This can be a touchy subject depending on who you talk with. I will try my best to treat this topic with care. I know plenty of female comedians and from what I have observed these are the most common reasons why we don’t see more of them working. Remember, women are over half of the population in the U.S. The majority of households with females in them are making the purchasing decisions. So why is it hard to get females on shows?
This topic came to me last week as I was talking to a booker about any local female comedians. I had to tell him no. Then it got me thinking…I see new male comedians come and go all the time, so why not the same for women. This is what I came up with
Women have to deal with stereotypes that even minority male comedians don’t have to bother with. We have all heard one of the more common ones: “Women aren’t funny!” That is such a bullshit answer to why we don’t see women comedians. There are tons of funny women! I think the problem is guys get uncomfortable about subjects important to women and so instead of saying, “When women talk about getting stalked or their vaginas, I get weird feelings in my chest.” They will just say they aren’t funny to dismiss what they are talking about on stage.
The entertainment industry is full of drama. You think your office is petty? Try comedy. If it is this petty when there are no women around it gets even more so when there are ladies sprinkled in. Why? Because women have to deal with it from the men and their fellow ladies. I have seen it personally when a female comedian starts getting work, everyone starts going back and forth about why that is. It can’t be because she is funny and worked hard! It has to be because she is sleeping with everyone! Why would any woman want to go through all of that just for drink tokens? Never mind the fact that you should be able to sleep with anyone you want, but to use sex as the only way a women can get ahead in comedy is just low.
If you think the Louis C.K. thing was an isolated incident then you got another thing coming. He was the most famous case, but for every comedy scene you have predators in it looking to take advantage of everyone, especially ladies.
Usually when you are starting out, you want to get out on the road and perform in a crappy bar for people that would rather watch the hockey game. For a guy, getting taken advantage of could mean the predator will just make up a lie about not getting paid or something and not pay for gas. There is a whole different ball of wax for a female. Instead of their ride as a target, their sex is. Every female comedian I have talked to has had something like this happen. Where a guy wanted to have them work with them, but it was just to try and have sex with them. It’s not just other comedians! Bookers, club owners, and promoters have tried similar things, and that’s before you get in front of a bunch of horny, drunk audience members that think it’s alright to touch a woman. I can see why any women wouldn’t want to bank her living on this. Why deal with the already hellish grind that is comedy AND have to dodge sexual predators as well.
Society doesn’t make it easy for women either. Think about when you were in grade school. Who was usually the class clown? A dude. It seems as though society suppresses the sense of humor out of women more. “It is not like a lady to tell jokes about their bodily functions!” I’m assuming an old geezer would say. Why? Women have the same observations that men do, why wouldn’t some of them turn that into something funny? We also don’t allow women to “relax” in maturity. That means when women grow they are usually not allowed to be silly or immature. “Boys will be boys” came about to tell you right away that boys are allowed to talk about masturbating and bodily functions, whereas women shouldn’t because they are mentally old enough to know better.
Society also doesn’t like when different views are expressed. We can take it from a black, or Asian male because at least they are still men. Women on the other hand face opposition when their ideas run afoul of the norm. I don’t know how many shows I have seen where a white guy will rally his brothers about toilet paper going on the roll only one way, but when a lady tries to get her sisters united in their common hatred of Axe body spray there are crickets singing their song of contempt in the distance.
The thing is this is not just a man on women thing. The dirty little secret is that women will do this as well! When I was in the Seattle International Comedy Competition this past fall, no women made it to the semi finals. Everyone wanted to know why. Well, the truth is that there were women that were close to making it. It’s just that the women judges judged them lower than the men! Now, I didn’t get to see the numbers and be able to calculate them myself, but it holds true with some of my observations. Women are harder on other women then non douche bag men. I have yet to come up with an answer as to why this is the case, but I have seen it first hand and have heard about it.
I don’t want to close this article by being so negative. There are a lot of things out there that would push a women to stop doing comedy. In the past three years four of our best local women comedians just stopped. One of them just didn’t want to do it anymore. The other just saw it as wasted time she could be doing something more enjoyable, but one of them was really sad. She was a very funny comedian, but she kept getting harassed by men and women. She just got tired of being seen as the comedian that got work because she was cute. You may not think that is a big deal, but when you work on your craft you want to be known for your craft, not for how lovely you look.
I’m not saying we have to just cater to women. I’m saying there are a lot of barriers in this industry that make it difficult for a women to survive in it. What we should be doing as a collective is making it an environment where a woman that is funny can succeed as likely as anyone else. I do think the industry is moving in that direction. Bookers are constantly looking for women. So are festivals and comedy competitions. Headliners are also looking for women because it gives their show overall a nice bit of variety. The problem is it takes time to develop an act so it will take awhile to see this movement blossom.
We men also have to shape up. Take a female comedian under your wing without wanting to have sex with them. Encourage them like you would a male comedian. If we can make it an environment that funny women can excel in that just makes comedy better as a whole.