Girls just wanna have... some goddam recognition

Susan Calman challenges journaists' lazy assumptions

There can’t be more than four or five female comics, can there?

The Edinburgh Festival is upon us and with it a further crop of articles about how funny women are. Depending on the paper you read, the story varies. Five specific women are funny (Guardian), women are too busy thinking about shoes to be funny (Edinburgh Evening News), women should be cleaning rather than trying to be funny (Daily Mail) or women have massive tits (The Sun).

To be clear at the outset of this piece I don’t lose sleep over such discussions. I don’t panic before going on stage because Michael Parkinson has commented on my abilities without ever seeing me and I don’t think that every punter is put off seeing my Edinburgh show because of something they have read in the paper. But what does make me angry is when articles regarding women in comedy are simply factually incorrect. For example: ‘Women are a tiny part of the scene’ – Guardian 2006.

This kind of comment is repeated again and again when female comics are discussed. Like we are rare forms of fungus only found in certain rocks in the Amazon Basin. But you know what? There are loads of us. Tons in fact. You may not have seen all of us at the one time, strangely enough I haven’t seen every male comic in the land, but I don’t automatically assume that there are only five of them. I am sure there are loads of male comics. And well done too – you are very brave.

But I would consider myself a positive person, apart from the extreme self loathing and introspection that is essential for a comic, and so wanted to do something about it rather than whine. My aim was to set in motion a project whereby we could provide some proof to journalists that there are, in fact, quite a few female comics around many of whom are making the journey to Edinburgh this year.

I started a Facebook group asking female comics who are travelling to the festival to sign on if they fancied having their photo taken as a collective, so that the next time we were told that there were less than ten of us we could politely show the journalist in question a photo and ask them to take it back or they would get a Crack in the nuts. Or the fanny. I’m not prejudiced.

In only a few days 192 female comics have expressed an interest – and hopefully most of them will be around for the photograph. A class photo (with a touch of The Shining about it) is a simple way to prove a simple point. If we can redress some of the innacuracies in reporting perhaps we can then move on from being an alleged “rarity” and just be funny.

As an aside, a quick thanks to thanks the men who have sent messages of support regarding the project. And a massive thanks to the complete cocks who have also offered their views on the issue. Thanks for your help and your suggested jokes. Every hole is indeed a goal. I’ll see you at the festival boys. Make sure you sit right at the front so we can have a nice chat. But don’t be too aggressive, testosterone is like kryptonite to lady comics remember?

So if you are a female comic going to the festival and want to join a few of us in an effort to make a quiet point of principle join the group. But above all, given the comic talent in Edinburgh (male, female, sketch, music, poetry) just go and see some comedy and make up your mind if it’s funny. Even if a journalist has told you otherwise.

  • Susan Calman’s show The Last Woman on Earth is on at the Underbelly at 8.10pm nightly.

Published: 28 Jul 2009

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