Comedians, You’re Making Me Squirm

I live in London. I like comedy. But I think I’ve been seeing the wrong comedians recently because I’m noticing a trend. Comedians are making me squirm; they are very rarely making me laugh. At first I just thought perhaps Frankie Boyle was an anomaly. But these types are on the rise. Their comments make you gape open-mouthed and stand in disbelief at their sheer bravery. I realise that it was some people’s taste to laugh at a man making sexual jokes about a supermodel’s disabled son (I’m referencing here the Katie Price/Harvey debacle), but for me, all I want from a show is to laugh, guilt-free. Playing the inappropriate card is obviously a key factor in a stand-up persona, but when does audience member go from laughing to sinking down into their seat and wanting said comedian to stop talking?

My favourite comedians are funny. Just funny. Like that guy in the pub that has you in hysterics just by his mannerisms alone, the content is almost irrelevant. The way he is talking and conversing tickles everyone around him and he has his pub cronies in the palm of his hand. Free pints for the funny man. This is how I would describe comedian Josh Widdecombe. Hailing from South West England, with reddish hair and face so friendly it’s almost familiar, he talks about everyday things and turns them into something comical. Michael McIntyre-esque, he speaks about those daily moments in life and you all unite in a mutual understanding. Cash points, iPhones, Haribo. His material is funny, but he’s not talking about deep political matters, he’s just being a joker.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the comedians whose mission in life is to prove a point, however heavy that may be. We have the Bill Hicks of the world, who are wanting to make a stand for something important – and what better arena is there than the stage? Anything goes. However, the difference is with comedians who try to address serious issues and often get it wrong. Bill Hicks was passionate and really really intelligent. These things are crucial to a comedian if you’re going to inflict your beliefs on a crowd of people hungry for an opinion. You can’t just swear loudly in a British accent at an audience and hope for a laugh.

This brings me on to an act I saw on Friday who tried to be controversial but failed miserably in my eyes. This comedienne was Katherine Ryan. From the programme, I was intrigued by her, but her pretty, delicate face was no warning to what was about to come out of her mouth. I must admit here that I knew I was not going to find her funny. The reason being?  Well, she was a girl.

I wrote a piece for the Stylist over a year ago about how I don’t feel women can be funny on stage. And it’s not even that I’m saying they’re ‘not as funny as men’ – I mean not funny. Full stop. In every day life, yes – on paper, on Twitter, YES. We trump men in these areas. But I haven’t yet seen a woman own the comedy stage. My female friends have me rolling on the floor in side-splitting pain. But give a woman a microphone and an audience, you might as well start queuing for your refund.

So, Katherine Ryan flopped. The main reason her stand-up act aggravated me (and pretty much everyone there, by amount of people leaving the tent) was that she spoke about ‘women’s issues’. Her introduction was launching into ripping apart women who have sex too much. Then onto pregnancy, then into divorce and back into taking the out of young girls in tiny shorts. All of her ‘funny’ material was just about women. Why do you female comedians HAVE to talk about these same topics? Every. Single. Time. It makes us women look like we have nothing else to talk about. That we moan all the time about being a woman. We not just baby-making machines that complain about shoes and diets. At least I don’t think so.

Men don’t just talk about weight problems, or penis size, or diets, or how insecure they feel at the gym. They talk about objects, experiences, funny moments, observations. For the most part, their material remains gender neutral. They talk about a wide variety of things and turn something seemingly normal into something hilarious. Isn’t that supposed to be the task of a comedian?  One of the funniest sketches I’ve ever seen is just a guy talking about he went into Comet to buy a Hoover.

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