I, the oppressed – the burden of a privilege I never even noticed

Another week where a loss of privilege has been confused with a loss of equality, as white, male comedians feel savaged and defiled by TV panel shows becoming anywhere from one sixth to one quarter women flooded (sometimes, but rarely, even more).
The cold embers have been raked over now. The mild dabbling in comments sections beneath my nose seem to have had a fair amount of sentences about the deep slurry of left wing comedians who dominate the stand up landscape and hang the sad-faced right wing jesters, above brimming toilets, by their bootlaces. They running away giggling, like Che Guevera putting a pie in Bob Hope’s face on the Road to Cuba.

I fear for the ease with which we all fall for the delusion which most neatly fits our bitter worldview, the view that most snugly encases our alibi for not getting all that we want. It is definitely not our fault, it is someone not like us with a chromosomal or colour advantage treated to silks and the warm lights of telly love ins.

I have seen female comedians being accused of being rubbish on panel shows, taking the places of brilliant male stand ups who will soon be hastily hiding their penises behind a merkin in the hope of disguising their disabling manhood.
But it is not just rubbish female comedians who have got in the way of these brilliant males, I have too. It has been a while now since I have been rubbish on a TV panel show, but I would like to apologise to the very brilliant men who should have been on in my stumbling, cak-handed place. I let everyone down. I stole your swivel chair.

Personally, I have found some women on panel shows very funny. Bridget Christie talking about Margaret Thatcher being a woman on Have I Got News For You was one of my favourite moments on last year’s panel shows, but looking back now, I wonder if some men could have done it better.
Maybe the only comedians allowed on panel shows must first have to pass a series of rigorous tests, including a variety of assault and insult courses, before being allowed on air. Most already have, by going on night after night at comedy clubs containing audiences of wildly varying intelligence and sobriety (often the two go hand in hand)
What you find funny is personal. I have seen comments that have stated that women just aren’t funny, though it seems this might be because they are a woman, not because of anything they are saying. It is something about their shape and higher voices that creates a primitive rejection of their gags.

It seems preposterous that many people still need to have it explained to them that comedy is subjective. Do we really want some utilitarian formula where the only broadcastable comedy is that which has been through a process where the maximum number of people has declared something is funny (I have been in rooms where that sort of thing has gone on, it is not a funny or fun room). Just see how awful the jokes are that always come first in academic studies on “the world’s funniest jokes”. There is already far too much of that. In that world there would be no Young Ones, Reeves and Mortimer, Absolutely, Uncle or Him and Her, their broad minority appeal would not be enough.

When we are told that acts must only be judged on “merit”, how do we judge merit. Any working comedian knows that even one evening of gigs can bring forth widely differing reactions, you can storm and die in the space of an hour. Also, what is a dead cert in the clubs, is not always the best thing on TV. A delightful idiosyncrasy can crash and burn in the live environment, but be truly memorable in a TV studio. I don’t care what you think, it is a bloody art, and art or jazz or electronica or movies about love, trees and Autumn can all go down in many different ways. If we just stick to a formula that works, then it eventually shrivels, risk and experimentation can create wonder and/or silence and booing.
As for this cabal of oppressive left wing comedians dominating the BBC, does Michael McIntyre keep Das Kapital in his man drawer? Will Jack Whitehall ever stop name-checking Noam Chomsky? Does the slapstick fall of Miranda represent a coded call to Trotskyist arms?

We are adept at being blind to all that works in our favour or agrees with our worldview, while all that we dislike or disapprove of, however limited, becomes a dictator made of hawthorns and “it’s so unfair-ness”, an easily turn off-able interlude confused for Stalin.

I am touring around the UK – off to Newcastle, Goole, Manchester, Canada Water, Stowe, Totton and on and on, all dates here (including US dates in 2015) http://www.robinince.com
Also, some all new Christmas science shows are coming to http://www.thebloomsbury.com with guests including Stewart Lee, Mary Beard, Helen Czerski and loads more

My cruel double act partner has also written something on this http://www.chortle.co.uk/correspondents/2014/10/30/21211/sexists%2C_you_should_be_ashamed_of_yourselves

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4 Responses to I, the oppressed – the burden of a privilege I never even noticed

  1. “I stole your swivel chair” damn I wish I’d thought of that

  2. Yahooey says:

    I’m not especially sensitive to the subject but I notice when there are no women on a panel. They’re funny and a mixed panel has a better chance of escaping the locker room.

  3. David says:

    I remember seeing an Asian comedian at Banana Cabaret a few years before Goodness Gracious Me was a huge TV hit. It may even have been one of the GGM cast – his act was certainly in that vein. But in front of a white, a mixed gender and almost certainly mostly-university-educated audience, who would be quoting GGM lines about chuddies and aubergines at each other a few years later, he absolutely died.
    I could understand a British-Asian comedian was outside their cultural zone – which I’m taking a wild guess was right-of-centre contact-sport-playing culture – but I couldn’t understand why they weren’t able to empathise with that culture enough to ‘get the gags’ – I don’t think that there, in that room, a few feet from him, that they wanted to.

  4. Heather says:

    So true – comedy isn’t a science and our reaction is always entirely subjective. But when it comes to panel shows, I don’t know, women usually just aren’t as funny. Is it because such shows are usually dominated by men and so we all feel a bit awkward when a member of the fairer sex puts her female shaped bum grooves in the seat? Or maybe it’s because the editing is all wrong. Or maybe it’s because, where we can find a man as simply funny, the women have to be SOMETHING before being funny. Like an academic who happens to be funny. A beauty who happens to be funny. A monster who’s saving grace is that, thank god, she’s funny. A mother or businesswoman or a person in society we should be taking seriously. I feel like women don’t have a free pass to just be funny in the same way men do. We’re watching for them to prove themselves in some other way and waiting with baited breath to see them fall flat. First world problems yolo.

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