There, now I’ve got your attention, I’ll tell you some jokes.
…would be a really lame way to start a comedy set, right?
Thankfully though, this is the start of my blog, and the blog is about boobs (and other lady things). So you’ll let me off? Won’t you? WON’T YOU??
Anyway, the thing is, I am trying to work out whether or not it is OK to talk about my boobs in my set and I wondered if you could help? So I’ve been talking a lot in my set lately about them and it always really conflicts me. I happened to come up with some decent jokes around them: I didn’t set out to write about my boobs, in fact I avoided it, but most comics will know that sometimes the pen/mind takes you somewhere you didn’t mean to go, much like an under-qualified minicab driver, or a Malaysian pilot.
So I end up with this material about my boobs that has come out of the end of my pen Ouija-board style, and THE MATERIAL REALLY WORKS, EVERY GIG. So the problem this lands me with is: I am consistently advised that women shouldn’t talk about women things.
We shouldn’t really talk about our boobies. We shouldn’t really talk about our vaginas (or with them, but that would be anatomically complicated)*. It would be advisable not to talk about dating guys. And, above all else, we must NEVER EVER talk about our periods. Menstruation is the Fight Club of the comedy world.
At least, that’s what I got told a lot when I was starting out, in comedy courses, and by seasoned acts.
And I’ve always thought that I agreed. But then I was thinking about my boob material and reading how many summer festival comedy line-ups are under-staffed with females and I thought:
Why shouldn’t I write about lady things?? I AM A LADY.
I mean, are we supposed to pretend we are not ladies? Because the clues are all there as we walk on stage – and if other comedians are allowed to talk about their physical attributes when they walk on (“yes, yes, I know what you’re all thinking, you’re thinking that I look like Michael McIntyre crossed with a stapler / Warwick Davies when viewed through a periscope / Brian Blessed if his head was turned upside down and cut in half and then the other half was Judy Garland”) – I SHOULD BE ABLE TO TALK ABOUT MY BOOBS.
However, I guess in an industry where women are cut from comedy bills to keep the female quotient down AND THE PROMOTER THINKS THAT REASONING IS SO OKAY THEY DON’T EVEN COME UP WITH AN EXCUSE TO CONCEAL IT, in an industry where a TV producer’s approach to keeping seats open to females on a panel show is to give them to glamour models and pretty presenters, in an industry where we repeatedly hear stories of female comics being sexually goaded on stage – not just by audiences but by the compere – you do end up asking yourself, is it worth it?
Is it worth it to keep writing female-skewing material when females themselves are considered challenging enough to be on a comedy bill?
I guess what I’m saying is: if V Festival and T in the Park were so squeamish about even the sight of women they at first didn’t book any female comics into their tents, should we steer clear of writing about being a woman? Should female comics take on the gender gap by stealth, infiltrating the comedy scene first with apparently ‘acceptable’ material (i.e. no boob joke in sight), and then once the balance has been struck and the women have all reached the front-line, they unleash all that material? When I write this sentence I’m picturing myself as a sort of comedic Trojan horse, writing middle-of-the-road material as I surreptitiously penetrate the various layers of comedy heirarchy, before reaching the hallowed ground (it’s a spot on Russell Howard’s Good News, isn’t it? It is.) and finally talking about the reasons my pet names for my tits are Ant and Dec.
I guess I sound reductive here: I’m not saying that all women want to talk about their boobs, and I’m not saying that there are no men that want to talk about these lady-topics. But this is my blog so I’m going from my perspective of a woman who occasionally likes talking about being a woman. And the message seems to be ‘shhhh, don’t say anything to let them know that’s what you are!’
What is encouraging though is that the material works. So maybe it’s not the audiences, but the promoters, who are lacking in an appetite for women and the material that may come with them. That gives me hope that promoters/bookers are just slow on the uptake: eventually they’ll notice that their audiences don’t collectively projectile vomit the minute a woman walks on stage and allow us on more.
Either way, I still agree period jokes should be off limits – but that’s cos hearing about other people’s bodily functions grosses me out, regardless of whether they’re a bloke or a girl. But that’s just me. I’m just one audience member in a crowd of hundreds of thousands both at live gigs and watching on the telly. And that’s the point. Promoters need to deliver across the variety of tastes of their audiences. So they should probably take note when their audiences are pissing themselves laughing and it’s a woman on stage. It isn’t fluke.