Shappi Khorsandi: Ladette culture stopped us talking about sexual misconduct | Stand-up speaks out about the the comedy industry’s revitalised  #MeToo movement

Shappi Khorsandi: Ladette culture stopped us talking about sexual misconduct

Stand-up speaks out about the the comedy industry’s revitalised #MeToo movement

Shappi Khorsandi has said that female comedians stayed silent about the ‘horrible stuff’ going on in the comedy circuit in the Nineties partly because the ‘ladette’ culture encouraged women to laugh off any sexual misconduct.

The comic spoke out as abusers in stand-up are facing a new reckoning, with several examples being cited on social media  in comedy’s own #MeToo movement.

Speaking to fellow comic Tom Price on his My Mate Bought A Toaster podcast Khorsandi said:  ‘What’s happening on the comedy circuit is really interesting – you and I are both from the Nineties where we didn’t talk about this stuff. We thought feminism was matching the men pint for pint, and pretending we really enjoyed one-night stands. 

‘But we had no way of verbalising that actually we didn’t want that to happen, because we were meant to just enjoy what the men enjoyed. 

‘That was what the whole  "ladette" culture sold to us. So we never verbalised the horrible stuff that was going on, not even to our closest friends. We were all meant to just laugh it off or drink it off.’

She also spoke about how she was also targeted by a former partner, not in the comedy business, who the techniques of notorious pick-up artist advice book The Game. The 2005 title has been branded sinister for the way it encourages men to undermine a woman's self-esteem to make her more vulnerable.

‘With what’s happening now, I realise that it’s no coincidence that that guy doing that to me, he wasn’t the first, it had happened before,’ she said.

‘Now I talk to the younger female comedians, who are so much more tuned in to this kind of stuff than my generation was, they’re like "yeah, because you displayed traits that they recognise as vulnerable, and yet you’re a strong person."

‘And it’s a game – it’s a vulnerability that they see. It can happen to anybody but if it’s happening to you quite a bit, then there’s a certain type of guy that sees that vulnerability. It’s finding the right victim.’

Price said such behaviours were rife on the stand-up circuit, saying: ‘There is a certain type of man who does that, who also often has the same personality traits as a stand-up comic. So you can get that sort of person doing these things on the comedy circuit and it’s about time this conversation was had to flag up the men who are doing this – it needs to happen.’

Khorsandi then shared a story of arriving backstage at a comedy gig when she was in her early 20s

‘They’re all men,’ she said, ‘and this male comedian went "Oh, here she is! I’ll get the knife, you get the duct tape. Oi you! Open the boot."

‘And the other comedians rolled their eyes, like "Oh what’s he like?" Then one guy said to him, ‘Mate, steady on’" Then this guy took the mickey out of him for standing up for me. 

‘I look back on that and just think, so, you walk into a dressing room, some guy makes a joke about putting you in a car boot, and then you’re meant to go on the same stage, and do the same job, and make the same audience laugh…’

Price: ‘Yeah, it’s undermining you. That’s what it’s trying to do.’

Khorsandi: ‘Massively, massively undermining you. And that’s what The Game is - to knock your confidence, undermine you. 

‘But yeah, I’ve found all this stuff on the circuit that people are talking about very triggering. Even that was a word we didn’t use – we didn’t use the word "triggering", we didn’t use the expression "body autonomy", no one knew what "gaslighting’" meant. We didn’t have this vocabulary, so it’s been quite a weekend, let me tell you.’

In My Mate Bought A Toaster podcast, celebrities are interviewed by using a trip back through their Amazon purchase history to trigger conversation.

Khorsandi’s episode is here

Published: 1 Jul 2020

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.