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What's the big deal about women in comedy?

What's the big deal about women in comedy? 1What's the big deal about women in comedy? 2What's the big deal about women in comedy? 3


I was contacted last week by a national newspaper journalist and asked if I had ever considered that the existence of organisations like Funny Women, or indeed the label ‘women in comedy’, might be a form of self-sabotage?

Deep breath… here we go.  Surely, I ask him, this is another non-story along with ‘are women funny?’

Our main aim is to make the comedy landscape a bit more representative, and by promoting and finding new female talent we hope to even that playing field, providing women with the confidence to get out on the circuit and get booked.

Editor of comedy website, Chortle, Steve Bennett admitted on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour last month that there was indeed a barrier to women making it big on the comedy circuit, but was reluctant to offer up any explanation as to why this was and what exactly can be done about it. With women still making up a small percentage of comedians on the circuit, clearly we still have a way to go. Surely providing a friendly environment for women to develop their comedic skills is providing some much needed support that female comics are not finding in the male dominated comedy business as it stands?

This coming week also sees the Women in Comedy Festival taking place in Boston USA, for the fourth year running with a whole range of shows, workshops and masterclasses.  If there wasn’t a need, such events wouldn’t happen, surely?  And America is more open to the whole concept of ‘women in comedy’.

We’ve just finished working with over 10 different women’s networks on our 10th Anniversary Challenge event and not one person has questioned our motives in the endeavour to get women better represented on the comedy circuit – after all, what we do in our way is the same as WIJ, Women in Technology, WFTV, PAWA etc.  So why does what we do come into question?

Being a successful female comic is a hard won accolade. Sarah Millican, for example, is now the most high profile of all the female comics that we have ever seen on the Funny Women stage.  Sarah was runner up to Debra Jane Appelby in 2005, and has achieved her vision of what she wanted for herself, culminating in her own television show. Her incredible work ethic has got her to where she is today and success in the comedy world is elusive for most, for men as well as women.  Our role is to facilitate even more new talent like Sarah and get them on the road – where they then take it is down to them. 

Surely the point is that great talent wins out whatever –  and if we can help some of these women along the way who need an exclusive female platform to cut their comedy teeth and provide great entertainment under the banner of Funny Women, what’s wrong with that?   It’s about time everybody stopped whinging about ‘women and comedy’ and leave us to get on with it! 

Lynne Parker

Pictured top to bottom: Women in Comedy Festival, Sarah Millican, Debra Jane Appelby.

See the article in the Guardian, 21st March, by Leo Benedictus HERE - Leo's new series, Comedy Gold, a on the world's greatest stand-ups, can be found HERE.


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