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May 4, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

Oh, right, we can’t be funny.

Only in comedy,” she writes, about interviewing for a writing job on “Saturday Night Live” in 1997, “does an obedient white girl from the suburbs count as diversity.

I had a whinge on Twitter the other night, that there were no female comedians in the televised Gala from the Comedy Festival*.

Aside from all the replies I got from funny, funny women, I was told that actually, no, there are no female comedians in New Zealand.

This whole “women can’t be funny**” thing is old. Well, I mean we can be funny when we talk about periods, I guess, but eeeew, who wants to hear that? I googled “funny women” to see if I could find an image for this post, and darlings, that shit is offensive.

So, I took a look at the Comedy Festival programme. There’s a bunch of shows that feature women. The so-called Comedy Convoy, with five “world class comedians” , includes a girl. And then there’s ladies headlining their own shows, including Irene Pink, who I love, and who has been in the “Gala” before. And these were the ones I just identified off the main pages.

So why, I ask,  in 2 1/2 hours of comedy, could they not throw a bone to one of the chicks? Am I over-reacting? Probably, I do that. But it seems strange, no? You bring a bunch of comedians from all over the world for a festival, and in your flagship show, televised to a large audience, completely ignore half your audience. Diversity Schmiversity.

* Let’s not get me started that the only women featured on that front page, at time of writing, were the queen picking her nose, and a burlesque artist winking. Not that burlesque is not awesome, and close to my Tallulah-ish heart, but come on, it’s not likely to have one rolling in the aisles, is it? Especially as the show it is advertising (“Who knew comedy could be so sexy?” Um, anyone who has had sex, ever?) is hosted by “France’s premiere misogynist & lover Marcel Lucont” . Wait. Why are we using misogynist as something to celebrate? Why would anyone want to go to that show? Ugh. (First person to call “irony” gets a pony.)

** I read that column years ago, and remember being pissed off. I just re-read it with my years more-advanced-pissed-off-humourless-lesbian hat on. “There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three. When Roseanne stands up and tells biker jokes and invites people who don’t dig her shtick to suck her dick—know what I am saying? And the Sapphic faction may have its own reasons for wanting what I want—the sweet surrender of female laughter”. Mate, just fuck off, OK?



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  1. Boganette / May 4 2011 10:22 am

    Great post Ms Spankhead.

    I thought the same thing when I watched the Gala. Where was Michele A’Court, Irene Pink, Rose Matafeo, Sarah Harpur, Justine Smith, Jan Maree, Urzila Carlson, Penny Ashton? What happened to Hannah Gadsby? She was my favourite when I saw her in one of the other galas. Why can’t we have an all-woman comedy night if all of the other galas are going to be men-only? That would show how varied and talented our NZ comedians are.

    Cal Williams is big in Aussie so I don’t get why she’s not bigger here.

    I get my Michelle A’Court, Irene Pink & Penny Ashton fix from Twitter. Thank God they’re on there. Michelle is doing stand-up at San Fran Bathouse on May 15. I’d go but I’ll be in Sydney.

    I really, really wish there was a woman-only gala. I’d watch the fuck out of it because I love our comedians. And I am sick of rape jokes, slut jokes and LOLyrfat jokes from NZ dudely man-dude-bros. And fuck, sometimes I want to laugh at my period. What’s wrong with that? If I have to put up with the majority of cis-male comedy being about how promo girls are sluts over and over again why can’t women hear a period joke every now and then? Why do we only get comedy that only relates to the male experience. It’s not like a dude is going to explode from irrelevance if he hears a period joke.

    • tallulahspankhead / May 4 2011 10:31 am

      I would like to see a dude explode from irrelevance. I wonder what that looks like? (Not that I wish violence on anyone, etc, etc.)

      I actually would like a response from the comedy festival about this. I have tweeted them, but I might send an email, too. For goodness sakes, surely someone organising it thought “hey, we’re missing something in this show…what is it? Hmmm….what are those things called? Oh, right, GIRLS!” I wonder if half our audience would like to be represented, or we could just offend them with Dai Henwood making jokes about a bride’s bikini waxing.

      I heart Irene Pink, and am excited to discover she is on Twitter, and I will go seek her out now. I may even invite her over here.

      • Boganette / May 4 2011 10:41 am

        Were they all busy? Maybe every single woman comedian in New Zealand was busy. And Paul Ego wasn’t because he’s never busy.

        Well just because we have to find the funny ourselves:

        Hilarious ladies on Twitter – @MicheleACourt @IreneCPink and @pennypink @Hannahgadsby
        @harpursbizarre @Rose_Matafeo @UrzilaCarlson

        And my most favourite lady comedian ever (She’s not Kiwi but close enough) Clem Bastow – @clembastow – her Tumblr is amazing

        Hopefully other people can also contribute to the list.

    • tallulahspankhead / May 4 2011 1:43 pm

      The festival responds (and well, I think):

      Hi Tallulah,

      Thanks all for your comments and the chance to respond.

      There was actually a female presence at the live show of the Gala. Justine Smith & Irene Pink were onstage on the 29th, but unfortunately their performance didn’t make it through to the TV edit on Sunday night. Michele A’Court is performing in a theatre piece this year, which wouldn’t translate to a 4 minute Gala spot. Hannah Gadsby doesn’t arrive in NZ until her season in the 3rd week of the Festival. Urzila Carlson is indeed a Billy T nominee, but in the interests of fairness for the Billy T Award process – we don’t book Billy T nominees for the Gala.

      Out of 10 local spots available in the Gala – having one filled by ladies is actually a pretty accurate representation of the local industry. The NZICF supports the females in the industry by giving them the same rights & opportunities as their male counterparts. They are offered spots in shows if their material & performance style fits the overall vibe & direction of the showcase.

      We have a robust & open relationship with our female performers and a dialogue as to how we can support them continues throughout the year. We’re stoked on their behalf that there is such a passionate interest in female representation within the industry (thank you!) – we look forward to seeing you at the girls’ solo shows!

      Debs McKeen
      Festival Producer
      NZ International Comedy Festival

      • Boganette / May 4 2011 4:21 pm

        I call bullshit. How come we have Paul Ego, Dai Henwood and the Seven Days dudes when we see them every Friday night but we can’t see new performances by Justine Smith and Irene Pink? And a ‘representation of the local industry’? Well maybe more women would get into comedy if they weren’t being bludgeoned by a very obvious glass ceiling?

      • tallulahspankhead / May 5 2011 10:14 am

        Yeah, but it that the festival’s responsibility? Yes, they should be making sure there is representation of women overall in the festival, but are they in charge of the industry generally? I don’t know the answer to that question, I am wondering out loud.

        As for TV3’s edit…well, loath as I am to link to it, it may have something to do with this.

      • Boganette / May 5 2011 1:00 pm

        I think it’s the festival’s responsibility in the sense that they’re set up to showcase NZ comedy so should be encouraging (and actively seeking) a variety of comics/comedians and that includes women. Are women going to get into comedy if they have no successful female comedians out there? If they feel it’s unlikely they’ll get booked the way male comics are booked? If they feel that comedy is for men only? I don’t know – but to me (obviously from the outside) it’s a glass ceiling. They’re not in charge of the industry – but they’re a huge part of it. And they’re also in a way the ‘face’ of the industry. Helping or hindering careers by how much coverage a comic can get.

        I didn’t know they were a double bill. Having not seen it I couldn’t comment. I can guess (which I’m going to do) that maybe it has something to do with female comedy not be accessible to men. And therefore – not funny. Not relevant. Not fun. etc.

  2. Emma / May 4 2011 10:28 am

    The absence of Urzila Carlson from anything other than my GayNZ feed boggles me. She’s up for the Billy T Award this year, where is she? Well, okay, she’s regularly playing the Classic, but you understand my point.

    • tallulahspankhead / May 4 2011 11:01 am

      She has a fantastic bio.

      • Emma / May 4 2011 1:15 pm

        Also, hot.

    • Amie / May 5 2011 9:33 am

      I agree. Urzila Carlon is funnier than any man comedian I’ve ever seen perform in NZ. Long live the ladies.

  3. Craig Ranapia / May 4 2011 10:50 am

    Why am I reminded of seeing Jo Brand on QI a while back, obviously seething at Stephen Fry at his avuncular man-tronising worse?

    Then again, ’30 Rock’ isn’t very funny — but I thought that had more to do with dull and predictable writing and mannered performances than Tina Frey’s vagina. (I have issues with putting ‘Saturday Night Live alumni’ and ‘funny’ in the same sentence, but that’s a whole other rambling rant.)

    • tallulahspankhead / May 4 2011 10:58 am

      You don’t like 30 rock, and you don’t like Glee. How are we friends?

      • Craig Ranapia / May 5 2011 11:25 am

        I should qualify that — the fourth season was bowel-meltingly awful.(but I understand the latest has rebounded significantly). The first three – brilliant. Again, Tina Frey’s lady-parts do not signify either way.

        And honestly, am I wrong to find it more than a little creepy how often the relentless humiliation of Liz actually became unpleasantly like watching Two and A Half Men? That’s not a compliment, BTW.

      • tallulahspankhead / May 5 2011 11:51 am

        I do have issues with the way Liz Lemon is supposed to be this hideous, desperate, single woman, when in fact Tina Fey is pretty conventionally attractive. And yeah, the ritual humiliation does grate. Sady has written on this, much better than I could.

        I happened to watch Two and a Half Men last night, while doing some other stuff. It was on in the background, the volume was low, and yet, I found myself thinking every 2 minutes, “God this show is offensive”. Between that and the advertising (Hey Burger King – petite burgers “for girls”? Fuck off“, I managed to work myself into quite the humourless-feminazi lather.

      • Craig Ranapia / May 5 2011 11:28 am

        OMFGoddess, I’ve turned into a humourless feminist. Someone get me a wedding ring, STAT!! 🙂

      • Craig Ranapia / May 5 2011 12:45 pm

        You could rename ‘2 1/2 Men’ ‘Three Women’ — and there’s really only three women on this show. The (Stupid) Whore, The Barking Psycho, The Castrating Shrew. It’s the triple Goddess for Misogynists.

    • Boganette / May 4 2011 11:04 am

      I don’t like 30 Rock but I adore Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph.

  4. tallulahspankhead / May 4 2011 11:50 am

    And just to prove it’s not only New Zealand women who aren’t funny, where are the chicks in this article?

    A cursory search on Twitter finds some funny women tweeting – though not always funnily, I will grant you. (And I don’t necessarily agree with the sentiments.)

  5. Urzila Carlson / May 5 2011 10:37 pm

    Hi there, good to know there are passionate supporters out there! I’m sure next year’s gala will be different. There has been heaps of people saying MORE WOMEN! Couldn’t agree more. The exposure would have been great, but alas will have to rely on my incredible body and charming personality to get the punters to my show. I don’t joke about my vagina… other people’s vagina’s yes, but never my own!

    • tallulahspankhead / May 6 2011 6:42 am

      Well, one’s vagina is no laughing matter. Except for that one time, when it….oh, that’s just me it’s happened to? Never mind.

      (Seriously though, thanks for your comment, and congratulations on the Billy T nomination. I’ll be coming to see you in Wellington on June.)

    • Jackie Clark / May 7 2011 5:08 pm

      Are the Comedy Divas’ not on this year, Urzila? If not, what a travesty. Last year’s was hilarious – I love me a Jussy Smith.


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