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Women Aren't Funny... They're Hilarious

22/05/2013 17:01 BST | Updated 21/07/2013 10:12 BST

It's tough being a white middle-class male. The main reason it's tough is that you don't have much to complain about. Middle-class white males are still the best paid and have the most opportunity. The fact that I have neither money or opportunity is entirely my own fault. Being a white middle-class male is also tough in comedy. White middle-class males still dominate the field. There's a lot of us. To stand out from the crowd you either have to be really good (like Jack Whitehall) or absurdly well connected from birth (like Jack Whitehall). That said, you do at least start off at a comedy night on a level playing field. The crowd makes no particular judgement about what you might or might not talk about and the assumption is that there is a reasonable chance you're going to be funny. There are lots of confident, white middle-class men on the TV being funny. So you might be one of them.

On a Friday night in front of a rowdy, drunken audience at the Chuckling Badger in Shitrag, Essex I'm very glad I'm not a woman. Because, even in this day and age, a fair percentage of the crowd will doubt if women are even funny. "She's only going to come on and talk about her fackin period" will be going through more than one head, and not just male heads either. Weird that male comics can be expected to adopt any number of styles, and before a woman even hits the stage, it's anticipated that she's going to be Jo Brand circa 1988.

But it's not just above pubs in regional dives where misogyny dwells, even the national press aren't altogether sure. Every six months or so, someone will write an article posing exactly that question, usually padded out with a cornflakes box psychologist saying that men have an evolutionary imperative to attract women, and so use humour. They will take a poll and most people will say that men are funnier than women, or humour isn't seen as an attractive quality in a woman, or men have a certain curvature of the head which generates better quality jokes or other prejudicial fairytales. If men make more jokes in a social situation, it's because they are expected to. If women make fewer jokes, it's because they are expected to. Being funny isn't necessarily a gender thing.

The strange thing is that, on any given night on the UK circuit, female comedians are wildly more diverse than male comics. Ava Vidal is a sardonic doom monger, Lou Sanders is a surrealist loon, new act Saskia Preston does killer one-liners. Because there are usually so few female comics on a bill (partly because that's how promoters book it, and partly because there are just fewer female comics) they are usually a breath of fresh air. Some people may dread that women will come on and talk about periods. I don't. I dread that the next 20 something white middle class male will come on and do some inadvisable and ill-conceived material on rape or pedophilia or something being LITERALLY the funniest thing that ever happened, when it LITERALLY is not.

For me, the funniest comedy comes from the most desperate places. It isn't the high status alpha males that make me laugh, it's those people who are able to honestly and fearlessly show me something of their vulnerability, the fact that they aren't always dealing with life as they should be, precariously skating the toilet seat of sanity. In that respect women have the jump on men. If emotional awareness and battling insecurities are the stuff of great comedy, women have it in the bag.

Two of the world's greatest English-language comedic performers and writers of our times are women: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Fey is best known for her adorable, oddball Liz Lemon character on 30 Rock (using the words adorable and oddball make me squirm, but here we are). Poehler as the idealistic yet borderline maniacal Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. Australia gifts us with the brilliant Jane Turner and Gina Riley of the hilarious Kath and Kim and Britain scoops bronze with accident-prone Miranda Hart. The future for female comedians is bright and once we can put baseless old prejudices to bed the 'weaker sex' may inevitably prove themselves to be the stronger performers.