Isn’t She Funny

Isn’t She Funny

Discover the rise and rise of female comedians this autumn at the Trinity Theatre.

Comedy. It’s one of those fields that’s still overwhelmingly dominated by men. You only have to look towards hit TV shows such as Mock the Week, Have I Got News For You and QI – for every one woman on our screens there are three Paul Mertons, Jack Whitehalls, Hugh Dennises or Russell Howards.

This rarely surfaces as an issue because we’re mostly used to the status quo. Yet it may help to explain why some women’s comic routines often dwell just that bit too long on the ups and downs of being female.

Think Sarah Millican and the mind immediately turns to weight loss, or Millican’s love-hate relationship with cake, as opposed to politics, religion or less gender-specific observations. But in the same way ethnic minority comics can be
seen cutting themselves free of racerelated gags, female stand-ups are increasingly unconstrained by the prejudices that engulf them (it helps for one thing that we no longer describe them as ‘comediennes’.)

And, although there is still a rich seam of material to be mined from menopausal angst and eating disorders, we’ve often heard it all before. So it is therefore particularly refreshing to see a diversification of talent across the spectrum.

Just take stateside funny women such as caustic social commentator Sarah Silverman or the newly triumphant Amy Schumer. Or, closer to home, talent such as Sara Pascoe or Josie Long (the latter being a rising star who gives Stewart Lee and Frankie Boyle a run for their money in the cynical political rant stakes) – female comedy doesn’t need ‘strident feminism’ at the top of each and every job description.

Britain’s stand-up circuit is already rich with female excellence of every kind. At the Edinburgh Fringe you’re just as likely to see a woman waxing lyrical about Iraq as you are seeing a 20-something male complaining about ‘brewer’s droop.’ The problem is that we’re yet to see stand-up comedy’s egalitarian tendencies translate properly into genuine equality on our plasma TV sets and digital radios.

Then again, some very funny women have successfully broken onto the hallowed turf of these male-dominated mainstream panel shows. Three of them are hilarious new Canadian stand-up Katherine Ryan, and long-in-the-tooth
Brits Jo Brand and Jenny Eclair. Their TV and radio appearances haven’t the slightest air of tokenism, because they’re more often than not sharper and wittier than the men. Who’d have thought it?

Jenny Eclair and Jo Brand have been pioneers of headline stand-up comedy for decades, and they’re still holding their own. But Ryan is particularly worthy of note. Despite being relatively new on the scene, she’s starred in Live At The Apollo and QI, and already had a seat on Jonathan Ross’s sofa. Her comedy is equal parts daring, cutting and imaginative. Like the spectacular Amy Schumer, she has imported a wonderful brand of self-aware and naturally hilarious comedy across the pond. Long may their winning ways continue.

Katherine Ryan appears at Trinity Theatre on Friday 9 October.

Jo Brand appears at Trinity Theatre on Friday 16 October.

Jenny Eclair appears at Trinity Theatre on Saturday 14 November.

Ellie Taylor and Angela Barnes appear at the Christmas Comedy Cafe in December.

For further information and tickets, please visit