Women tell crap jokes. That’s the view of the multitude of fans of the Facebook page “The Women on Mock the Week make the crappiest jokes ever”. Since Mock the Week (BBC/Angst Productions) began in 2005, less than one in ten of the guests have been female (45 women across 77 shows). Is fear stopping them? Is the BBC not booking them? Or… are we just not funny?
A recent report (31 January 2012) by the Creative Diversity Network (CDN) expresses concern over the lack of woman in certain programme genres at the BBC. Panel shows were singled out as the type of programme where viewers are treated to what the report calls “token women”.
On the UK’s stand up circuit only around 10% of performers are female so Mock the Week’s profile is actually in line. Nearly 60% of the TV audience for Live at the Apollo (BBC/Open Mike) is female but the only female comedians that have ever taken part are Sarah Millican, Shappi Khorsandi, Andi Osho, Joan Rivers and Jo Brand. Maybe audiences don’t care.
Miranda Hart, Sarah Millican and Shappi Khorsandi are three of the UK’s best female performers. One thing they have in common is that their humour is frequently self-deprecating; Miranda talks about how it feels to be so tall (must be awful!), I know Sarah’s exact dress size and Shappi pulls on her Iranian heritage for laughs. Her autobiography is titled “A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English”. Is this humour just too depressing for the BBC’s mass audience?
I would argue that the BBC are actually supporting female comics. Miranda’s sitcom will return for a third series later in 2012 and BBC2’s six-part comedy talk show The Sarah Millican Show was recently shot at MediaCityUK.
Last week new sketch show Watson & Oliver (BBC/Popper) launched on BBC2 starring two relatively unknown female comics. The BBC didn’t introduce these performers to audiences, instead they were commissioned for a six-part series. I admire the BBC for showing their support for the performers but they would never have done this with an unknown male comedian and the move felt like they were ticking a diversity box. The sketch show itself has Wills and Kate and playboy bunny jokes but lost me in the first sketch when one of the performers forgets her trousers and turns up on stage in pink knickers. The ratings agreed.
Thanks for the positive discrimination BBC, but your all or nothing attitude left us with a good comic in her underwear. If ratings don’t improve then these comics won’t return and again the BBC will be accused of not supporting women. Women are funny and can perform in panel shows given the chance, just don’t make us do a full six part series in our knickers to earn the right. Genuine female comic talent is out there. At least so say the 12,820 Facebook users who like the page “Miranda Hart is, what I call, hilarious”.