As I may have mentioned once or twice on this blog (hint: I mention it all the time), I do comedy. I improvise, do sketch, do comedic acting, write my own comedy pieces and series, have a comedic solo show and podcast, write silly stuff and perform stand up constantly.
I’m not writing this post to reiterate that. I’m writing this post to clarify a concept I’ve been hearing too much of lately.
I’ve been told by a few friends in these various comedy worlds that I have a distinct advantage in comedy because I’m a woman.
I don’t want to go into the (asinine, outdated, and pointless) debate about women in comedy.
What I do want to make clear is- it is not an inherent advantage to be a woman in comedy.
Please note: I’m about to talk in stereotypes. Not because I think this is always (or even often) the case. But because I have been stereotyped. So I want to respond to the issues as they were presented to me. So we’re going into the language of stereotypes to do so. Please give me a little leeway here.
My friends in the sketch community tell me that my wait to go through a particularly long program will be significantly less because I’m a woman. I’ve been hearing this for the year and half I’ve been waiting. Which is, funny enough, the same length of time my male counterparts have been waiting.
I know there are fewer women in the program and that they tend to keep the classes even gender-wise. So they say. I also know that mathematically speaking, their excuses don’t make sense. If the classes are kept even, meaning the same number of men and women are going through the program, how do I have an advantage of waiting less time because I’m a woman again? Think about this and get back to me. Because I can’t seem to find the logic in it.
But I also know as I look at the people who have gone through the program that there are significantly less women in the company than men. So my advantage- if we can figure out that little illogical mathematical glitch I mentioned above- is that I get to move through the program more quickly? Not that I stand a better chance to actually make it to the top of the ranks? I’m confused. Because given the option, I’d rather take more time to get through a program I stand a bigger chance of performing with than moving through it more rapidly just to be “done” and not get to perform regularly.
They sometimes say it’s an advantage to be a woman in sketch comedy because sketch groups are often men and they need to meet their female quota. What they forget is that the pieces men often write for the women in their group are often over-simplified and over-sexualized, emphasizing our womanliness over our actual comedic talent.
I was also recently told by some stand up comedian friends of mine that I have an advantage as a woman in stand up. I get more opportunities and gigs because shows need to meet their female quota.
They seem to forget that every open mic I go to, I have to set up clear boundaries with every male I interact with that I will not, in fact, sleep with them for stage time. I have to deal with the fact that when I stand in front of that group of men, they are going to be looking at what I’m wearing and the shape of my (albeit luscious) body before they listen to what I’m saying. I have to deal with the fact that a lot of these comedy mics take place late at night in somewhat seedy areas of Los Angeles. I also have to deal with the fact that I’ve (usually) just listened to a bunch of jokes about penises, masturbation, and how difficult women are. And if I stand up there and mention something about my own hormones, I toe a very delicate line between sounding “whiny” and being a “bitch.” If I’m not overly friendly to the other comedians, I’m a bitch. If I am overly friendly to the other comedians, I’m a tease.
Not to mention, bookers will cut women comedians from shows if they feel there are too many. They’ll cut women comedians from shows because a different female comedian didn’t do well so they’re taking a risk by putting up another. This is still happening.
I am not complaining. I love what I do. I love being around comedians (male and female). They’re my favorite people on the planet. Some of the most important people in my life and career I’ve met through these comedy outlets. Many of them have been male. Many of them have treated me with nothing but love, respect, and support. Many of them I have nothing but love, respect, and support for as well.
But I want to set the record straight. There are no inherent “advantages” to being a certain gender or looking a certain way. Sometimes, I do get “lucky” and fit a particular mold people are looking for that can help catapult my career in a certain direction. And the reason that person thought of me in the first place was because they’d seen my work and knew I was good. And they saw my work because I’m actually doing the work.
And sometimes I do get a gig because of some superficial factor nobody has control over. But that’s showbiz, kid. You need to appeal to certain audiences and demographics. And sometimes that means meeting certain criteria.
So to all the people who think women get advantages in comedy by only having a tunnel-vision perspective and seeing what you want to see as if somehow our success is taking away from your opportunity… I have but one simple thing to say to you:
Go luck yourself.
Meaning get out there and work your ass off and odds are you can get “lucky” once in a while too.