Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Record number of women in running for comedy award should be higher – Scotsman comment

Women aren’t funny? You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?

In our everyday lives, most of us will be aware of people who can be funny, amusing and occasionally hilarious. And some of those people will be women.

Therefore, the idea that professional comedians are mostly male should jar with our own experience.

The reason is not that women are incapable of telling jokes on a stage, but rather that this traditionally male-dominated occupation has proved more resistant to change than many others.

So while it is good news that, for the first time, more than a third of the contenders for Edinburgh Fringe’s biggest comedy award are women, it should be higher. There will always be some natural variation but, in a fair world, over time it should average out at roughly 50 per cent.

And life would be better for it. Just as the rise of women’s football has brought a different and markedly friendlier atmosphere to the beautiful game, female comedians bring different ideas and attitudes to stand-up comedy.

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The contrast can be seen in the starkest terms on comparing the all-male comedy panel shows which dominated television in times gone by – which are still available on YouTube and the like – and their more diverse equivalents of recent years. Some of the ‘jokes’ told amid a much more laddish atmosphere may make you cringe.

Jenny Eclair won the main Edinburgh Comedy Award, previously known as the Perrier, in 1995 (Picture: Stuart C Wilson/Getty Images)

If, in a bizarre, dystopian future world, stand-up comedy somehow came to be viewed as ‘women’s work’, a similar problem would doubtless emerge.

We are not defined by our gender, but by our words and actions. And if they are funny enough, that deserves an audience.


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