“fact: 97.3% of girls are not funny” proclaims the esteemed Twitter god, @colinohare96. I found this nugget of golden deliciousness in my internet travels and I wondered what makes people proclaim such grand assumptions.
It’s another aspect of female subjugation and unfair treatment; granted, it isn’t up there with the worst that womankind has had to endure, but it’s still a real kick in the teeth. Having run a comedy room and worked with and around performers for some time, it should come as no surprise to me that those old, hackneyed premises still arise. Granted, it’s not as prevalent within the industry as I suspected, which was a nice surprise, but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen quite a bloody lot.
Is it weird that brilliant female comedians are reduced to just being better versions of male comedians? Would it surprise you to know that Celia Pacquola, one of Australia’s great comic performers, was once simply called, “Adam Hills with ovaries”? Would it shock you to your very core that a review of Sydney comedian Alice Fraser began with: “You wouldn’t look twice at Alice Fraser if she walked past you on Collins St in her black business dress that unfortunately only half covers a slightly hideous green shirt. The ex-lawyer’s outfit screams boring”? While the rest of the review was praising in tone, it leaves a nasty taste behind.
I once had a friend in a rock band; it was your usual jittery, indie-rock, by-the-numbers stuff that’s catchy enough without being terribly inventive. They had lost their drummer and were auditioning for a new one; the usual suspects (men) came and went and one woman came to play for them. Later, as I was told by said friend, the guitarist of the band had refused the drummer because, as he mentioned, he “didn’t want a girl drummer” and that it would “affect their touring, with bathrooms and that”. He even posed the most difficult question ever put to the white middle-class male: “What about when she gets her period?” I laugh about this now, because the sands of time have made it humorous rather than really depressing.
If you think that people don’t actually say things like, “I just don’t find women funny” and “ugh, female comedians only talk about their kids/periods/being single/wanting to get married” and “it helps if they’re hot”, you would be mistaken. Never assume people can’t be real pieces of crap.
But! There is a light at the end of the tunnel/this article: you don’t need to listen to that claptrap. The catharsis of the invention of Wham Bam came from the need to reverse that style of thought. The brainchild of Karen Pickering (creator of Melbourne feminist institution Cherchez La Femme and all-round femmo legend), I came on as producer thanks to my passion for feminism and comedy, and Wham Bam delightfully combines them both.
Wham Bam exists as a safe space, but also a fun one: many women I know are disappointed to go to comedy or variety nights and see the line-up stacked with men, sometimes with only one woman – indeed, sometimes with none at all. The reasoning is always unclear: whether this is due to an actual bias or sexism of the programmers, or some minor booking error, or just dumb ignorance, we don’t know. The jury is still out.
We have put in great effort to make the night as varied and interesting as possible; we have stand-up (Clem Bastow, Lisa-Skye, Nicolette Minister, Sonia Di Iorio), burlesque (the fabulous Clara Cupcakes blew us away on our opening night with a nutty hoop routine and will return throughout our run), music (Bobby and the Pins, Hissy Loco, Karin Muiznieks, ‘Soprano at Large’ Alexandra Oke) and everything in between; we’ve also got a few special events planned, like an Erotic Fan Fiction night on Thursday October 2. Basically, if we’ve found someone cool or interesting or hilarious, we’ve chucked them in!
It’s also our happy “fuck you” to people like Jerry Lewis, Adam Carolla, Seth MacFarlane and Eddie Brill (among others), who feel the need to quash female talent, presumably so that white, hetereosexual, middle-class white dudes can forever rule the entertainment and comedy circles forever and ever amen, until, I guess, women become some sort of rare bird only seen in flighting glances – certainly not at a late show desk – that would be madness, right?!
We’re proud of all the acts we’ve assembled, and the shows we’ve had so far, so come on down and figuratively kick Jerry Lewis in the goulies.
Wham Bam is running every night (except Saturdays) throughout the Melbourne Fringe Festival, from now until October 5, at Provincial Hotel. Feminartsy has three double passes up for grabs – to go in the draw, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, email address, phone number and your favourite female comedian.
Otherwise, book your tickets here.