You might have noticed that there’s a cultural festival going on in Edinburgh at the moment. As the sun shines, Edinburgh becomes engorged with University theatre groups in wacky clothing, interpretive dances about the meaning of pencils and hundreds and hundreds of stand-up comedians…more than even Dave (the TV channel not some random bloke on the street) could handle.
Sadly all these stand-ups look the same: white, middle class and male. For the latest episode of the Culture Show Sue Perkins (don’t you dare say anything nasty about Sue – Ed.) interviews female stand-ups about what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated job. From this point forward we get a mix of gentle interviews and clips from Live at the Apollo as a wide range of funny women talk about their careers to date.
The problem is that all the interviews lightly skim over the surface and none of the questions dig down to the root cause of the problem, instead we get the standard, vague answers that are always trotted out when the question ‘why is stand-up a very male profession?’ raises its head.
What is worse is that I’m no expert on the issue: I’m just a casual fan who watches shows like this. I tuned in wanting to learn something and hear the assumptions challenged, but sadly they weren’t. Part of this was down to the fact that we only heard from stand-ups and not audiences or panel show producers. They are the people who can explain why women aren’t perceived to be ‘women aren’t funny’ or any of the other stupid reasons why women can’t be a stand-up.
Another issue was that the programme wasn’t funny enough. For a programme about funny women there were very few laughs. The clips I mentioned earlier were seemed dull and out of context. The comedian would say something, the crowd would roar with laughter but you sit there thinking, ‘yes that come back was a bit witty but it wasn’t that funny.’ Surely with so many excellent female comedians at this year’s fringe – including the Foster’s Award winning Bridget Christie – they could have sourced some better material.
Finally, the timing of this show is quite odd as there was less than a week of the festival left when it was shown. Surely showing it at the start of the festival would have made far more sense as it would have allowed viewers to go and see some of the shows highlighted, especially from the less famous comics.
Over all, the Culture Show at Edinburgh: Funny Women was a bit of a disappointment, like going to see a famous comedian and discovering their best material was ten years ago. If you want to see examples of funny women watch/listen to their programmes on iPlayer or other legal download service or buy their DVDs. If you want to find out why there aren’t more women in comedy, look elsewhere.