The Female Punchline: Don’t Ask that Question
A little bit of comedian Michele A’Court dies when she is asked this question: Are women funny? A’Court is asked this question so often that deep inside her, nestled somewhere near her heart, is a cemetery the size of Rose Hills Memorial Park.
To put the issue to rest, A’Court has written an essay for the Guardian, in which she wittily puts paid to such canards as female comics’ propensity to swear and mention menstruation.
But her starting point is the late Christopher Hitchens’ intemperate view that women aren’t funny because comedy is an evolutionary mating tool that only men use in order to have sex with women. Not every creative endeavour is about sex, she gently chides.
But for her, this begs the question, do female comedians get laid: “There is nothing a man finds more attractive,” writes A’Court, “than a smart, loud, opinionated, razor-sharp, witty, confident woman standing under a spotlight with a microphone in her hand – just the one man, mind, but he’s a keeper.”
As for the relative gender imbalance amongst comics, she has a theory: “It’s a stupid job, the pay is lousy, the travel is brutal and the hours don’t work with being the primary parent; there’s no security, clear career path, sick-leave, holiday pay or maternity leave.”
In other words, you’d have to be crazy or stupid to choose comedy as a career. Most women are smart and sane.
Female comedians do not swear more than the male equivalent, she avows; it is a perception because people are less used to women letting fly with four letters.
But is it harder doing comedy as a woman? “I don’t know; I’ve never tried doing it as a man.”
Menstruation is not a subject that A’Court has assayed since 1994 in a sketch about Sir Paul McCartney (about which she does not elaborate). “But in defence of a good period joke, let me paraphrase something another comic once said: If Chris Rock bled out of his penis five days out of every 28, he’d probably mention it on stage.”