When I started doing stand-up five years ago I never even thought about how it might be harder to be a female in the laugh business. I don’t think gender bias factors into whether or not we actually start doing comedy.
Real Reasons Women Start Doing Comedy:
1. They are funny
2. They think they are funny
3. We love stand up from watching Eddie or Ellen or Chappelle and knew it was something we would always try if given the chance
4. They have been through some tough shit and have something to say
5. The mic gives a form of power most of us never had
6. We are weird and there is no other place for us in normal human circles
7. To get laid—yes even the ladies
8. We stumbled upon an open mic, got drunk, decided to try it, and it went better than expected
9. A cute individual that we kind of liked was doing comedy, so you went and watched and thought… hey I can do better than that dick-weed.
You might notice that none of these reasons are any different than the reasons that a dude starts doing comedy. While our gender and the token vagina joke will inevitably come up onstage it’s hardly something I was thinking about when I got was hanging around my first open mics waiting to go on.
I really don’t even want to give any more thought to the idea that women aren’t funny. Because that just isn’t true. There aren’t less funny women there are just less women shouting their bullshit into a microphone. With less women attempting comedy there are going to be less women who really stand out among the masses. But proportionately, there are just as many funny women then than funny men.
Let me be clear, I cannot speak for everyone I can only speak from my own experience as one of the ones who made it through the initial phase where I wasn’t funny and I had to still keep showing up (a phase that is tough regardless of gender).
I tried comedy for the least cool reason I can think of… for a boy. He was cute. He was slightly funny at the one open-mic I watched him at and I immediately thought I could do better, and because I am traditionally bad a flirting I assumed outshining him at his hobby would be a sure fire way to get his attention. It worked… I guess. We dated. I kept doing comedy with him. I loved comedy right away but I really loved that it was something we did together. It was nice and it felt safe to have someone to go to seedy bars with so I didn’t have to go alone.
I almost walked away from stand-up when we broke up. It was painful to go there without him. It had become something we always did together and getting offstage and not having his feedback was lonely and awkward, like the emotional equivalent of not knowing what to do with my hands.
Soon after I became single there was another male Denver comedian that seemed to be really encouraging to me. He told me I was funny. He invited me out to mics. We wrote together and he was encouraging me to move to Denver so I could do this thing for real.
Was he just trying to sleep with me? Mostly. Did I know this? Mostly. Did he think I was even funny? Maybe. It might seem crazy to start a friendship or relationship under such false pretenses. His bullshit was so thick at times it became impossible for him to deny his true intentions. But what was my alternative? This guy offered support and encouragement in a world where there is NONE for a female comic and I was willing to take it where I could get it.
I’ve seen this pattern a lot. Many women comics in Denver have dated a male comic who was already socially established. Since there are two very important aspects of comedy, what you do onstage and who your social standing off-stage, there is a big advantage to dating a dude in the scene. For one, people aren’t going to be wondering why you joined the boys at the diner after a mic or why you are on this road-trip to a casino in Albuquerque. These are all formative learning experiences that most women will miss out on otherwise. Having a comic-boyfriend on the scene in the early years also deters everyone else from trying to fuck you, constantly. It’s refreshing and you can actually work on being funny.
For me, dating within the scene never dictated how funny I was. I still had to be funny. But socially, it gave me a definite social-in that I would not have had otherwise.
You’re probably thinking Buchs, cool story, why is this important?
Women should not have to fuck someone in order to become socially applicable. I think the social aspects of comedy is what keeps women on the outside, keeps us from trying, and keeps us from showing up.
Regardless of gender no one is really funny in the beginning, nobody gives a shit about the jokes you are trying to tell, we’re all too busy looking at our own shitty set list. Its not the jokes that makes it hard. It’s the social bullshit that takes its toll on the woman comic. When you get offstage other women do not talk to you, and until you’ve been around awhile, most dudes are only talking to you because you are sexually viable to them. It’s a very isolating experience. One that most women do not and should not have the patience to endure.
So how do we fix this?
I am not sure but I have been learning a lot from the new batch of female comedians coming up in Denver right now. They seem more supportive of each other. They talk to each other. They show up together.
This was not something I had starting out. When I started only one or two females got the spots on the best shows and I was too busy trying to catch up to make friends. Competition between women comics is quite possibly the number one killer of our own success. Even when we try to work together, it seems that many of our endeavors end in ridiculous drama, unlike our male counterparts that will just smoke another bowl and let shit slide. But hey…we’re ladies. That’s not our nature.
So how do we get over this perceived disadvantage, ladies?
Here are a few ideas: (all which I am still learning everyday)
1. We need to be cool to each other
2. The idea that we are competing with each other is a construct of our own delusional thinking. We are in no greater competition with a female comic than the male comics so stop being bitter towards each other because of this
3. If you feel like no one is friendly, maybe you aren’t friendly, try smiling
4. Express how you feel about other people, you cannot rely on your resting bitch face and cold demeanor to relay the fact that you think someone has good jokes and you that would like a friendship with them
5. Try not to gauge your worth in the scene based on how men are treating you
6. Do stand-up for you, not for what you might get from other people
7. Maybe don’t sleep with everyone right away, if you’re trying to get people to value you as a comic on the scene showing them your vagina is not a shortcut (speaking from experience)
8. Work really hard. Show up. Write. Do time. (This one is the most important)
9. Quit worrying about what other people are thinking about you. They aren’t thinking about you. They probably don’t even know your name yet. It’s nothing personal.
10. Be undeniably funny. Once you hit this mark all the other bullshit goes away and funny is just funny. No one cares what type of sex organs you are packing.
11. Realize that we are all trying to create something great. Don’t shoot down the idea of another female comic. If they believe in it, encourage them. Don’t be ashamed to be affiliated with something that might not work. Support each other, we are all just learning how to do this, and creating beautiful pieces of shit is all part of the process.
12. If all else fails just smile and keep telling you’re jokes. Fuck everyone else.