Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Line-By-Line: Come On Germaine!

I love to see someone whose work as a feminist I have long respected adding to the steaming heap of bullshit that makes it harder to do my job every day. Thanks for this one Ms Greer. I'll give it the careful dissection it so blatantly doesn't deserve...

"I should probably not have said, in so few words on television recently, that women aren't as funny as men."

No you should not have, not unless you could really justify it, which we are about to see - you can't.

"Put so baldly, the observation sounds like deliberate provocation, as if I was baiting feminists, or looking for some kind of a knee-jerk response."

I remember when you WERE a feminist.

"I was actually trying to present an aspect of the psychopathology of everyday life that strikes me as interesting and important."

And yet you know as well as I do that 99% of people aren't going to read past the first line of what you say and are instead going to turn up at my place of work and regurgitate your words verbatim using them to deny my right to a fair shot at doing my job. So thanks.

"Women are at least as intelligent as men, and they have as vivid and ready a perception of the absurd; but they have not developed the arts of fooling, clowning, badinage, repartee, burlesque and innuendo into a semi-continuous performance as so many men have."

So women have failed to develop the art of burlesque as well as men? Yeah that's a real problem... But seriously which clubs do you go to?Look back to Hattie Jacques and Joyce Grenfell: women have always done great comedy and they still do.

"The phenomenon of men's dominance of the comedy realm is so conspicuous that all kinds of cod explanations have been given for it."

No - the phenomenon of men's dominance of comedy is a fiction invented very recently by lad mags. It has nothing to do with reality and should be rejected wholesale.

"According to one cracker-barrel psychologist, the pleasure generated by a response to a gag is patterned on the male orgasm rather than the female."

No - Andrew Watts wrote that on the Chortle website. He's a comic not a psychologist and by his own admission (I know him) the remark was intended as a silly analogy. If orgasm had anything to do with comedy men would only be able to tell one joke all night.

"Another wiseacre has convinced himself that making people laugh is exerting some kind of power over them."

Yeah well it is - it's the power to make people laugh - and women are just as good at it as men.

"In my version, the man who opts for the role of joker in the male group is not looking for power but for acceptance; the other roles in the group are not accessible to him, perhaps because he is weaker or poorer or less imposing than his peers."

This would make total sense if all comics were weak, skinny, ugly guys - but they're not, many are big tough guys and quite a lot are fucking funny women. And anyhow if comedy were about overcoming weakness, women would be tons better at it than men owing to our weedy arms!!

"His audience has, as it were, the power of life and death over him; if he fails to get his laugh, he "dies"."

Dying onstage as a comic is just a turn of phrase - in reality you have a good gig or a bad one and while everyone tries to learn from bad gigs, experienced comics know better than to let a rowdy inattentive audience get to them.

"Men's dominance of standup has even been attributed to the phallic character of the microphone, absurdly enough."

If the microphone is a dick then you'd expect straight women and gay men to be the ones with the best idea what to do with it.

"Though it might be comforting to believe that simple misogyny prevents women being given a fair go, even this will not wash."

Yeah there's no misogyny out there. That's why when I ring round for gigs I hear "We've already got a woman on the bill that night". That's my fair go, is it? In fact even your very article constitutes misogyny because it presumes that female comics are some sort of homogeneous group, that what applies to one, is true of them all. I don't care if you've seen fifty terrible female acts, you haven't seen me and I'm an individual who deserves to be judged on my own merits not on my gender.

"The juries who give prizes to comedians are usually composed of both sexes, and audiences certainly are; but still the female performers don't make it, don't get the prizes, don't get the audiences and don't make the money. "

And women (judges and audience) can't be sexist? Didn't you quite literally write the book on this? Anyway plenty of women comics have won awards: Jenny Eclair, Laura Solon, Nina Conti, Sarah Millican, Josie Long, Susan Calman...

"I have heard it said that women can't be really funny because they aren't willing to make themselves look ridiculous."

And you bothered to listen to this? Now to me that makes YOU look ridiculous Greer.

"The truth seems to be that female comics are only too willing to turn themselves into grotesques, and to base their comedy in a disparagement of their physical selves."

Could that be because women's bodies are considered such fair game in every form of media out there that women have found humour in rejecting ideals of beauty and taking delight in the earthy realities of the female form (quote Dory Dutton at my show at Soho Comedy Club tonight: "As I get older I'm not unhappy with the shape of my body ... it's the texture ...").

"Pamela Stephenson of Not the Nine O'Clock News briefly toured the working men's clubs of Britain with a courageous routine featuring menstruation jokes, which she probably got away with because she was blonde and gorgeous."

So the odds were totally stacked against her but she did well but so it must have been because she was attractive? Whereas Jo Brand has done well because of what?

"(Since she became a sex therapist, she has given up making jokes altogether.)"

She's a highly qualified psychotherapist who despite changing careers is still much in demand on TV and who also wrote a brilliant, very witty, book about her husband.

"Dawn French and Jo Brand have both made comic material out of obesity."

So does Johnny Vegas. He must be shit.

"French and Jennifer Saunders began their comic partnership as the Menopause Sisters, and used to do one routine with tampons in their ears."

And when guys (hundreds of them) get up on stage and do knob gags that's considered funny but tampons aren't allowed? This is from the woman who told women to taste their own menstrual blood to accept their own bodily functions. You would think she'd be cheering on the menopause and tampon jokes.

"Comments sent to a blog I came across bewail the tendency of female comics to work around the themes of "bras, periods, chocolate, WeightWatchers"."

Who needs research when you can read comments on a blog? I like the blogosphere but seriously, most comments I get are trying to sell me herbal viagra - it's not a reliable source of public opinion. I know few female acts whose sets cover these issues and if they did SO WHAT!? If you can be funny on those subjects - great - go for it!

"Whatever the problem is, it's not narcissism or vanity - rather the opposite."

I don't even understand logically what this comment means. The problem with female comedy is a lack of narcissism and vanity? Then remind me to see more female comedy, that sounds wildly refreshing.

"When they are not running themselves down, women comedians are often astonishingly vicious towards other women."

Whereas when male comics attack women - that's hilarious.

"Joan Rivers's attacks on Elizabeth Taylor are legendary. Zoe Lyons has a one-liner about Amy Winehouse self-harming: "She's so irritating, she must be able to find someone to do it for her", a joke that many women would find unfunny in the extreme."

I can think of rape jokes I've heard from male comics in the last week that I find a lot less funny.

"Every year produces a new crop of women standups who will take the world by storm, and when the froth subsides very few names persist: Jenny Eclair, Jo Brand, Victoria Wood."

Maybe the reason the media doesn't pick up on and promote more women comics is because attitudes like yours are all over the place. Well done though for mentioning Victoria Wood - she did win a public vote of "Britain's Favourite Comic" recently which rather seems to throw your whole theory out of the window doesn't it?

"Shazia Mirza has been heard to say that if only she could marry a rich man she would be off the circuit tomorrow, which suggests another reason why women don't mature in the comedy business."

Yeah Shazia says that. It's a joke. A joke about her conservative background.

"Comedy is learned; you get better as you go along."

So - you would think - is journalism but honestly Germaine, I preferred your early stuff.

"Men who emerge as professional comedians grow up within a dense masculine culture of joke-making and have been honing their skills ever since they started school. Girls have nothing similar of their own and are not invited to horn in on the guys' act."

Because girls don't sit in classrooms giggling amongst themselves? Have you ever been to a school?

"When men in the audience give women comedians a hard time, it is because the sharing of the joke is an important male bonding mechanism."

No it's because they're assholes. When some drunk idiot shouts 'Oi love, get your tits out' at me during a routine it's not his evolutionary destiny that has caused him to do that, it's the beer he's drunk and the crap he's read recently in FHM.

"We might also ask ourselves why the women in the audience cannot counterbalance male uneasiness with loyalty and enthusiasm for comedians of their own sex."

They can. Women in the audiences I perform to are thrilled when a female act gives the guys a taste of their own medicine. They whoop with delight to hear someone tell it like it is from a woman's perspective for once. And what is more they line up in droves to come to women-only comedy nights which are flourishing around the UK. I hosted another sold-out one myself as an Abortion Rights fundraiser on Friday, see also Funny Women, Laughing Cows et al.

"Can it be that women are programmed to laugh at men's jokes, as they are not to the jokes of their sisters?"

Yeah cos when you see two young sisters playing together, they never giggle.

"Comedian Arthur Smith once said, "Women don't get shags after gigs. Men do.""

I've often been chatted up after gigs. And I know lots of guys who complain they get into the industry hoping it will get them laid and it doesn't. Mark Steel talks about this in his book "It's Not a Runner Bean" which Ms Greer clearly failed to read in her extensive research process.

"This may be more revealing than Smith knows. Women comedians are probably not looking for shags in any case; if they were, they probably couldn't say so."

Of all the women I know the one and only group definitely not afraid to stand up and say out loud 'God, I need a shag' is the comediennes.

'The greater visibility of male comedians reflects a greater investment of intellectual energy by men of all walks of life in keeping each other amused.'

Or a greater investment of financial resources in promoting a few guys who the media has deemed appropriate for celebrity status.

"It is now a truism that men never talk to each other about things that matter."

But the best comedy is always about things that really do matter.

"Most of what takes place when men are together is phatic communication, intended to build fellowship rather than intimacy. This kind of communication is sometimes derided by women as meaningless, but it is actually functional, because it draws the group together. Men who drink, play and joke together are boon companions, who hang together for fun. He laughs loudest who laughs last; one joke kicks off another."

Whereas you never ever see groups of women out and about joking and laughing together, let alone mixed groups. Sorry Germaine but men do not have a monopoly on having a laugh.

"The man who cannot hold his own in repartee will even learn other men's jokes off by heart, so that he can fill a void in the general banter."

Yeah and stealing someone else's material is what makes a great comic...

"Women famously cannot learn jokes. If they try, they invariably bugger up the punchline."

Famously where? Did I miss a meeting?

"The male teller of jokes is driving towards his reward, the laughter of his mates. The woman who messes up the same joke does so because her concentration is not sharpened by that need. She is not less intelligent, simply less concerned."

The funniest people are the ones most desperately trying to get a laugh then? Not the ones who don't give a fuck and are telling it like it is? Maybe watch a show next time before you write this sort of rubbish huh?

"Given an opportunity to perform a finished comedy routine, a female comedian will make you laugh as hard as any man."

Despite her lack of ambition and failure to put her burlesque skills to proper use? You're contradicting yourself here.

"Put her in an improvisation situation along with male comedians, and she is likely to be left speechless."

Screw you Germaine. Come to one of my shows and I'll take any male comic you like and improvise the shit out of them.

"Quiz show Mock the Week usually invites one woman every other week or so, and every time I have been watching she has been eclipsed by the furiously competing six males who complete the cast of the show. Before she can get a word out, one or other of them will have snatched the microphone and gone riffing away on something he prepared earlier and has adjusted for the precise occasion."

So women are rubbish at improv because men interrupt them with prepared material? And this is women's fault? And you think a show with six guys and one woman is a fair forum from which to extrapolate to sweeping gender generalisations?

"There is, after all, an element of trainspotting, of one-track-mindism in comedy that is alien to women."

And an element of tangental thinking, of linking apparently wildly diverse subjects, that only someone who really knows how to multi-task could achieve. Or are we bored with reciting trite untrue stereotypes yet?

"At the heart of the judgment that women are not as funny as men is another far less inflammatory observation: that women are less competitive."

No - at the heart of your judgment that women are not as funny as men is a big heap of random misogynist lad mag-propagated bullshit that you really ought to know better than to buy in to.

"Competition drives men to more and more outrageous and bizarre mental acrobatics, to stay ahead of the game and have the last laugh. The greater the pressure, the faster the firing of neurons in the male brain."

Call the science press - where the hell does this come from? If this were true a simple piece of brain scanning apparatus combined with some sort of rapid-fire word-play quiz would have picked it up years ago. It's just piffle.

"You get your best results from women when you take the pressure off."

Again I haven't read this in the New Scientist yet so I'm gonna call it early as bullshit.

"Men do the inspired lunacy; women do droll."

This is your big conclusion? Comedy can be broken down into two sub-types: "inspired lunacy" and "droll"? And one type of comedy, the one that's not as good, is exclusively performed by people with vaginas? I don't understand how that even could be true.

Women are fighting an uphill battle in comedy against the rising tide of poorly argued baseless attitudes like this. And ironically I've read of lot of Ms Greer's work and she's pretty funny, I really think she could cut it in the clubs if she wanted to. Except mine of course where I would politely decline to put her on the bill since her words are undoubtedly going to cost me a bunch of bookings over the next year or two.


Agent of Desire said...

Arghhh... perhaps since Greer has found celebrity and success, she has less cause to associate with 'inferiors' - i.e.- WOMEN(except of course, her moronic friends in the ECP), hense she comes out with clueless shit like this about our sex. She really needs to mingle a bit.

EKE said...

"In my version, the man who opts for the role of joker in the male group is not looking for power but for acceptance; the other roles in the group are not accessible to him, perhaps because he is weaker or poorer or less imposing than his peers."

Right...so moving away from the stage and into the realms of the office worker for just a moment...all that stuff about usuing humour to influence teams must be a load of old crap then.

And being a girl I wouldn't even know how to do it anyway, even if it was true. Oh. Wait. I do it all the time, and I do it really well. I'm very successful because of it.

Oh. My tiny girl mind is now confused.

Grace said...

Dear oh dear! I'm competitive, sarcastic and often told I'm funny - where is my penis??

Did she even watch Last Comic Standing? That would have been a good place to start! Iliza Shlesinger was put up week after week by her male counterparts because they were threatened by her. She used new material in knock outs when they thought it was too risky and used the same old jokes again and again, they were horrible about her behind her back. And oh look, she won anyway because the public thought she was the BEST! Even Papa CJ thought he was better than her and he was utter shit! Once he got past the call centre jokes he had no material! There were too really misogynistic comics on that series and one them even made rape jokes - not funny! Amy Schumer received some similar iciness from Lavell Crawford, whom she had thought of as a friend on the show.

Okay rant over - but it just shows female comedy is ever evolving with new generations being led by existing ones. And Jo Brand kills and improv everytime she is on QI - whereas it took Rich Hall at least a few episodes to even say anything!

Excellent disection Kate, this is going on Twitter!


Once again Germaine Greer proves she has sold out to the MRAs. Greer uses the same old tired misogynistic tactic wherein male endeavours are seen as positive and female ones are always negative. All together now 'men because they are male are automatically superior and women because they are female are automatically inferior.'

The primary reason why there are fewer female comics is because being female automatically means the woman is seen as 'inferior' and she has to work much harder at even being accepted as capable of working as a Commedienne let alone a good one.

But even this is used against women because women are supposedly 'naturally' inferior to men. Greer says so - so it must be true!

Beware - anything Greer writes nowadays panders to male-dominant beliefs.

Kate your succinct analysis neatly dissects and shows the ineptitude and utter crassness of Ms. Greer's incomprehensive writing. But as you say, most readers will simply read first sentence and say 'yes so true women are less than men.' This is how misogyny is not seen but accepted as 'natural.'

Scutage said...

My friend Rob Deb told me about this post... too bloody right.

I think she's just gone a bit dotty. Maybe it was the jungle - it turned her into marlon brando in his sweaty crazy incarnation in Apocalypse Now?

Chris Coltrane said...

Just commenting to say that I'm really happy you made this post. It's good to see someone tearing apart every single sentence of that dreadful article. It's utter shite from beginning to end. I was almost shouting my screen as I read it.

You should see if you can get an article up on Comment is Free in reply to her. That'd be awesome.

butterflywings said...

Another well said. You are so right.

My female boss uses humour to manage our team. I too use humour to get people to do stuff.

Oh and YES! to you being on CiF!

Jennifer said...

OMG, the evangelicals were right, 30 years ago. Greer has repented of her feminist ways and has become a baptist.

Hazel said...

This post was just awesome. GG is just embarrassing.

Lauren O said...

I feel so sad for Germaine Greer that she apparently can't imagine groups of women having fun and making each other laugh. Does that means she's never experienced that? Because the rest of experience it...like, every day. What a mirthless life she must lead. Maybe that's what made her so bitter and willing to sell out her feminist ideals. I like her better when she was telling me to taste my own menstrual blood.

Liz said...

Oh dear. Every time I see Greer on TV she gets worse and worse, not to mention her writing now. Has she seriously never met women who love to laugh with each other and make jokes? My sister and I do it all the time - even, as she says women can't do - mess about and act 'silly'. I think being silly and playful is one of the best joys of life, and I am very sad for her that she thinks women can't do this. She sounds like a complete anti feminist.

crowth said...

This was an excellent critique of her article. For me, this was essential reading. It's stunning that so many comments she make are blatantly sexist, and I'm ashamed to admit that when I first read it I was only left feeling confused. Now I'm edging more towards incensed clarity.

Unknown said...

Yeah, there's no misogyny in comedy. That's why the all-woman 'Beehive' (one of the best sketch shows I've seen in ages) was tucked away on a late night midweek slot on E4 (they even got the series overwith as quickly as possible by broadcasting two shows per night) while Lee Mack's (he who called Shami Chakrabarti 'stupid because she's a woman' on HIGNFY) vehicle 'Not Going Out' gets a prime time BBC1 slot on Friday nights. And perhaps if one of those panel shows GG mentioned was actually *hosted* by a woman for a change (or had a woman for one of their 'regulars') it wouldn't be such a flippin' boys club.

This is an excellent post. Greer is seriously losing it.

Cruella said...

By the way if you live in London and want to see a panel show hosted by a woman, there is one. Not on tv (of course) but every Sunday at the Camden Head pub in Angel. The Comedy Manifesto. Hosted by me. Half eights start and £5 in if you mention the Cru-blog.