It’s fair to say that 2019, nay, this decade we are about to say goodbye to tonight (unless you’re one of those people who insist the new decade doesn’t start until 2021), has been very eventful for comedy. This is the decade that saw brand new female comedy characters, such as Fleabag from the eponymous Fleabag, Chewing Gum’s Tracey Gordon, Kerry in This Country, Abbi and Ilana of Broad City, Grace and Frankie, Sharon in Catastrophe and more, shake up TV comedy like never before. We’ve seen mums, older women, women of colour and women outside the heteronormative narrative take the lead comedy shows and absolutely thrive.
Their undeniable success makes the countless op-eds over the decade declaring the death of comedy and its slayer ‘Woke Culture’ look ridiculous. The 2010s have seen a considerable shift in our viewing habits, no longer tied to TV schedules, Netflix, Amazon Prime and iPlayer et al mean we can binge-watch sitcoms whilst tweeting about any shortcomings on our smartphones, hashtagging and @ing the relevant people in so that any gripe or praise reaches the widest audience.
This has brought ‘call-out culture’, something that would otherwise may have been limited to a person or group’s ability to petition, to the masses. Some people believe this to be limiting, they write opinion pieces about how ‘you can’t say anything these days’, they can’t possibly be funny if they have to strip transphobia, whorephobia, homophobia or a bit of good ol’ fashioned misogyny out of their writing. However, the flip side of this instant response surely pushes comedy to work harder, to ask why it’s so vital a homophobic slur in a song is used. Woke culture, when understood, doesn’t blunt the instrument, it refines it.
I can’t write about the state of comedy across the 2010s without noting this was the decade where comedy gods Bill Cosby and Louis CK’s sexual crimes against women were brought to light. I have no doubt more big names in comedy will fall for similar reasons in the 2020s. I hope the comedy scene will provide support to those who speak out, it can do this by continuing to give a voice to more funny women.
It’s clear from the wide variety of shows I listed at the beginning of this piece, combined with the incredible rise of stand up comedians such as Katherine Ryan, Sara Pascoe, Sarah Millican, London Hughes, Ellie Taylor, Bridget Christie, Jayde Adams, Jessica Fostekew (what’s that? Why yes, they are all Funny Women Awards finalists and winners) over the last 10 years – and I am only naming a few from this side of the pond – that comedy has not been slayed, but its women have come to slay.
Happy New Year.