Not laughing

// 28 August 2015

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The Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards are some of the most prestigious at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. There are three awards: the best comedy show, the best newcomer and the panel prize. Both the best comedy show and the best newcomer are picked from shortlists which were announced on Wednesday, and to be fair to the awards organisers they make sure that someone checks out every eligible comedy show at the fringe which is no mean feat.

The first woman ever to win the best comedy show award was Jenny Eclair in 1995, this was 14 years after the awards were established in 1981. The only other women to win the main award have been Laura Solon in 2005 and Bridget Christie in 2013, although the fantastic Alice Lowe was a member of the 2001 winners, Garth Marenghi’s Netherland.

This year roughly one quarter of all the comedians at the Edinburgh Festival are women, and only one of those women, Sarah Kendall, is on the short list for the best comedy show award. I simply don’t believe that there wasn’t at least one other woman funny enough to be on the list.

This lack of women matters. Not just because it’s unfair. Not just because of the £10,000 prize money. Not even because the people who are shortlisted for the award are more likely to get to speak to TV producers about series ideas, more likely be able to make programmes for Radio 4 and are more likely to be guests on Friday night panel shows. It’s unfair because it’s denying the comedy watching public the chance to hear about the fullest range of what’s on offer out there and I think audiences deserve a wider choice. Needless to say the nominees and winners are overwhelmingly white, cisgendered and non-disabled too.

There was a brief glimmer of a grin for me when the Guardian printed a top ten jokes of the fringe list that featured several excellent women. The smile was wiped off my face though when the television channel Dave published the results of its funniest jokes of the fringe competition which featured just one gag from someone who isn’t a man: Grace the Child’s “They’re always telling me to live my dreams. But I don’t want to be naked in an exam I haven’t revised for.” And yes, I know the jokes in Dave’s competition are voted for by the public so we only have ourselves to blame.

The worst thing about it all is just how boring and predictable this all is. “Ah, the Edinburgh Comedy Awards shortlist is out, there’s only one woman on it, bet the feminists are annoyed about that”, you might have thought on Wednesday. And yep, you’d be right, this feminist is annoyed. I’m also bored, and if I’m honest, a bit resigned. The resignation is the worst bit.

I don’t want to have to be writing this blog post. I’d far rather be watching Claudia O’Doherty clips on Youtube or reading Standard Issue. But until women comics get the exposure they deserve I’ll keep talking and writing about how unfair it is.

I expect in a year’s time I’ll be writing something similar about the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2016. See you then.

You can read The F-Word’s coverage of female-led comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe here and here.

The image at the top of the page is from The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. It is the festival’s logo, the word “fringe” in large black type with “The Edinburgh Festival” and the dates of the festival in smaller type.

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