Take a look at the people around him: What you might not have noticed about Dave Hughes.

“No one wants me on their show except Hughesy.”

When comedian and radio presenter Em Rusciano spoke to fellow comedian Wil Anderson for his podcast in May last year, she joked that there was only one host on mainstream television who wants to include her: Dave Hughes.

“Look at panel shows,” she said, “and this is no disrespect to any actress or presenter, but there’s always a really well-established male comic, and then a pretty sidekick – who’s not a stand up.”

Rusciano suggested that perhaps some hosts are worried about having another funny, strong personality beside them.

Dave Hughes, however, is different.

If you’ve been watching the stand up comedian, radio host and television presenter’s career over the last two decades, you will have noticed a trend.

Unlike a number of men in Australia’s comedy scene, Hughes is almost always working alongside women.

For over 15 years, he’s worked with comedian Kate Langbroek on radio – both of whom now co-host Hughesy & Kate on the Hit Network.

In 2017, it was reported that Hughes took a pay cut to ensure he and Langbroek had pay parity, after learning she was being paid 40 per cent less than him for doing their show.

Speaking to Mamamia last week, Hughes described Langbroek as “brilliant”.

“You want to work with talented people – you need to work with talented women for their perspective,” he said. “Working with Kate… means we can take things into areas where we couldn’t go if it was two blokes.”

This is a philosophy he unequivocally brings with him to his comedy panel show, Hughesy We’ve Got a Problem.

His panel is almost always 50 per cent women.

Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10. Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.
Image via Channel 10.

When I attended a recording of the show late last year, Hughes' panellists were Celia Pacquola, Kate Langbroek, Tommy Little and Sam Simmons - allowing for conversations and comedy that are fundamentally different from those that emerge from a 'boys club'.

Speaking about his panellists, Hughes says, "they're there because they're talented".

"You want people with different opinions, and people who aren't afraid to say them."

He speaks about gender representation within his projects with the tone of it simply being common sense - of course you want women in comedy, because it makes for better comedy.

"You want to get a wider opinion," he says.

This, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be the perspective of everyone in Australia's mainstream media.

Em Rusciano is right. Panel shows can follow a formula - one that doesn't allow for outspoken, confident, funny women. Or one that only has room for a particular type of woman.

Radio can be the same, with male-dominated lineups still filling the schedules of the major stations. We've got Fitzy and Wippa, Kate, Tim and Marty, Fifi, Fev and Byron, Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, Chrissie, Sam and Browny - all examples of male voices outweighing those of women.

We're hearing more male perspectives, more male stories, and more male jokes. We're getting a broader idea of who men are and what they're allowed to be.

While it might seem small or tokenistic having a panel with an equal number of men and women, it's far from it. It's a strategic decision that says women are funny and smart and interesting too, and conversations become better when you invite more people in.

Hughesy might be the only host on mainstream television who wants Em Rusciano on his show.

And that's why it's worth watching.

You can watch Hughesy, We've Got a Problem on Tuesday at 9pm on Channel Ten, or on Ten Play

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