Let’s bust some myths about ‘female stand-ups’

Oh Guardian readers. Most of you are my kindred spirits. Some of you, however, are people who just want to write ungrounded, shortsighted comments that barely resemble a proper opinion, let alone a constructive one.

Predictably, Mark Logan’s favourable review of Bridget Christie’s highly anticipated return to The Stand, where she performed her Fosters Comedy Award-winning show A Bic for Her last year, has roused the ‘women aren’t funny’ brigade yet again – with the majority of these bemoaning the idea that feminism can be funny.

What these quick-to-judge figures don’t seem to understand, is that a huge part of the current feminism movement (or fourth wave, if you like), has spread on social media like wildfire for three particular reasons; feminism in this day and age is common, sexualised culture in the West and awareness of practices such as FGM outside of our more local bubble, and finally, humour – yes, feminists have found their voices, and we’ve been making each other laugh on the subject ever since.

(It’s tempting to say ‘women’s voices’ – and of course, that’s a large part of it – but actually there are some brilliant men who openly call themselves feminists, brilliant stand-ups among them including my boyfriend, musical double act Jonny & the Baptists and activist Chris Coltrane).

So let’s bust some of those FQAs (Frequently Quoted Assumptions) right now, shall we?

“Female comics’ topics are limited to hating men, periods and under-representation in comedy”

This year, if you make the wise decision to see the wickedly awesome, super duper, charismatic Lou Sanders in Lou Sanders in Another Great Show Again, you’ll be treated to the sight of Sanders tap dancing with a vagina on a stick. The vagina is not having a period. Or at least, it wasn’t during the preview I saw anyway. In fact, guys, I’m going to come out and say it now. Why aren’t women talking about periods onstage? I’ve seen a couple of semen jokes onstage – why not a bit of menstrual blood eh? WAIT, COME BACK, I’LL GET TO THE BLOODY POINT (geddit).

I’ve seen a lot of female stand ups in my time, but I’ve never seen a women target all men, joke about their ‘monthly visit’ in excruciating detail or say their aren’t enough women on the circuit as a joke. I’ve definitely had conversations with people about women stand-ups (I’m kind of having a one-sided type right now) and line-ups, but one of the biggest is still panel shows – where many fill their ‘woman quota’ with a female non-comic – Rachel Riley, I’m definitely talking about you (sorry) – and don’t feature female regulars or hosts (there’s Celebrity Juice and Viral Tap, both ITV2 – and very niche!).

The Guardian (yes, them again) wrote an article about the presence of more female comedy performers than ever before at this year’s Fringe. Although it didn’t explore this, I believe that the reason more women are going is because of stand-ups like Christie, whose success means that the stigma around ‘women not being funny’ is thankfully fading – in other words, it’s more economically viable to be a women performing at the Fringe, because people are less likely to be put off by seeing a female face on the poster.

“All the women comedians I’ve seen have been rubbish. Isn’t that Jo Brand awful?”

Firstly, I feel sorry for this hypothetical commenter. Comedy is subjective, so if you don’t find Jo Brand funny, that’s fine – just look elsewhere. Brand’s subject matter can veer to the domestic side, but that’s not a bad thing – and it often sharply dissects those expectations of perfection in relationships. And if you’re going to call Sarah Millican talentless, rather than accepting her stand-up isn’t for you, then there’s probably no hope for you.

“The women they’ve featured on Mock the Week have been rubbish”

Have you seen Mock the Week recently? It’s not just the women!

“Haven’t seen any Bridget Christie she might be great she might be terrible but she can’t be worse than her husband”

Ok – I’ve probably made some grammatical errors myself, but as I copied this comment verbatim from everyone’s favourite left leaning digital news website (ok, just mine), I’m resisting adding commas to the above quote. (NOTE TO SELF: STOP PROCRASTINATING!)

This wasn’t the worst comment on Brian Logan’s article, but it encapsulates the issue Christie must face in nearly every review, interview or article that features her as its subject; her husband. Onstage Christie does not refer to her actual comedian husband, but an invented ‘stage’ one. I don’t know a huge deal about Christie’s personal relationships, but what I do know is this – she’s hugely talented, she writes her own material, her material is distinct from his and her career is of her own making. End of. She may have featured on a show with him, but she’s also at the top of her game – if he wasn’t part of the show, she would still be involved. She’s not married to Harry Hill, Kevin Eldon or Kerry Godliman, but she featured on their respective sitcoms (Harry Hill’s Little Internet Show, It’s Kevin and Kerry’s List). And Fred MacAulay featured on her award-winning Radio 4 series Bridget Christie Minds the Gap – but they don’t have a romantic relationship either.

The thing about comedy – and it’s something I love – is that it’s a community. An industry with a performing circuit at its core, many performers know each other, share the same bill, organise gigs with each other and perform in the many new act competitions held each year. Essentially they help each other out – and they watch and enjoy each others’ sets. It’s supportive and refreshing. So therefore the idea of a leading alternative comic who won the most iconic prize in stand-up comedy last year appearing on a show about alternative comedy? Not that surprising is it?

“Women can’t do proper jokes”

Challenge your perceptions at the Fringe this year; if you think women can’t do one-liners or puns,check out Bec Hill, who started the hugely popular Pun Run night in London. If you think they can’t do near-the-knuckle rudeness, book a ticket to Katherine Ryan. It’s ingenious, borderline bonkers ideas you want? Lou Sanders is your woman. Friendly, funny and joyous? Go see Hatty Ashdown (and look out for Aisling Bea back in London). Political comedy with heart? Josie Long. Characters and/or improv? Cariad Lloyd and Pippa Evans are both doing laugh a minute shows this year. In the mood to see a panel show? Look out for Grainne Maguire’s What Has the News Ever Done for Me? (Check out Danielle Ward hosting her podcast panel show alongside team captain Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Do the Right Thing if you’d like to cheer up your commute.) Sketch comedy? Lazy Susan, of course! Sharp, hilarious and personal stand-up? Sarah Campbell.

“Feminism isn’t funny”

Sites like The Vagenda and writers such as Caitlin Moran aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they inject irresistible humour into the subject. And the art of good comedy is to always ‘punch up’ – unless you’re playing a character, such as Rachel Parris’s nightmare diva singer Felice in her show, Rachel Parris: Live in Las Vegas. Therefore, feminism is ripe for comedy – just as left wing, alternative comedy thrived in the eighties, feminism is fighting a absurd battle that needs to be had – and that means there’s humour to be mined.

Even if Bridget Christie’s comedy isn’t to your taste, if you were to analyse it, you’d surely have to appreciate the structure, the purpose and the commitment to the performance. She sends-ups perceptions of feminists, brings the ridiculous double standards of sexism to the fore, critiques her own bubbling anger and she also opens up a debate that will last with the audience once they leave the venue – last year it was through playing an inspiring recording of Malala Yousafzai talking about surviving the attempt on the life by the Taliban and the aftermath, and this year she’s making her intention to make a stand against FGM known.

“I don’t like ‘female comedy’. It’s my least favourite genre”

Well, luckily for you, it doesn’t exist!

In conclusion…

If you think women aren’t funny, you’re simply not looking hard enough. We don’t see enough of a variety of female acts on the TV for everyone to see someone to their taste, but the spectrum of acts around is so broad yet they don’t all get showcased on TV. Go out into clubs, go to the Fringe, make some effort – go on YouTube, or Chortle, or follow-up on tips from – yes, you guessed it – the flipping’ Guardian.

But whatever you do, don’t believe what you read in the comments, ok?

 

Six Songs of Me

Six Songs of Me is being described by the Guardian newspaper as a music project that aims to give insight into the power that music gives us.

They’re asking users to submit six songs in reply to a survey on their website based on different songs for different occasions, from traditional questions such as ‘what would you funeral song be?’ to the song that ‘gets you dancing’. There’s a massive library of tracks for you to choose from courtesy of Spotify, so it meant that some of my favourite unsigned artists were unavailable (but then again, a surprising number were).

Click to watch Wretch 32 talk about his Six Songs of Me

The project is really easy to get involved with (you can even use the survey-style form on your phone) and it certainly got me thinking about the songs I always return to. It didn’t, however, ask for reasons why I chose the tracks I submitted so I thought I’d tell you a bit more about them here…

What was the first song you ever bought?

The first song, I Want It That Way by the Backstreet Boys, was picked up in Woolworths for approximately 99p (giving me a penny in change from my pound-a-week pocket money.

I went to a Saturday morning stage school and at the time we were doing a routine to the Backstreet Boys’ number, Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), which involved lots of zombie style moves. I loved it.

I became resolved to get into boybands for the first time. (Up until then my ears had been all about Blur, Pulp and the Spice Girls).

The video for this track is the blueprint for Westlife, really. It’s a ballad, features that keychange to the major 5th soon after a tension building pause and those white suits in the video that were brilliantly lampooned by another future favourite, Blink 182.

What song always gets you dancing?

Like I love You, by Justin Timberlake is a modern classic.

I was always a Backsteet Boys’ girl over N*Sync until I heard Bye, Bye, Bye and Pop and realised that despite their stupid denim ensembles and silly hair, they kind of had an edge over Nick, Brian and co.

Then Justin Timberlake broke free, pretended to have moves (and headgear) like Michael Jackson in his debut solo video, threw in a bit of sexy breathes and saucy lip licking and a solo star was born.

Like I Love You is a stonker of a pop tune. That Neptunes loop, that falsetto, that hideously cheesy make-your-insides-melt talky bit at the beginning and end of the song; ‘don’t fear me baby, it’s just Justin’… (To quote an equally cringey Miss Anastasia Steele, ‘oh my’!)

At a school disco when I was about 13, I recruited a twenty strong group of boys and got them to dance to this, with hilarious results. I challenged them to see how low they could groove to the floor. Then I outdid them. It’s referred to, thanks to Geordie Shore, as the ‘slut drop’ these days. Put this song on in my presence and I’ll out slut drop you too!

What song takes you back to your childhood?

I expect my answer to this one, Girls and Boys by Blur, will be mentioned by many others!

Blur were the first band I made the decision to make my own at the age of five or six… to the extent that my Dad bought me the Parklife follow-up, The Great Escape, as my eighth birthday present. (I presume he thought that if he bought it for himself, he wouldn’t have hold of it for long.)

I would bounce on the sofa to the Parklife LP, pouring over the collage-heavy inlay, with its lyrics and amazing doodles (the Magic America one featured a man with a hamburger for a head). At that tender age I didn’t understand the meaning behind the words of Girls and Boys, but I could still sing along…

What is the perfect love song?

I decided to make Footnote to Love by Newcastle/Edinburgh based artist Ajimal (aka Fran O’Hanlon) my song for this catagory.

I don’t tend to listen to music and think ‘what a love song’! Most of it tends to be morose to the level of a Radiohead album…

Recently Ajimal released a couple of tracks from his forthcoming EP, which he describes as being an exploration of childhood. Footnote to Love, the lead song from the record, is about how one comes into existence – it’s a love song directed towards the child. Coupled with the gorgeous video it also made me come to realise that it is a love song for the parents too. The love for the child came from love itself.

It makes me a bit teary. What can I say?

What song do you want to have played at your funeral?

I was surprised at how long it took me to answer this question, but eventually I chose I Will Follow You into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie.

This song is a bit too close to the whole death subject really, but the delicate acoustic guitar, the beautiful, simple lyrics and Benjamin Gibbard’s effortless voice make this one of my favourite songs of all time. It’s subject matter could be dark and gloomy, but there’s something pure and hopeful about this song. I guess it’s a love song too.

Finally, what is the song that makes you, you?

I knew the answer to this had to be a song by Kirsty MacColl and after much deliberation I settled on In These Shoes?

The Spanish-speaking chorus to this rhythmic, Latin number translates as; ‘no I don’t like to dance and I can’t ride a horse’, which I think is hilarious. It’s classic Kirsty. She wants a man who will go the extra mile for her and will join her in suffering in the quest of ridiculous fashion. Some red hot excitement.

If you’ve never heard Kirsty’s last record, Tropical Brainstorm, I urge you to listen. England, 2 – Columbia, 0 is equally feisty. It’s a unique album.

I grew up listening to her music and I don’t think I’ll ever quite realise she’s gone – her music is firmly here to stay in my collection and in my head.

See my playlist in full here.

So what are your six songs? Are you going to have a go at submitting your Six Songs of Me?

This is a sponsored post, but don’t worry – if I don’t like it, I won’t write about it!

Leather bum

Apparently it was all about winter shorts on the front row of the recent ‘fashion month’ which got me wondering… what makes a pair of shorts ‘wintery’?

The Observer’s weekend magazine solved it for me quite quickly just this Sunday as I read their article on dressing for one’s age. Accompanying the article was a page of high street picks (by catagory, i.e boots.) Apparently, as a 21 year old it is my destiny to wear black leather shorts throughout winter (and pay a hefty sum for the privilege).

I decided that if destiny had started making my style choices, I might as well have some kind of influence on how things panned out (without completely ruining what fate had previously decreed via the pages of OM Magazine.) Thus I headed to Zara, where I had seen these shorts on a previous trip.

 

Top £16 by Topshop, Shorts £29.99 by Zara

 

So yes, apologies for the dim photo, but my ‘twist’ on fate was to choose brown shorts (some might say the colour of ‘Leatherface’ from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that kind of felt relevant due to Halloween being on the cards!) I’ve tucked the slubby breton Topshop top into the shorts in the above pic, although it’s quite short and deliberately oversized which means it particularly goes with slim cut cigarette trousers (I’ve yet to find the perfect pair…sigh).

 

Shirt £7.99 by H&M, Scarf £3 by Primark, Boots £25 by Peacocks

 

Aside from shorts being very much in vogue with the fashion editors at Paris fashion week, they were reportedly worn with bare legs (eek!)

 

 

Vintage jacket from Cancer Research (customised with Tiger Balm logo applique)

 

Ok so there’s a lot of brown in the last outfit, (and it’s not even shade-of-the-moment-camel-shock-horror!), but I do love this jacket. I got it four years ago at a Cancer Research charity shop in Maidstone from their ‘retro rail’. I took out the shoulder pads and stitched on a Tiger Balm appliqued logo that I’d rescued from a hemp tee that had gone wrong in the wash. I might wear this more as a winter-to-spring get up, although time will tell what the seasons will bring weather-wise! On a more realistic side of things I believe I’ll be teaming this shorts up with a creamy opaque pair of tights and these boots, or roughing things up with some tall, woolly tights and my canvas boots (with the bouncy rubber heel that I pray people never notice.)

On a slightly different ‘style’ note I need to find something to wear for a band photo shoot with the new Get Frank lineup – ideas much appreciated!

We’ll be heading into the studio at the end of next week to record our first EP – we’ve made light work of my back catalogue and are ready to go. There’s more of a freeform improvisational feel to some of the tracks and I’m very excited to finally get some proper recordings circulating (I’ve never had any at all so these will be the first). We’re looking for gigs in and around Newcastle too so ideas are again very welcome!