Calls for more female comedians at British festivals

20/06/14

Some of the UK's biggest festivals are under pressure to book more female comedians.

V Festival has added two female acts to its comedy line-up after criticism for not booking any.

A spokesperson told Newsbeat the festival "made every effort to provide a balanced line-up" before the negative reaction, but no female acts were available.

T in the Park has also been criticised for its all-male line-up.

You need to determine how funny people are, not what sex they are
John Bishop

Its representatives say it has not announced its full line-up yet.

A group of top stand-up comedians has told Radio 1 and 1Xtra that sexist attitudes within the industry are blocking women from reaching the top of the profession.

It claims many venues tend to have no more than one female act on their line-up because they believe "men are more funny than women".

John Bishop

However, many within the industry, including comedian John Bishop, are concerned about adding women to a line-up to fill a "quota".

"You need to determine how funny people are, not what sex they are," he said.

John Bishop believes the reason there are fewer female stand-up comedians is because they do not like certain aspects of the job, including travelling and late nights.

"What people have to realise is comedy is extremely tough," he said.

"You spend a lot of time travelling on your own. In all honesty, it just seems more young lads want to do it than young girls.

"If that happens and you end up with 20 lads doing it and one girl, there is more of a chance you will book a male comedian then a female one."

Kayvan Novak

Kayvan Novak, who stars in Fonejacker and the comedy film Four Lions, also thinks the industry treats men and women equally.

"I guess the biggest stand-ups are men," he said. "If Michael McIntyre is going to be huge, it's because he is successful. It does not mean a female can't be."

VIKKI STONE
Image caption Vikki Stone says many women want to be comedians, but are unable to progress

The online British comedy guide Chortle has told Newsbeat that the male female divide at the amateur end of the industry is equal, yet there are few women at the top.

Stand-up Vikki Stone says that proves many women do want to be comedians, but are unable to progress because there are far fewer job opportunities.

"Most comedy shows you go to will not have a woman on at all," she said.

"When I come across another female act we are so shocked to see each other because there are so few promoters that will put women on a bill."

Stone has also appeared on comedy TV programmes and claims there can be a similar attitude to women on panel shows.

"A normal panel show will have seven seats," she said. "Normally six out of those seven will be available for men.

"If you are lucky one is available for a woman. That is a really clear example as to why women cannot break through."

Carl Donnelly

Stand-up comedian and writer Carl Donnelly argues that while the industry has become more equal in recent years, it could go further.

"I have witnessed homophobia and racism," he said. "They are problems that are still present.

"There is still this strange percentage of men and women who think women aren't funny."

Katie Mulgrew

However, stand-up Katie Mulgrew says her gender has not affected her.

"I don't think being a woman has helped or hindered my stand-up career in any way," she said.

"The comedy club circuit is brilliant and so diverse. Though, there are the odd clubs that don't book many women.

New bands have long wanted to go into festivals so they can get their music out to huge numbers of people and that is no different for comics

"We just want to be comedians. We do not want to have a particular gender genre, we are just people trying to be funny."

Many stand-up comedians have told Newsbeat that events like the Edinburgh Fringe have helped make the comedy industry more open and diverse.

A third of the comedy line-up at this summer's Latitude Festival is female.

Tania Harrison is head of arts and comedy at Festival Republic, which organises Latitude.

She says performing at festivals is an important way for comics to increase their public profile.

She said: "New bands have long wanted to go into festivals so they can get their music out to huge numbers of people and that is no different for comics."

Follow @BBCNewsbeat on Twitter and Radio1Newsbeat on YouTube