I think it's standard practice nowadays, when you've got a column to write on that fearsome topic of 'Funny Women', to turn immediately to Christopher Hitchens' handy straw-man of a Vanity Fair article, 2007's'Why Women Aren't Funny', and his video follow-up, 'Why Women Still Aren't Funny'.
It's probably best if I don't go down that route (I know, I know, I just did...). Partly because the article now reads very much like the Hitch getting the cogs of outrage turning like a grandmaster wind-up merchant. But mostly because we just don't need earnest, humourless articles written by outraged female journalists trying to prove that women are, as it turns out, funny; in fact, it's pretty counter-productive to do so for obvious reasons.
No - what interests me more is a myth that Hitch touches upon, which is that there's 'male comedy' and 'female comedy', the latter being intently focused upon babies, periods, and how exaggeratedly rubbish every bloke in the world is; female comedians are funniest, he claims, when they're imitating male comedy, "hefty or dykey or Jewish or some combo of the three". It's a ridiculous idea, but the concept of a dividing line between 'aggressive' male humour and gentler female humour clearly has some clout - why else would so many critics have described this year's (very funny) Bridesmaids as an attempt to do a boys' comedy with women, just because it featured some broadness, swearing and sex?
But when you look at today's female comedians, the truth is exactly the opposite; the range of completely different talents and styles on offer is extraordinary. You've got sweethearts like Miranda Hart and Lucy Porter - and then there are acts like Sarah Silverman who play with ingenious, malicious glee on that same 'niceness'. Sarah Millican has her own smart little twist on domestic humour, Sandi Toksvig does the breezy political and cultural commentary, and Tamsin Greig riffs on the idea of the sharp, slightly shrewish independent girl (which may have been why she was so good as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing back in 2006). Meanwhile, Jessica Walter's pretty much been dominating the 'sharp-tongued and icy-cruel' category, with hilarious results, on American TV for a good few years now. And, of course, my personal Queen of comedy, Tina Fey, who could give any male comedian a run for his money. I had to stifle my giggles during a recent plane journey as I read her fantastic autobiography, Bossypants!
And then, of course, there are the up-and-comers; which is why I'm extremely excited to be on the judging panel of this year's Funny Women Awards in Leicester Square, which aims to support and give wider recognition to budding new female comic talent in the UK. These are the women who'll be making you chortle, snigger, cackle, snort, and roll around on the floor kicking your legs up in the air like a giant baby a few years from now - and I'm very honoured indeed to get the chance to see them before they make it big. To find out more (or book your ticket) you can check out their site here.
Next to such intimidating talent I...well, I'm doing my best! A little while ago I ran an offer on stand-up workshops with London's The Comedy School with my discount website goodypass.com, which came in useful when I headed there to learn some skills myself last year for a similar lesson. Let me know if you like the results, or if you think it proves Hitch right! Anyway, it was certainly great training for Sky One's Wall Of Fame, which sees me trying to hold my own against the very brilliant David Walliams and Jack Dee every Friday night at 10pm. If it should happen to still be around in three or four years, of course, (here's hoping) I'm sure you'll be seeing the winners of the Funny Women Awards cracking fantastic jokes up there too.
Visit Kate's discount website at www.goodypass.com
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