An all-male comedy night would just be called comedy
From left, Athena Kugblenu, Alexis Wieroniey, Harrier Braine, Roisin O'Mahoney and Bisha K Ali in London performing at Angel Comedy for ShoutOut For Women's Day.
Funny people can be men or they can be women or neither. They can be white, black, brown, yellow, small, big, fat or thin. They can be bearded or completely shaved, standing up or sitting down. Funny people come in all shapes and sizes.
Yet, society still seems to have subtler biases when it comes to comedy – a space that in history has been typically dominated by men.
Angel Comedy was voted on Time Out one of the best clubs in London; it features stand up from carefully selected open-mic comics and experienced acts testing new stuff or performing solid-gold sets – all for free, seven days a week.
Despite being located in one of the most progressive cities in the world, it is still unusual for them to have an all-female comedy night.
On the 8th of March, for International Women’s Day, Shout Out UK, an award-winning youth news network engaging young people in politics, hosted at Angel “Shout Out for Women’s Day, an event featuring only female comedians.
The aim of the night was to raise money for the Fawcett’s Society, a charity working to improve gender equality worldwide.
The success of Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, Iliza Schlesinger, Tig Notaro, and Sarah Silverman are often cited as proof that female comedy is experiencing an awakening; that the "problem" of women in comedy no longer exists. These exceptions, however, do not prove the rule.
Gender imbalance between men and women in comedy can still be seen all over.
According to a 2014 article by the Huffington Post, women account for only 10 per cent of comedians. And a study conducted in 2017 found that in UK comedic panel shows, only 31% were female appearances.
Beth Munro, education coordinator at Shout Out UK, and the main organiser of the event says she came up with the idea for Shout Out For Women’s Day because she wanted to do something outside the box for the 8th of March.
“I didn’t want to make another sad video or the usual mainstream event. I thought a comedy night would be perfect to celebrate women but also to highlight the underrepresentation of women in comedy”, Munro says
“I think the fight for inclusivity and representation is far from over. An “all male” comedy night would just be called a “comedy night.”
Her comment is alarmingly true as often women are portrayed as a genre, not a gender. As in: “women do “women’s comedy” rather than just comedy.
Alexis Wieroniey, one of the comedians and presenter at Shout Out For Women’s Day says the only gigs she has ever done just with other females were for International Women’s Day.
“I have never been on a gig that just happened to be like that whereas I have seen so many all-male shows without it being on purpose,” Wieroniey says explaining her frustration about gender imbalance.
When asked if she has ever experienced blatant sexism in her career as a comedian Alexis tells me about the time she went to the Gong Show at the Comedy Store.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing because I was at my 10th gig. I was really shit and I got gonged off after a minute and a half but whilst I was walking off stage, a crew member shouted: another unfunny woman!”. Fair enough, I was not funny, I didn’t know what I was doing but what does it have to do with my gender? I was devastated,” she explains.
“I feel that the fact that it was acceptable to say this on Channel 4 shows how subtler biases still do exist today in our society.”
Athen Kugblenu, another comedian chosen to appear on the night of the 8th of March says that most of the time she is chosen for a gig just so that she can tick the “diversity box”.
“I think it is slowly changing but it is for me and every other female comedian a problem. Nevertheless, doing gigs for International Women’s Day is an opportunity to put up a line-up of all females and raise awareness. People watch the telly but not many people come to comedy gigs and don’t really know comedy is the way it is”, says Athena.
The seven comedians rocked the night for “Shout Out for Women’s Day”, entertaining the audience members with jokes that covered politics, social issues, religion and of course gender.
During Róisín O’Mahony and Chiara Goldsmith’s act, the pair cheerfully asked the crowd, “Who runs the world?” to which the attendees immediately and enthusiastically answered “Girls”.
Then, the pair turned to one of the few male audience members to ask if he actually knew who runs the world but this time there was no answer.
Unsurprisingly not many men attended the event, 80% of the audience members were in fact females.
However, Lewis Chapman, one of the few that was there commented at the end of the night: “I always do something for International Women’s Day with my wife. I am a regular at Angel Comedy and I was actually the one who wanted to go to this show. Women are just as funny as men and I think they all just proved so tonight.”
Audiences like variety and like hearing a range of stories coming from all backgrounds and from all people. We never ask ourselves whether men are funny or not after a gig, so why do we still do so for women?
Funny is funny.