When a female comedian gets off stage, we are often met with “Wow you are so brave!” at which point, we as female comedians roll ours eyes and respond with “yes, thank you, we are so brave.” Why is it that when a woman gets up on stage and performs her heart we think “wow, that was brave” but when a man gets up and performs on stage we think “wow, how talented?” The answer is simple we have grown up in a society that devalues women and in a culture that feels like women just aren’t funny.
The problem with a statement like this is it is most often based on ignorance. “Ok you don’t find women funny, well, what women have you seen perform live?”
“None. Well I saw Amy Schumer doing this bit on YouTube back in 2011 and I didn’t laugh once.” If majority of the comedy you have grown up with has been male dominated surely our views on women’s ability to do comedy are totally skewed. South African audiences are particularly prone to this idea, of women being the inferior sex in comedy and this arises from a patriarchy that exists within the comedy industry.
If the big-time producers of comedy shows are putting on male-centric lines ups with maybe a female or two as the diversity act, we are never going to move toward greater equality with the comedy industry. Women-only line up are kept for the month of August and are sold as ‘ladies night’ shows
There are two problems here:
1) wait an entire year before seeing a power night of females tearing the stage apart with fire material.
2) the audience is made up of only women so that men aren’t being exposed to how funny, brilliant and real female comedians actually are. Male producers in this country have been known to echo the sentiments of noted intellectual and infamous misogynist Chris Hitchens. In his article from 2007, entitled: Why Women Aren’t Funny”, he comments: Most of [Female Comedians] though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dyke or Jewish, or some combo of the three.
I would like to say we have played these roles because this is the only way women have been accepted in comedy circles. In order to join the boys club, we have had to blend in or get out! We have had to do and perform comedy in male dominated spaces for male dominated audiences and if our style or approach deviated too far from the social norm we are seen as not funny, or brave (in a patronising way).
The only way we, as a country can move forward and destroy the toxic masculinity that exists within this industry is by empowering female comedians. We need to ensure that we are supporting female comics, following their careers ensuring we are giving them the chance to experiment, fail and get back up there and keep working the rooms. We are brave. So incredibly brave – to drive to dodgy places late at night, to worry about our safety and being harassed sexually at work. All female comedians want is an equal opportunity to go to work perform and prove to the world that we are just as funny than our male counterparts. So before you make a call as to whether female comedians are funny, check your bias and prejudice, and assess whether you are you are giving female comics an equal shake.