A survey by the Women in Comedy Festival has found that more than one in three women comedians has been sexually harassed while on stage and one in six has been followed when they’ve left a gig. Of the 61 women surveyed 85% reported MCs introducing them on stage as a “female comedian” and more than half said their looks had been mentioned in their introduction.
There’s no relief backstage either, more than half of the comedians surveyed said they’d been made to feel ‘very uncomfortable’ in the green room and almost 50% said they had been sent inappropriate messages from people who work in the comedy industry – effectively their work colleagues.
Jessica Toomey, director of Manchester’s Frog and Bucket comedy club and a producer of the Women In Comedy festival said: “A number of acts over the last year had raised issues they had experienced within the industry and as I’m not an act I was quite naive to what struggles female comics were experiencing.
“I felt the festival had a duty to look into this and to feed it back. The result that shocked me the most was 16 per cent of acts being followed home from a gig, especially after what happened to Eurydice Dixon.
“I’ve already reached out to Greater Manchester Police for them to offer and recommend advice and procedures to mitigate risks.
“As well as the survey we also asked if they had experienced misogyny in the industry and an overriding theme was they were very much being booked in the “girl’s spot” and were often the only women on the bill.
“It also seemed a lot of MCs were introducing female acts on stage in a degrading manner so sadly women are being set up to fail before they even stepped on stage.
“I have a huge amount of respect for all the women that have broken through in this industry and persevered despite all the challenges they have faced.”
Of course, the responsibility lies with the members of the comedy industry who perpetuate this abusive behaviour, but one thing bookers can do is book more women!
15% of women who answered this survey said they’d “never been on a mixed bill with more than one woman (exc all-female nights or gigs with more than seven acts). The idea that there is still such a thing as a “girl’s spot” demonstrates how behind some bookers in the industry seem to be. One glance at various national comedy competitions shows how many brilliant comedians who happen to also be women are rising through the ranks.
The Festival’s findings reflect the responses we got when we asked the Funny Women community to share their experiences of sexism, specifically with comedy promoters here, as well as Chortle’s survey which you can find here.