Let me preface my latest feminist rant with a clarification- I am not hating on the menfolk here. Men, you are hysterical. You are a hoot. The funniest person in my life is my uncle Fran and he is indeed a man. The funniest person in existence- Eddie Izzard – is a man and so is Chris O’Dowd, Graham Linehan, Dermot Morgan, Dylan Moran, Woody Allen and Spike Milligan. All are hilarious and I am not for a second saying they aren’t. I love men, as my last blog detailed. There’s no denying that in the world of stand up comedy, men are far more present. It is a sausage party.
Something I’ve noticed cropping up a few times is the idea that men are somehow naturally funnier than women. This alarms me. This alarms me as a woman who has based a great deal of her life choice and identity around attempting to be funny. The idea seems to go that women, being less represented, by and large, in the world of ‘comedy’ are therefore just not as good at funnies as men.
Goodness, this alarms me.
I also do believe, quite staunchly that it is complete and utter fucking bullshit. It is- to use a word that oft makes people roll their eyes so hard they swoon like Victorian ladies- complete and utter PATRIARCHAL bullshit. Oh yeah. I used the P word. It’s patriarchal bullshit. Any way you look at it, I think it’s massively unfair to the entire female half of human existence to tell them that they’re not as good at cracking wise. I think it’s a bit of a fallacy. Let me explain. Some of you have already heard this blog spewed to you last night in Doyles simply because I have SO MUCH to rant about. There’s a twofold problem with the assumption-
1. The landscape of stand up comedy and panel shows
2. Women being discouraged from being ‘big’ in any sense, and the places where they feel comfortable being funny.
Where the funny buffalo roam
So on the first point- where do we go to find funny people? Well, these days we flick on comedy central for live at the apollo, or we watch mock the week and never mind the buzzcocks. Stand up comedy DVDs are easily digestible and the purest form of comedy- Just a person standing on a stage making you ache with laughter. Panel shows are a collective LOL ; like your mates at the pub except on BBC2 and getting paid. These people- the Steven Frys, Dara O’Briains and Andrew Maxwells are built in stand up and panel comedy. There is a bro-ness to the panel show. Caitlin Moran has observed that she doesn’t do those shows because she feels like the ‘token woman’ when she does. And much as I loved the Panel, it’s true- seeing a woman on these shows does feel a bit off. Their humour sits unwell with the bro-in. Like any assumption of course, there are exceptions to the rule- Jo Brand sits like a BOSS on any panel, and exudes pure confidence when she does. But it’s a bountiful field of penis, by and large.
It’s a bit of a boy’s club, is all I’m saying. It’s adversarial, slagging, rapid fire and decidedly alpha. All the best male comedians and the ones you think of off the top of your head are extrovert and confident, sure of themselves and their humour as they stand up. It’s natural and normal for them to be loud, brash, abrasive and out there. Now, there are women who do this. Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes – Even Caitlin Moran in interviews has an air of confidence. There are always out liers but generally, men are better at the stand up, panel show game.
I think it was Albert Einstein who once said ‘if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree it will spend it’s whole life believing it is a failure.’ I would like to add to this ‘and if you judge the aggregate hilarity of women by their ability to perform boisterous stand up, they will spend their entire lives accepting that they are not funny. I’m not down with this. I cast my eye around the field of funny women, and I cannot bear the idea of them being considered inferior. It won’t fly. The plain fact is this- structurally funny chicks are less visible because for their entire lives, funny women are encouraged not to be so.
The most intelligent paragraph of this post
Women must, by and large, apologize for being ‘big’ in both a literal and figurative sense. We have to apologise for being overweight and we have to apologize for having a big, loud, joyous personality. I say ‘we’ because I am one of these big, loud women- all my life told to ‘tone it down’ or ‘relax’ or just a good old fashioned ‘shuuuuuuuuuuush.’ It’s not ladylike to crack wise about the reality of your existence. Women aren’t allowed fart, poo, burp, have hair or talk about the fact that they bleed every month. We are also in a bit of a ghetto for observational comedy; generally what I’ve noticed is that men are funny and relate-able for everyone but women are only funny and relate-able to other women. Guys just aren’t as comfortable laughing at the jokes of girls. With alarming frequency I find that the old XKCD comic is true- when many men say ‘I want a girl with a sense of humour’ what he’s really saying is ‘I want a girl who thinks I’M funny.’ There is an incredibly attractive thing about being funny and there’s something dominant and confident about it. A sassy, confident woman is something to be intimidated by. I’ve gotten that reaction. I’ve had the vague sense of alarm and raised eyebrows. It’s not ladylike to laugh about things.
Places where women are funny
So what is a funny girl to do? Well, they find other places – less obvious places – to be funny. Twitter is a good place to find funny women. Funny women that you can think of immediately – Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Tina Fey- all made their name in sitcoms and in script writing. And at some point they’ve all probably done stand up, I know, and they’ll all confident, I know- but I think the fact is that female humour is less dominant, less aggressive, and more suited to books, sitcoms, music, and twitter. Just in general. Saying women are less funny is just judging them on their ability to fit into a very patriarchal system of humour- one that we are socially conditioned to be bad at. It’s judging them on their ability to climb a tree when they’re already swimming through a roaring rapid of hilarity.
I’m not saying that girls are FUNNIER than guys- I’m saying that there are just funny people, and there is no natural propensity involved. I have essentially the same sense of humour as my uncle- Who as we have discussed, is a man. It is possible for men to have the same distaste for panel shows and stand up and go to twitter and books instead. All I’m saying is… Women and men are both really fucking funny. Let’s not turn this into a battle.
Let’s all just be hilarious together.
Niamh ‘Fuck you the patriarchy’ Keoghan