Funny Women boss apologises for outburst

Pay-to-pay row rumbles on

Funny Women founder Lynne Parker has apologised for a blog post in which she branded critics of her competition’s £15 entry fee as perpetuating the idea female comics are ‘bitchy and irrational’ and only interested in ‘talking about periods and gossip’.

She said she was ‘hugely hurt’ by those who said she was exploiting new acts by becoming the first competition to charge would-be performers to take part – and even said she was ‘reviewing’ the situation.

In her new blog post she also alleged that ‘this has all been taken out of context’; and hoped ‘we can all get past this and move on’.

High-profile comedians including Shappi Khorsandi, Sarah Millican and Jo Caulfield had criticised the talent hunt for exploiting hopeful comedians by charging them £15 to take part.

Caulfield Tweeted ‘@funnywomen have finally proved it IS harder for women in comedy because men AREN'T charged £15. Please reconsider this RIDICULOUS idea.’

And Khorsandi said, tongue-in-cheek: ‘Aspiring comics! Never pay to enter a competition! Buy a new hat instead.’

Millican said: ‘Advice to any budding female comedians, no need to pay to play by entering Funny Women. Just be funny, write loads & work very hard.’

Fellow comic Grainne Maguire added on Twitter: ‘Female comedians need #FunnyWomen like a fish needs a pay to play gig.’

In a blog post yesterday, competition organisers claimed those criticising the fee were ‘hell-bent on perpetuating a debilitating stereotype’. And they said that paying the £15 was an act of ‘rising up and acting with the strength and poise of a woman’.

There is no cash prize for the competition, but the a package including a year-long management contract and a website.

The original post – now deleted – said: ‘Female comics are constantly battling the stigma that they are nothing but bitchy and irrational bodies who are more interested in talking about periods and meaningless gossip to say anything useful on stage.

‘However, despite this it would appear that there are still a number of female comics hell-bent on perpetuating this debilitating stereotype, and instead of tailoring their behaviour to the advantage of female comedy as a whole, would rather spend their time proving to the world, yet again, that women have nothing better to do than gossip and whine.

‘Jo Caulfield: yes we agree, it is harder for women in comedy, but not because of a nominal £15 registration fee, but because whenever there is even the most vague attempt to move female comedy beyond the past and on to the next level, there’s almost always someone doing their best to perpetuate the negative stereotype and make it even harder for anyone trying to start a dynamic career in their world.

‘So, potential female comedians of the future, you have been presented with both a choice and an opportunity: you can either take comedian Shappi Khorsandi’s advice and do what’s expected of you as a girl, (namely take your registration fee and go shopping for a new hat), jump on the bandwagon and perpetuate the stereotype of the bitchy irrational female comedian who’s more interested in gossip than developing a professional profile; or you can rise up and act with the strength and poise of a woman, join us in making a statement, and be a fundamental part of taking female comedy beyond this silliness and on the next level.’

Following the article, comic Susan Calman wrote her own blog addressed to the competition organisers saying: ‘Your article is a bitchy irrational dig at a group of women and men who stand up for what they believe in. In conclusion the tone of your article is more offensive than any discrimination I have ever suffered.’

The row does not seem to have affected the number of people entering the competition, with 50 people signing up within an hour of the launch yesterday, netting £750.

Published: 21 Apr 2011

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