An open letter to women in comedy… from a woman in comedy.
Dear ladies (I use that term loosely),
Let me begin by saying that the things I am about to write come with the best of intentions. I am posting with a hope that we can all grow within our business and open our eyes to the reality of the situation. I ask that you read with an open mind and your defenses down. With that being said…
Stop using misogyny as an excuse for why you aren’t funnier. I’m not denying the existence of misogyny in our business. I am denying its ability to control your success. If you are funny enough, male chauvinism doesn’t matter.
I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever I hear a comic complain about a show or venue that isn’t conducive to their art. I read an article recently about an all-female open mic designed to be a “safe space” for women to perform, free of dick jokes and sexual advances. No men allowed. Not only is this alienating (nay, banning) a large audience demographic, it further promotes the stereotype that women don’t have the balls to make it in a man’s world. If there was a show like this in my area, I would have no desire to be part of it. Why? Because it won’t make me better. The shows that go great rarely teach me anything. I’d much rather have a mediocre set at a male-dominated show where I know they’re likely to be extra critical of the only female on the bill than kill at a “supportive” show where it’s all about the feel-goods. As the saying goes, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If you’re funny enough, gender, age, race, disability or any other factor doesn’t matter.
Ladies, you don’t have it THAT bad. I know this because I am one of you and have faced many more hurdles to my success than nearly anyone who will come across this. Why? Because in addition to being a female comic, I am a disabled comic. I have used a 300 lb wheelchair since the days when kicking boys in the balls was hilarious, even though I had to have my 7-year-old henchmen do it for me. In my 2.5 years of performing stand up, spanning all across the Midwest, there has been merely one venue with a wheelchair ramp for the stage. I’ve done shows where a total stranger has to carry me two flights of stairs and perform while sitting on a bar stool (that is actively producing pressure sores on my ass) and putting on my signature sardonic mask and making the audience proud to say they laughed at the crippled girl. And when there aren’t stairs to battle, there is a 3-foot high stage, completely unmanageable for any portable ramp, which I sit next to without the luxury of a spot light and just hope folks can crane their neck around enough to catch a glimpse of where the jokes are coming from. If you can’t tell, these are far from ideal circumstances. But do I bitch about the lack of handicap accessibility in the comedy business? Hell no. At least, not until this post (but never again after). Instead, I focus on writing jokes so funny that it makes up for how awkward I look as a weeble wobble trying not to fall off an unsteady bar stool. Of course, I could always agree to only do shows in venues fully accommodating to my differences… or I could have a successful career by not being limited to one venue.
In summation, we all have obstacles to our success; some are physical (like mine) while others are mental (like ignoring the 78th dick joke you’ve heard this month). Ladies, be thankful that you have unobstructed access to the stage and I’ll be thankful that the latest rape joke doesn’t hit too close to home. Overcome adversity and you’ll gain respect. Complain about it and you get well-deserved eye rolls. Allow yourself to be in unpleasant situations because that’s our comedic reality. You won’t get better performing for people who are in the same comfort zone as you and you especially won’t make a career that way. Tuck your balls into your panties and do what challenges you. I think everyone just needs to suck it up and quit getting butthurt over experiences that make you grow as a comic.
With complete respect,