day 7: women and numbers

So, aside from me and my own personal crises of confidence, it seems there are other things going on in Edinburgh, too.

There was an article in yesterday’s Times which reported a big gathering of female comedians, organised by Susan Calman and attended by lots of my very funny female comedy friends. I’d heard about the get-together, but until I read the article I hadn’t quite grasped the political intent behind it.

Obviously the Times may have got completely the wrong end of the stick, but it seemed to be suggesting that the gathering was some kind of ‘protest’ to make the point that women are marginalised from a ‘male-dominated industry’.

I hope that’s not the case – the fact there are a lot of funny women out there doesn’t need saying, and I don’t even think comedy club bookers are as sexist as is often made out (obviously there are a few dinosaurs who are – Don Ward at the Comedy Store clearly is, but to a large extent his horrible views only reflect the attitude of the moronic weekend audiences he generally caters for); the biggest comedy chain is the UK is run by a woman who regularly books funny women, as is Hils Jago’s Amused Moose mini-empire, and even at the open spot level I frequently share bills with some brilliant acts who happen to have vaginas (I assume). It’s not harder for female acts to get booked; if anything, it’s sometimes easier for a genuinely good female comedian to make progress because bookers at all levels want to get female acts on their bills.

If the newspaper article was to be believed, Susan Calman organised the ‘protest’ in response to an interview with Dara O’Briain in which he suggesed that perhaps the reason there are less women on comedy bills is because less women do it; so the female acts were getting together to show that ‘there are loads of us’.

And it’s true, there are loads of really brilliant female comics. But what Dara O’Briain said in that interview wasn’t false. He wasn’t saying that there are fewer female acts on comedy bills because there are so few female comedians – he was saying that there are proportionally less in comparison with males. Which is true. There were 68 women who came to the Edinburgh gathering, but if there was a gathering of male comedians who are in Edinburgh at the moment there would be hundreds, possibly thousands. In fact, if female comedians weren’t already the minority group, there would have been no gathering.

If I try to think of all the comedians I know who are slogging their way around the London gigs (the ones in which pretty much anyone who asks will get stagetime), the acts who are working hard to get really consistently funny, learn their craft, who are giving up their summers to come to Edinburgh, I guess I know about four or five males to every female. I wish that weren’t the case, because I know women who make me laugh much more than a lot of men do; but that’s how it is. And it says nothing at all about men ‘as a whole’ or women ‘as a whole’; it’s just the facts.

And ultimately, of course, the good promoters, the ones anybody should want to work for, book acts based on only one question: do they make audiences laugh and feel good? The reason that any person, male or female, gets booked at all is because they do. The reason that more men get booked is because more men happen to be trying.

So if the gathering the other day was in order for female acts to meet when often they don’t, then great. If it was to encourage more funny women to try stand-up, then even better. But if it was to protest against a perceived patriarchy in the comedy industry, then I don’t think it was really necessary.

Perhaps it’s just that girls don’t understand maths.*

Meanwhile, we did a relatively competent lunchtime show yesterday, and a brilliant evening show – Loz and Tony really hammered the mound with flyering and the room was packed and really up for the show. So much of this is a numbers game: the more flyers you put out there, the more chances of getting an audience in… Our guests were great, too – Joel Dommett and Dee Custance (who is, coincidentally, a very funny woman).

And then, of course, we went out. I was talking to Imran Yusuf, who is doing four or five shows every day; he’s playing the numbers game, too…

*I hope the irony in this sentence is self-evident

CTD: Audience – small; Performance – 5/10

SSS: Audience – packed; Performance – 7/10

Other Stuff: Fun, yes. Though I was pretty tired by about 5am…

Overall: WIN

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