It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in comedy – in most cases it’s a 1:4 ratio at best. This year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival featured only 19% all female shows, as opposed to 73% presented by their male counterparts. Commentators and clowns alike have toiled with the question, “Why this is the case?” It’s a chicken and egg scenario – are they too chicken or is it because they have eggs?
Comedy is a tough game for anyone; you spend your time trying to make others laugh while everyone else is trying to throw you off beat – the heckler and the prey. Add in a set of lady-bits and you’re in for an even bumpier ride.
To say that my road to comedy was an uncomfortable journey would be an understatement. The comedy arena was the last place I wanted to be. I’d seen far too many comedy rooms to want to choose that path – I’d rather drive the bus for an end of season footy trip.
But the initial success of our all female musical comedy duo Sparrow-Folk was intoxicating and presented an opportunity to realise my life-long dream of a career in the performing arts.
Sparrow-Folk was thrown into the spotlight long before we had any clue of what we were doing. Here’s a story of an over-tired breastfeeding Mum that vents her frustrations through a comical song, puts it on the internet and 1 million hits later, is a viral sensation.
Within a few short days Sparrow-Folk had an instant international audience, opportunities on television and radio, and a huge expectation hanging over us to give everyone more of the same. It was thrilling, confronting, terrifying and wonderful wrapped into one.
For every new hit, piece of praise, or interview, there were 2 new comments from keyboard warriors desperate to bring us down. We were completely exposed and it was time to rediscover that thick-skinned coat I had self-protectively grown during high school. There’s no place for self doubt in comedy – it only leads to bad material and awkward silence.
So with the “women aren’t funny” burden ringing in our ears, we pushed on – harder and more daring. We had been given an opportunity; the door to the comedy world had been left ajar and it wasn’t something to walk past.
Once inside, you begin to discover that it can be pretty confronting at times. The air is thick with a sense of tolerance rather than acceptance. There’s a feeling that you’re just filling up the female quota on a bill.
It’s Year 9 PE class all over again and Mr Waddington is desperately trying to get the boys to handball the footy to the girls for a change…except now your swimming in a sea of dick jokes and frowned upon if you dare mention your lady bits. period. (Oh crap, did I just make a period joke? How female of me).
Watch Sparrow-Folk perform at TEDxCanberra. Post continues below.
And yes, I am calling it. There’s a double standard when it comes to gender based comedy. Ever heard that line, “yeah, she’s not that funny.
She just talks about her vagina all the time.” The fact that a glowing show review can be tainted by the warning, “but just be aware, it’s got a very feminine perspective.” I mean, look out world – they have vaginas and they are not afraid to refer to them.
I wonder how many times Joel Creasey’s show has come with a “heavy on dick jokes” warning. Or that moment after a show when someone exclaims, “you guys are actually funny!” If I had a dollar for every time I had heard that one, I could single-handily fund the Paid Parental Scheme.
What’s the answer? A military style recruitment campaign to attract women into the comedy arena? More all female comedy galas? An X-Factor style reality show/competition for “Funny Gals”? …Let me pour a camomile tea and get a little emotional on that prospect.
The truth is, there probably is no easy answer and pointing out the problem may in fact just make it worse (oops, I did it again). Did I just play the gender card? Could I just be inviting a response reminiscent of the cold sore clad girl at the kissing booth? I will just leave my computer open for the “Well, if they were funny there wouldn’t be a problem” responses…
Thankfully, the digital age has provided audiences the chance to program comedy for themselves. So if you find a woman funny, share the hell out of it and help turn the tide.
Juliet Moody is a comedian, writer, musician and mum of four. In between juggling her children’s social calendars, she plays one-half of the musical comedy-duo Sparrow-Folk; described as the Australian “sirens of satire.” In 2014, Juliet penned the satirical song aimed at critics of breastfeeding in public in the musical comedy viral sensation ‘Ruin Your Day With Tits.’ The song drew worldwide praise and quickly became an anthem for breastfeeding mums around the globe. Juliet has performed comedy across the country and in the UK, including the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter here and here.
Moody was one of the short-listed writers on MWN and HarperCollinsPublishing’s 2015 Writers’ Competition.