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By Alice Bryant on 27.5.2023

You know what isn’t funny? Sexism.

At the end of a comedy gig, most (proficient) female performers will be confronted with something akin to ‘Oh hi! I really enjoyed your performance; most women I don’t find funny, but you actually made me laugh’ or something to that effect.

At this point, the jaded comedienne will sigh, force a smile, and say ‘Thanks’. Would it not have been enough to say ‘You were great’? Apparently not. The media is constantly congratulating women for acting as some sort of comedic pioneers, bravely journeying into a male dominated industry and, well, actually succeeding. As if it’s some sort of massive achievement that a woman (yes! an actual woman) could ever be funny. It’s a self-perpetuating myth that needs to be eradicated.

Obviously, not ALL women are funny. Not ALL men are funny. There is not one particular gender that makes me laugh more, although admittedly I have not conducted a scientific study on the ratio of male:female giggles that I receive on a daily basis. The thing that terrifies me is that some people have, which demonstrates to me that this whole debate (that should never have existed in the first place) has been taken way too far. As Carol Hartsell of The Huffington Post wrote, it’s like saying: ‘Hey, ladies, you think you’re funny? Science says you’re right. You’re welcome!’

Women don’t need to have their sense of humour validated. It should be obvious to everyone that some people are funny and some people aren’t; some people have charisma, and some people are lacking; some people have an irrational fear of Moomins (e.g. my friend Grace) and some people still occasionally play with a fingerboard at the age of 26 (e.g. my brother). Everyone is different; gender is irrelevant to most things. So why do we place such emphasis on it when we’re talking about what makes us laugh?

If I had to think about it, and I have, I would say that what makes me giggle is largely based on personality traits, social skills, the type of language used, timing, and yes, to an extent, appearance. It’s never been about the sort of genitals anybody possessed (although, saying that, the male anatomy is pretty hilarious) – and that should never enter into the equation.

Whenever a new female comedy troupe/stand-up emerges, (See this Guardian article on The Vinegar Knickers), the media present the success in question as a triumph in some sort of unspoken battle of the sexes, rather than focusing on their actual talent, their comic prowess, or what their material actually entails. We’re consistently taught to see them as female comedians. Not just comedians. And women deserve better than that; this isn’t the 70’s.

There are evidently a great deal of obstacles that women face in the stand-up industry, and I am in no way arguing that these should be overlooked or ignored. Any form of prejudice doesn’t disappear immediately, and for some peculiar reason, it’s lingering in comedy (oh, and politics). Maybe if we started promoting success resulting from talent as an achievement in itself, things would start to change. Maybe if journalists stopped harping on about the difficulties that women face in the industry, more women would be encouraged to actually go for it; to stand up and make a change.


  • Hi Jamie,

    Haha, I don’t reeeeally think that the male anatomy is THAT funny, I was just teasing. Have you SEEN vaginas? Actually, don’t answer that question, it’s a bit personal. But yeah, we don’t have the greatest deal either, in that department.

    I can’t explain nor justify the divide. It’s just one of those industries where, unfortunately, it’s still very difficult for women to make any progress in. Just like politics; we don’t seem to want women to rule and we don’t seem to want women to make us laugh. Christopher Hitchens wrote a (frankly insulting) article eons ago that tried to explain it from a biological basis, but left me feeling a bit depressed, and unconvinced. I can’t help but feel that he’s just using ‘science’ to excuse prejudice.

    In regards to your last point, I don’t consider being a woman as being equatable with being a ‘leftie’ or being ‘posh’; surely us women deserve to have our own sub-categories as well, right? Instead of our sex being our ‘thing’ – our only remarkable feature.

    Thank you for your feedback 🙂 I hope this helped to clear up a few things. If not, feel free to ask anything else!

    By website-enterta… on 28.5.2023

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  • I really liked this article. Very good points (although I would say that saying that male anatomy is “hilarious” is literally as bas as a man saying “you’re funny for a woman).

    Just a few points for clarification;

    How would the writer explain the great divide there is between the number of women in comedy and the number of men?

    Could it be argued that most successful comedians end up defined by their most easily recognisable characteristics? Gervais was always the chubby comic, Henry the black comic, Lee the lefty comic, Macintyre as the posh comic, Alan Carr as the gay comic and so on? I’m not saying that this is right but just asking; maybe it is wrong to say it’s just women? Maybe even a little sexist?

    Love to know what you think

    By Jamie on 28.5.2023

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