Fun’. This sounded ace to me, turns out it got an eye-roll from her. Which I read as “For the love of God, take a day off, I’ll get involved in my bloody Students’ Union when I’m back at Uni, lay off”. I’ve become very apt at reading these signs now. Since the beginning of our feminist conversations at the start of the year, I have had a variety of looks stretching from; ‘Oh my word, did you just try to rap?’ all the way to ‘Shoot me now’. I’ve still to get the “You’re still young and really cool” but I know I’m close.
So we walked along and found ourselves at a venue with free comedy. This is always a risk as it has the chance to be unfunny and puts you in an awkward place where you feel you need to laugh because the poor soul stopped for applause after a ‘knock knock’ joke. In this case, some of it was actually funny, but some of it really wasn’t. The male comedian decided to do a little ‘bit’ on women, and how we always mean the opposite of what we say. Aren’t we hilariously foolish, with our cryptic communication. Perhaps it’s your listening skills which are the problem.
The joke went something like this. “That’s the thing about women in clubs, especially in packs, they don’t mean what they say. No is actually yes. My pick up strategy is badger till they give in, they want it really” ah, harassment. LOL.
Comedians, especially men, have often used the topic of women, as part of the act. In return, female comedians have used men and their lack of hygiene or obsession with sports – everyone loves a stereotype. But a line needs to be drawn somewhere, and for me, it’s drawn at jokes made about sexual harassment or rape. Sure, take a stereotype of women’s careers or how long it takes us to get ready, or use an anecdote of your wife/girlfriend (I might just laugh and I am aware that is how observational comedy works) but a cheap shot which is purely sexist – isn’t funny, it’s offensive. Joking about rape makes it an issue not to take seriously. Would the same comedian make a joke about other criminal offenses, perhaps murder? If he did, I suspect fewer papers would have given him 4 stars…
This has sparked a twitter hashtag #bigotrybashing where Fringe go-ers are asked to ‘out’ sexists acts. Here’s are a few:
I’d encourage you to use this hashtag, if you don’t people might still think this kind of comedy is funny.
But perhaps if there were more women performers at the Edinburgh Festival, this would be less of an issue? I picked up a festival guide today and sat for an hour going through it. There are many women performers in the Theatre and music section, particularly in cabaret…Great. But let’s flick through the comedy section, given it’s predominantly what the festival is about. I went through 594 shows (no, seriously, I did, with a red pen and everything) this was only half way through, because I got bored. Just over 14% (I even did the maths, I’m so proud of me) were performed by (or included) women comedians. Now, is that because women aren’t funny? I don’t think so. Some of the acts I’ve seen have made my face hurt from laughing. I, for one, am hilarious. I’m considering doing my debut next year…watch this space. So why is it? Why are women not on that stage? I’d like to see more of them and I’d like to see Edinburgh Festival pay more attention to that.
But there is something I have to admit, I’d like to see a different kind of woman comedian. Too often I’ve been to see a woman comedian’s gig and I get a bit of a tried sketch.
Que jokes and one liners about: PMS, Mothers, Children (or biological clocks), being crazy/possessive bunny boilers, clothing or our bodies. Some of this is in fact funny, and the point of observational comedy is to make the everyday amusing. But how is it made funny? By laughing at women (ourselves). The comedy comes from being derogatory about our everyday as women. When you put it like that it’s not so funny.
Our everyday, just like men, also involves society, television, politics (in many ways a 24/7 sketch show of its own), media, sport, culture. I think I’d like to see more of that instead.
Society does a good enough job of taking the piss out of womenhood, I’m not sure why we’re still doing it to ourselves.
So men comedians – watch your comedy, rape isn’t funny, and if you try and make it funny, there is always a possibility I’m there with a bag full of rotten fruit.
And women comedians – there’s more to the everyday, my period isn’t all that funny, actually, it’s quite mundane.
Enjoy the rest of the festival. x