Where are all the gross female comedians? | Ange Lavoipierre on the joys of looking unf*ckable

Where are all the gross female comedians?

Ange Lavoipierre on the joys of looking unf*ckable

Australian comedian Ange Lavoipierre is heading to the Edinburgh Fringe next month with both a solo show and as a double-act with comedy partner Jane Watt, both of which are described as ‘absurdist’. Here she describes how it’s more difficult for female comics to embrace gross humour – and calls for more women to pursue it.

‘No-one’s going to want to fuck us after this,’ Jane whispered, backstage before our first show together.

Very few of them had wanted to fuck us to begin with, because most of them were relatives. But this show was not going to change anyone’s minds.

To be fair, it wasn’t designed to. We dress in grey boys’ school uniforms. We think cum and blood pacts are funny. We are gross. Individually, yes, but together we are grosser than the sum of our parts. 

I don’t know why raw egg, piss sounds, and cryogenically frozen corpses seemed like good choices. I would blame early overdoses on Monty Python and Jim Carrey, but I think it’s innate. I’d even say it’s genetic but our parents seem deeply alienated by our work.

Again, and I cannot stress this enough, we are not out here to fuck. (Disperse the queue, please!) Watching from the stage as all traces of desire drain from a person’s eyes in real time never gets old. At one point, Jane’s then-boyfriend told her our show was ‘hard to watch’. This category of response is so familiar to us by now that we welcome it as we would an old friend. You know, the kind you can’t remember how you met, or why you like them, but they have keys to your house.

Let’s assume that men doing gross comedy inspire similar levels of sexual allergy in their audiences. I don't for a second think that’s true, and Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be doing fine with Isla Fisher, but let’s pretend.

Even if that is the case, they’re walking into a pre-warmed room. The Porta Potti bungee jump isn’t most people’s idea of trailblazing art, but the likes of Jackass, Adam Sandler and Chris Farley are all canon, as well as being certifiably gross. If you’re a dude who wants to push an egg out his butt on stage, there’s ample precedent.

Search for their gross female counterparts though, and the ranks are thin. Joan Rivers, Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy might qualify, but it feels like they’re playing a fundamentally different game. They’re the closest match in the way of household names, but the laughs come from gross-adjacent antics, such as a ​confessional approach to sex, or a knack of physical comedy. They’re not laying eggs, you know?

Natalie Palamides is, though. Performers like Palamides, as well as Australians Zoe Coombs-Marr and Demi Lardner are forcing the Overton window for grossness wider on the festival circuit every year.

On SNL, Sarah Squirm is doing it covered in meatballs and prosthetic ears.

They’re proof that there’s an audience for gross women. The progress is tangible, but the list is too short.

Maybe women are less inclined to be gross on stage because our gross-out pantheon isn’t crowded enough yet. Maybe the women who are gross are less visible because they’re finding less success. Maybe both. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing. Maybe the chicken wasn’t socialised to make jokes about it.

Good luck finding anyone under 60 who’ll admit it, but we still have a problem with gross women. 

The risks are less overt than they were, but they’re still there. There’s less overtly gendered criticism, unless of course you’re on TikTok, or YouTube, or Twitch. Okay, so there’s still gendered and overt criticism.On the festival circuit, though, no one is saying the quiet part loud. They may not even realise that they’re thinking it. 

It’s not that gross men don't take a hit in the fuckability stakes, but fuckability is still a greater share of a woman’s appeal in the first place. 

It doesn’t feel good to type, and I assume it doesn’t feel good to read.

It stands to reason then, that the cost of being gross is still higher for women.

We have to be twice as good to make up for the fuckability tax. No wonder the list is still short.

I meant what I said though. There’s real pleasure in watching your fuckability tank as you shovel fistfuls of sand into your mouth and make lingering eye contact with the front row. If nothing else, it qualifies as a foolproof kill-switch for the male gaze.

• Ange Lavoipierre and Jane Watt’s show Jazz Or A Bucket​ of Blood will be at the Underbelly George Square Gardens at 8.50pm from August 2 to 27. Lavoipierre ’s solo show Your Mother Chucks Rocks And Shells will be at the same venue at 4.20pm.

Published: 7 Jul 2023

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