Today we published our predictions for the comedy world in 2021, we brought up topics such as accessibility, surreal comedy and flyers being consigned to the dustbin forever. You’ll note what we didn’t predict was more women comedians being booked on panel shows. Just so we are clear here, that’s more comedians who identify as women booked on panel shows. Because, well, somehow a paperless Edinburgh Fringe Festival seemed more plausible.
Why is this? In all honesty, I don’t know. I’m not a booker for TV, I do keep a close eye on comedy news though and if the Daily Mail is a reputable source then TV comedy is apparently in a world of wokedom with no space for good old fashioned white male comedy. But somehow a couple managed to slip through the net and this year’s Big Fat Quiz of the Year features a line up of five male comedians and two women presenters.
Now I get that these men have been booked because they are very funny. I also understand that until they entered the studio they might not have known who else was on the line up, even though one of the questions agents always ask bookers is ‘who else is on?’ I also understand that it might have felt quite rude to Stacey Solomon and Maya James had the male comedians kicked up a fuss about the lack of women comedians present. I even realise the fault does not lie with the bookee, they’ve been asked to do a job and they’ve done it.
However, it is tiring to see this happen again, specifically on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. The show started in 2004 but it wasn’t until 2011 when Miranda Hart was on the panel that a female stand-up comic got a look in. From my deep-dive research (checking Wikipedia) it looks like in its 16-year history it appears the show has only managed to book about 12 different women comedians. It’s managed nearly 30 different male comedians (depending on how you feel about James Corden). Is it any wonder the likes of Rachel Parris, Angela Barnes, Fern Brady and Felicity Ward are airing their annoyance on Twitter about this year’s booking?
Laura Lexx pointed out why this style of booking is so problematic: “The knock on effect of this is it makes being a female comic harder because putting non professional comics against professional comics makes it seems like men are naturally funnier so at grassroots level we’re still hitting the same tired assumptions.”
It’s a real shame considering that, against all odds, women in comedy managed to make 2020 a great year for comedy. Off the top of my head Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan, London Hughes, Jayde Adams, Sarah Keyworth and Rose Matafeo have all released brilliant specials, TV series, radio shows and films this year, and it is purely a word count issue that I am not listing more.
One thing I am happy to predict, just like this year, in 2021 the bookers of The Big Fat Quiz of the Year will have plenty of women comedians to choose from. I just hope they book them.