Confessions of a Male Feminist - Why Are There No Female Comedians?
Sep 3 2012
It's not easy being a man who longs for a woman's world. Which is why, when VICE offered me this column, I decided that it had to be written anonymously. I hope that that doesn't lead you to take me any less seriously - yours, Logan Stuart.
Why are there no female comedians? It's a simple question. One with a simple answer: because a sinister patriarchy refuses to laugh at women's jokes. Instead of creating a nurturing space, in which women could make jokes which reflect their aspirations, standup comedy clubs turn into bear pits at the mere sight of a woman holding a microphone. The sight of one helpless woman after another being wheeled in so that men can shame her for her "lack of wit" is one that, sadly, is all too common in comedy clubs the length and breadth of Britain.
Ignoring the braying and baying of male audiences for a second – as impossible as that task has proven for me – most shameful of all is the absence of titters from the so-called sisterhood who often populate these crowds. For their own, selfish reasons, these laughalong baubles on the arms of their lager-swilling boyfriends and husbands would much rather listen to Michael McIntyre moaning about the tubes than hear a woman affirm her true sexuality onstage. The tubes? There's nothing funny about people on the tubes. It's a mode of transport. Get used to it. Ask yourself what would be ultimately more satisfying – to see John Bishop talk about repairing his Sky box, or to hear Holly Walsh crack wise on the gender politics of taking a shit? Precisely.
To any impartial observer, it seems obvious that the system is weighted in favour of men. That just because they have high voices that don't command authority, women are considered as little more than mic stands with breasts. Let's face it, had Gina Yashere been born with XY chromosomes, she would undoubtedly be where Stephen K Amos is right now. And we can all see that had Sarah Millican a fully-fledged penis, she would undoubtedly be Russell Howard: her own show on BBC3 and selling-out the O2, instead of making up the numbers on Would I Lie to You?
To most of my feminist sisters, this subject may seem like a petty one, but they need to understand that I am arguing here for nothing short of a full redeployment of laughs between the genders. We need an end to jokes that terminate with a twist in the tale, implying a reversal and therefore laughter. The punchline, like the orgasm, is a male allegory of sexuality. We need to create a female ethic of jokes, where the joke is not so much about any one particular thing, as about a confluence of things – the "multi-tasking" version of jokes. The "broad-based erogenous map including clitoris, labia, breasts, thighs and general emotions" of jokes, rather than the "crude glans-rubbing up-down" of male jokes. Where we are not focused on humiliating a person by exaggerating or revealing their follies, but simply "taking a moment to remind ourselves of the absurdity of life itself".
I like to think that the cartoon strip Cathy, by that handsome comic Cathy Guisewite, serves as a worthwhile guide for what I am trying to map in a feminist ethic of humour. Cathy is a real human being, living a fully-fledged independent life. She worries. She struggles. She puts on weight. She takes off weight. Above all, she laughs along, underlined by the series of crazed squiggles that mark her face at the moment of maximal humour.
Sadly, Cathy remains the exception. The sorts of female comedians who get bred by this system are nothing short of collaborators – comedy Vichies who should, by rights, have their heads shaved and be paraded through a market square for their obliging kowtowing to the masculine system. Jo Brand – a woman who has done more to deprecate women than The Black And White Minstrel Show did to deprecate minstrels. Victoria Wood – a terrible old windbag. Shappi Korsandi – a louse for masculine humour. Jennifer Saunders – might as well have "I hate my flange" tattooed onto her most intimate areas.
Again and again, it seems as though women have failed themselves. Which is why male feminists such as myself are so important. It is only through the outsider perspective we can offer on these matters that women can be helped to help themselves. We can see through the matrix. And our eyes can guide them on their journey to a better world. I look forward to the day when I can say without fear of reproach: “It may not be funny to me. But it is funny to women. And that's all that counts.”