Are men funny?
Are men funny? Not as a whole, but individually, yes.
Men have it very hard in the comedy world right now. For a start, there are thousands of them. Many with the same hair, or dress sense, or vague impression of Stewart Lee. How to distinguish themselves in an overcrowded market place?
Although it might seem a good thing to do something obscure or surreal or that most elusive type of comedy, original, on the stage, that sort of thing is hard to pull off when one of the main pieces of information you must convey early on to your fellow open mic-ers is that you have definitely and definitively have had sex with a lady.
And that's not an easy thing to crowbar into any set, not unless your set is packed with bawdy anecdotes or references to sexual acts. Or puns.
Male comedians have a lot of challenges that female comedians don't have to worry about. For one thing, the audience expect them to be funny – the stakes are higher as they have so much further to fall in their audience's estimation. Another thing is the pressure to do a good knob gag to relax the room and let your fellow open mic-ers know that you definitely and definitively have a penis.
Male comedians have to worry about how to distinguish themselves from the other male comedians at the comedy night, the ones with the same hair, or dress sense, or Jimmy Carr style delivery. Sometimes all three.
Men find it hard to talk about their emotions on stage in comedy. It's a trick that's hard to get right. Too earnest and you'll appear heartfelt: the inevitable comparison to Daniel Kitson that can never be lived up to will turn up on a blog and you'll be scuppered. Too many one liners and you'll appear to have no emotions. Or sense of narrative.
Female comedians are free of so many of these shackles: no one expects them to be funny, and there are very few famous female comedians for the audience to compare them to, let alone other female comedians on the bill who might have accidentally come up with the same knob gag that weekend.
Women can talk about their emotions, because they are expected to be emotionally intelligent, so at least if the audience aren't laughing, they're learning. Women don't have to worry about getting on Mock The Week, because there's so few of them that it'll eventually be their turn anyway. Women don't have to worry about being criticised for being too vulgar, because when a woman swears it's sort of twee; or worry about performing rape gags, because when a woman mentions rape, they are probably going for the sympathy vote. Or making a point.
So why do female comedians complain so much about the sexist state of comedy or the lack of parity in numbers or why men don't find them funny? The answer is they don't: journalists/bloggers do.
- Elise Bramich tweets at @pageantmalarkey.
Published: 3 Oct 2012