Shelley Bridgman

Shelley Bridgman

Transsexual comic who started stand-up in 2004 under the stage name Shelley Cooper before reverted to her real name.
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Green Party dumps female comic to 'increase diversity'

Apology for ‘crass and inappropriate’ email

The Green Party has been forced to apologise for what it admits was the ‘crass and inappropriate’ way it dumped a female stand-up, saying they would rather have a transsexual woman to ‘increase the diversity’ of a fundraising night.

Chris Smith, a Green Party candidate for the Greater London Assembly and a communications consultant, demonstrated a distinct lack of communication skills when he dropped Lindsay Sharman from the April 4 benefit gig, to be headlined by Alistair McGowan.

In an email yesterday, he wrote: ‘I’m really sorry but I am going to have to withdraw our offer. It’s nothing personal, I was asked if I could increase the diversity of comics on the night. So we’ve got a 63-old-transexual [sic] comic instead of a second female artist. Sorry you have been usurped in this case for a transexual [sic].’

Sharman’s replacement is Shelley Bridgman, aka Shelley Cooper, fresh from her victory in the Silver Comedy competition for the over-55s at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival.

Sharman said: ‘I've never experienced anyone expressing this prejudice so openly and unashamedly. He clearly didn't think there was anything wrong with replacing me in such a fashion and then telling me about it, in such crass terms!

‘Really I should be thankful he's so unthinkingly blunt, especially for someone working for a political party, as if he'd made an excuse for getting rid of me then I would have only had suspicions.’

Many stand-ups regularly complain that some bookers and promoters are resistant to having more than one woman on a bill.

Sharman reveals that ‘two years ago I was told by a [booker and comedian] that a small number of clubs that he books for specify “no female acts” as they believe their audiences won't accept them.’

She adds: ‘I've found that if a female comic complains about the fact that there is rarely more than one female on a  bill, then you can end up looking paranoid, as if you're looking for excuses for your own lack of bookings, or your gender's apparent inability to make much of a mark on the stand-up scene.

‘This has all been rather depressing. I am clinging to the belief that a comic's ability will be the deciding factor on whether they succeed in this business. However, I suspect this kind of thing is discouraging enough that it could make some women drop out prematurely.’

Fellow comic Karen O. Novak said on her blog: ‘Chris Genius has achieved “diversity” by replacing a white female comic with ... a white female comic.’

The Green Party responded quickly to Sharman’s blog, with party leader Caroline Lucas MP posting an apology on Sharman’s blog and pledging to ‘get to the bottom’ of the email, which she admitted was ‘insensitive and unprofessional’.

Media officer Mark Cridge admitted that ‘the communication [Sharman] received was crass, inappropriate and un-called for’, adding: ‘Needless to say this individual’s handling of the arrangements and his contact with you fell below any acceptable standard that we would expect from the Green Party and it certainly falls short of just basic politeness. It certainly does not reflect the views of myself or the Green Party.’

Unfortunately, Smith emailed Sharman late last night about the fundraiser to reassure her: ‘You are definitely top of the list for the next one!’

Cridge confirmed this morning that the Green Party would investigate whether Smith’s remarks had been transphobic and would make further apologies if necessary, as well as contacting Sharman in person to apologise.

Smith, from Bethnal Green, is a candidate for City and East in the London elections, and once said: ‘If you're not a tycoon, a toff, or a bigot, then the Green Party are the only party that truly represent you.’

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Published: 21 Feb 2012

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2006

Shelley Cooper Rewrites History


Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Shelley Cooper: Reality Cheque


Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Shelley Cooper: Britishness


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