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Divine Secrets of the Ha-Ha Sisterhood
We’re told we live in a post-sexist age. So why do so many people have issues with female comedians?
Roe McDermott, 18 Aug 2010
At this year’s Carlsberg Comedy Carnival, over 65 comedians performed. Only three were women. In the 21st Century, it seems ladies are still fighting for the right to be funny.
Stand-up comedian Alison Spittle, 21 and from Westmeath, has been making a name for herself on the circuit since supporting PJ Gallagher last year. Spittle believes in Ireland, being funny is seen as a man’s game.
“It goes back to when men hit each other over the head with clubs, the whole ‘My cock is bigger than yours’ thing. And no man wants a girl with a bigger cock than them.” Spittle pauses. “Well, maybe some tourists in Thailand. But you know, figuratively they don’t.”
Though aware of the divide between men and women in comedy, Spittle has chosen to use it to her advantage.
“To be honest I think I’ve traded in on it. Because you’re only competing with other girls. If you’re good, it’s easier to get gigs, especially if they’re looking to get a token girl on the bill. Men in comedy also give you loads of advice and are really helpful, which they might not be if you were their competition. And as for audiences being wary of female comics, if you’re smart it becomes a joke in itself.”
Fellow stand-up comedian and organiser of Stand Up-Rock Out comedy nights Emer Nugent has also used this wariness in her routines.
“I’ve started getting up and starting my routine by going ‘So... a woman comedian...’ and it always gets a laugh, because everyone’s thinking it. You have to address it, diffuse the tension and get it out of the way so you can get on with it.”
Both women offer the same reason to explain audience’s wariness towards female comedians.
“I think in the past women stuck to too strict a routine,” says Nugent. “There was a big trend of talking about ‘women’s issues’, like weight, or periods, or being a mother or whatever and it’s just too specific for men to relate to. So now none of that stuff is really tolerated. I remember seeing an American girl start on one of those ‘uterus this, uterus that’ routines and she was nearly booed off-stage. Guys who do predictable routines don’t ever get that harsh a reaction.”