Monday, May 14, 2012

The Naked Deaf

This morning, whilst perusing the internet for things to distract me from admin work, I came across yet another article about whether or not women are funny. If you want to read it, it's in the Telegraph and can be found here.

Now, the article is similar to all the other ones I've read on that subject: "I didn't find any female comedians funny, I went and spoke to some and watched some live comedy from women who are not on the telly. I now know they are funny." Nothing particularly ground breaking here. So why print the article? Why out yourself as being that narrow minded? I'm confident not many people would write a piece saying, "I never thought black people could work as waiters because they would eat all the chicken, but now that I've been to a restaurant I believe it can work." So why print an article that insults women using similarly small minded and frankly ludicrous stereotypes?

It baffles me slightly that people want so desperately for there to be a difference between men and women when it comes to humour. Barely a gig goes by where, if I'm getting praise from someone who happened to like me, they don't drag my gender into it.

"I don't usually like female comedians, but you were funny."

Don't think for a minute that if you've ever said that to a woman who does comedy, that she's thought "Wow, I must have been really good then." She has undoubtedly thought, "Ah, you don't go to comedy a lot." or "Oh crap, I don't really want a demographic of people who think it's appropriate to say that. What with Jim Davidson winding up the tour dates, I don't need my gigs full of people who think the 1950s were a good place to stop social and spiritual development."

The truth is, it's idiocy to suggest that women are not as funny as men. Look around! Have you ever been to a public place and noticed that groups of females are just sitting around staring at the walls, or having heated debates about the economy without cracking a smile? No. They are making each other laugh. They're not heaving a sigh of relief if a man comes over so they know there's going to be some brief respite to the drabness of not being able to construct a punch line.

The writer of the article I read this morning was a woman. She wrote that it felt 'disloyal' to women to say she preferred male comedians. It doesn't sound disloyal, it is fine to say that, of the comedians you've seen, your favourites have been men. You've seen more men, it makes sense. But, to use that as a premise for asking if women can be funny at all, and if so, where are they... that just comes across as ridiculous. Not disloyal.

I've been thinking about it in a different way, to try and make it seem clearer. TV chefs. I've made a list of the ones I can think of off the top of my head:

James Martin
Nigella Lawson
Delia Smith
Heston Blumental
Marco Pierre White
Two Fat Ladies
The Hairy Bikers
Jamie Oliver
Michel Roux
Gordon Ramsey

So, out of those: My favourite is probably The Hairy Bikers. I like them. I dislike Heston Blumental's approach to food because it's inaccessible, I dislike Nigella Lawson because her style annoys me and she has focused more on puddings in the stuff I've seen, I like Gordon Ramsey because he annoys other people, I like Delia Smith because she keeps it simple and I like Jamie Oliver because he seems normal.

So, overall I like some of the male chefs more. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN I DON'T LIKE FEMALE CHEFS. Even if I disliked all the female chefs I'd put in that list, it wouldn't mean I don't think women are capable of cooking. It would mean, TV chooses people because they are an extremity of some kind and are therefore likely to stir a strong emotion in you. If there are fewer of one kind on the TV, it means you are less likely to find one in that category that is your favourite overall. Knowing that I prefer a famous male chef more than his female colleagues doesn't mean I breathe a sigh of relief if my Dad does the cooking or if I see a man in a white apron at a restaurant. Life has taught me that women can cook, just like it taught me women are funny. I have used this "life logic" to supersede what TV has appeared to show me.

In a similar way, knowing that Tim Minchin, Stewart Lee and Eddie Izzard are my favourite all time comedians so far doesn't make me furious if my sister tells me a joke, it doesn't make my bum cheeks clench nervously if Angela Barnes steps on the stage. Life has taught me the women around me are just as funny as the men, why should that change on a stage?

Stop looking for some kind of magical reason for your own prejudice and just listen to the jokes.

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