Monday, August 24, 2009

OK, Who's Up For A Riot?

I am. There is a magazine about comedy that posits itself as "new" and "hip" called The Fix. Editor Harry Deansway offers us in this edition a run-down of the 50 best acts in Edinburgh, broken down into different categories, each with an explanatory subtitle. And here's who he picks...
Sketch comedy - This is where 2-6 people perform sketches, sometimes with music - 3 all-male groups and 2 mixed groups.
Stand-Up - You know what this is; one man, one microphone and some jokes - 6 men
Hot new talent - Impress friends and family by saying you saw them before they were famous - 6 men
Musical comedy and character acts - Hey, who are these crazy characters???????? - 5 men, one male double-act and one mixed double act
Acts The Fix owes money to - We especially encourage you to see these acts, if for no other reason than to ease the guilt we feel - one man and one all-male sketch group
Modern - Hey man, that comedian just plugged a projector up his arse! You've got to go see this! - 8 men
Veterans - They'll be dead soon, or too rich to come up to Edinburgh any more - 7 men
Women - Well, you've got to let them have a go, haven't you? - 2 women and one female double-act
Something a bit different - Not interested in hearing a man talk for an hour about how small his penis is and why his girlfriend left him? Try some of this weird shit - 5 men
I'm not making this up - it starts on page 37 here.
Of course you may tell me that the comments are intended to be an ironic joke but it's having a direct impact on the careers of women at the fringe. I have had copies of this magazine thrust into my hands several times in the last few days and like most people will have done I flicked through and had I been in a position to visit shows I might well have taken a recommendation or two out of there without noticing that only 6% of recommendations are female acts and a further 6% are mixed groups. I don't know exactly the breakdown of shows by performer gender but I'm pretty sure that's not a fair representation. So female acts are going to be getting less audience as a direct result of his noxious "joke".
Actually if you read more of the mag it's loaded with misogyny. The Editor's letter includes lines like this: "A comedian is the type of person who will say they are not having sex with your girlfriend whilst your mum is giving them a blowjob under the table. That's the sort of person we are dealing with - egomaniacs so mentally unstable that if they thought it was in the best interests of their "career", they would cut off their penis, stick it onto their forehead, and call themselves Dave The Amazing Dickhead." Which of course is supposed to be funny but is also clearly letting us all know that a comedian has a dick, not a vagina...
The mag also contains an advert for it's own online website (on p16 & 17 if you opened the link) with the slogan "NEW FIX WEB-SITE AT LAST ANOTHER REASON TO USE THE INTERNET" next to a "screenshot" of very graphic pornographic images of women.
Of course the magazine is funded by a ton of comedians buying adverts who desperately want to drag extra punters into their shows. The BBC is also an advertiser (p36) as are City Circle Coach Hire (p41), The Pleasance (p13) and Absolute Radio (p7).
I don't have a particular idea what I'm going to do, but please get in touch if you have any ideas, I really think after all the effort put into the female comics photo-shoot we can't let them get away with this.


Tmax said...

I can't say that I'm a feminist per se, more of a humanist. The women category and it's subtitle is ludicrous. It's like, here's a woman's category maybe this will keep us from getting sued or losing sponsors. I could buy into it as more of a joke if they had listed 7-8 women. Every other category has at least 5 people. I can't believe there's not one women in the Stand-Up or Hot new talent category. Really, should there even be a separate category for women? Ideally, no. Unfortunately it's not an ideal world. said...

The Fix is misanthropic not misogynistic. The only comedy we are against is bad comedy. Happy to print a right to reply to this in the next issue of the magazine. If you want to write something say no more than 600 words I'll happily publish this along with a reply explaining our stance in the next issue of the magazine.

Many thanks, Harry

Cruella said...

So you REALLY believe that none of the best 50 shows at the festival are by acts that aren't white? Really? That's not misanthropic - it's racist. And suggesting that women comics are a genre rather than well able to compete with men in all categories is offensive. The tag line "got to let them have a go..." might seem like hilarious irony to you but it's an attitude that every woman on the fringe is up against every day.

The only response I can imagine you need is an apology but if I have time I will send something over. said...

A nationally distributed comedy magazine is offering you a platform to air your views on a topic that you clearly feel very strongly about and all you can say is if I have time. Female comics are very lucky to have you fighting their corner.

Cruella said...

I don't like to make promises I can't keep and I don't know when your deadline is. Why the aggressive attitude?

But on top of that you're the one who published the male, white, straight, able-bodied, cissexual top 50 acts of the year. Seems to me it's you who should be reviewing what your corner is. My "corner" is that there are lots of great acts that don't fit that profile. You evidently disagree. I cannot for the life of me imagine how you would justify that so it's difficult to understand what arguments I "should" be covering in a piece...

As a "nationally distributed comedy magazine" it seems to me to be your job to edit your contents to ensure they offer a fair representation of the breadth and range of talent on the circuit - not mine. said...

We have picked a list of 50 acts that "in our opinion" are the funniest 50 shows on the Fringe this year. This was decided on merit not quotas and to wrongly accuse us of premeditated racism and misogyny is as narrow minded as the very crime you are falsely accusing us of. In regard to the humor of the "women" section, as a comedian you will know that humor is very subjective but based on the youtube clip of your material featuring lame observations such as "Paris Hilton is spoilt" and "Michael Jackson is a pedophile" it can hardly be said that your opinion on what is funny comes from a position of strength.

Although I am happy that the magazine has encouraged debate and discussion on an issue that is important "female representation on the circuit" your accusations are totally unfounded all you need to do is look at the several regular female contributors who write for the magazine, our previous female cover star, our female readership and the respect that the magazine is held in the industry and by the general public to realize you are wrong. The magazine is and always will be about what is funny and not some quota lead, box ticking mandate on what comedy to watch.

The only person who needs to apologize is you for spreading this slanderous bilious camel shit across the Internet about the magazine being racist and misogynist.

God Bless

Cruella said...

You really do sound angry still.

If you were not deliberately discriminating against female acts - why put them in a seperate category with an offensive heading? And why under "stand-up" put the caption "one man, one microphone..."? And why in your Editor's letter talk about what "comedians" do with their penises?

That said I suspect that you genuinely set out to pick the top 50 shows. However I also suspect that subconsciously when you picture a "really good comedian", you're picturing a white straight able-bodied cissexual guy. You put Stewart Lee on the list and then you picture other acts that are "like Stewart Lee" in your mind, and that happens not to be Janey Godley or Reg D Hunter. This is how prejudice can work, it doesn't have to be conscious but we may need to work consciously to overcome it.

You have of course not seen all the shows at the Edinburgh festival so it is clearly not possible for you to have judged each show fairly and put them in order of merit. You must at some stage have chosen which shows to go and see and in doing so again it is quite possible that subconsciously you were looking for shows that you - as a white straight able-bodied cissexual guy - would relate to. Shows with guys like you in.

As to your "review" of my performance - it is frankly hilarious that after I have criticised your magazine and after you have been angrily adding comments to my blog you then decide to review me and - surprise - you think i'm rubbish. To even imagine that your critical opinion might be objective at this stage makes a total mockery of the journalistic process.

Secondly you are reviewing a youtube clip of me compering in March 2007... Just so you know. As far as I'm aware the likes of Copstick, Bennett, Hall, Fleckney, etc like to put in a little more research than that.

Thirdly I have never ever said on stage either of the following sentences:

(1) Paris Hilton is spoilt.

(2) Michael Jackson is a pedophile.

So you are actually having to fictionalise what I'm doing in order to criticise me.

Oh and the "We can't be sexist - women write for us and we once put a picture of one on the cover". Do I have to explain why this isn't a meaningful argument? See also under "I'm not a racist, one of my best friends is black".

I'm not asking you to set up quotas or any such thing. I'm asking you to (a) admit you got it wrong this time and apologise (b) in future make an effort to ensure that the coverage you provide is balanced and (c) stop using offensive sexist language in your magazine. said...

Yes I am angry you are accusing me of being racist, misogynistic and anti disabled. It's offensive.

I was paraphrasing about your material, you made jokes to this effect. I also looked at your Satirical blog that was equally as awful as your youtube clip. The Fix doesn't really do reviews, I was merely commenting that based on your comic output that I have seen and read you are not a good judge of what is funny.

In regards to your A,B and C demands I will be making no further comments on the matter. Best of luck making it as a comedian I imagine any success that you have will be like your accusations of racism and misogyny. Based in fantasy.

Unknown said...

In response to Harry:
I have been interested in this, now turned sour, debate because I was a bit gobsmacked that Reg D Hunter wasn't included in the top 50 at the fringe. I'd put him in the top 5. Also, under the "musical comedy and character comedy" Pippa Evans wasn't down. She's brilliant and ticks both boxes.
Also, despite Harry's speculation that Kate is a poor comic because she critised his magazine, I can say that Kate is a good judge of what is funny. She's a strong act and one of the best comperes around, which is why I book her at my club.

Will575 said...

I feel that Cruella's comments are unfounded, and far more damaging than the racism/sexism she claims to rally against.
Perhaps Harry's description/subtitle of the female comedian category was ill judged, and perhaps inclusion of the category itself was a mistake. The former point is irrelevant, however, as comedians often miss the mark- it is the willingness to take the risk that is so vital to the art itself.

Point is, that Cruella‘s bandying about the term "racist" is irredeemably ignorant and un thought out. If every time a black, disabled or female was insulted they put it down to racism then what state would we be in? In doing so she was deliberately using an
emotive term to make a point,. Such words she should think far more carefully before using.

If she had bothered to read the Fix properly she would see it is irreverent to its very core- irreverent of everyone, even the staff’s favourite comedians.

Cruella said...

Harry - you haven't answered any of my points. Do you really think it's not offensive to put "well, you've got to let them have a go, haven't you?" under the heading for women comics? And what about the fact that you treat women in comedy as a genre?

And thanks for your input Will but if my points are "unfounded" then perhaps you could explain why the "top 50" list which Harry published contains almost exclusively straight, white, able-bodies, cissexual male comics? Make some points and I'll look into answering them but just saying it ain't so doesn't change the facts of what was published.

Gracie1985 said...

I agree with Cruella that separating female comedy into a separate genre is not right. Continually reinforcing the stereotype that comedians are male is damaging to female comedians and to comedy itself. On the other hand, if The Fix is right (which I have no reason to doubt) and the best shows at Edinburgh were indeed performed by men, there's not a lot that female comedians and/or feminists can do about it now except try to be funnier next time.

Holly said...

I feel that Cruella's comments are unfounded, and far more damaging than the racism/sexism she claims to rally against

I think that sums up the problem perfectly.

Forget "racism/sexism". Making apparently "unfounded" claims about prejudice is actually FAR MORE horrible and mean so you'd better keep quiet about it if you think something's not right. Calling someone out for being prejudiced is just *so* much more hurtful and rude than doing a harmless little thing like quietly alienating people who fail to be white and male and implying it's because they just aren't as funny. And how how are you going to prove it anyway, eh?

Let the nice people do their bit to retain the status quo! There's no malice in it so stop being a killjoy and bumming everyone out Kate ;-)

Cruella said...

Gracie - thanks. The thing is there were loads and loads of brilliant female, black, asian, gay, disabled and transsexual acts at the festival. In the paper version of this post - which was circulated at the festival, I listed on the back some of the acts I felt had been missed out. I've avoided listing them here because I don't want to get into a never-ending debate about individual acts and whether or not their work is of sufficient merit. As you can see despite the fact that I have never suggested that I should (or shouldn't) have been on that list (and how could I have been since by Harry's own admission he's never seen my act?) yet old YouTube clips of me have been dug up, paraphrased (as it happens wrongly) and then criticised. So I'm trying to avoid putting other acts through the hate-mill but there is some real talent out there. If you subscribe to the paper edition of Time Out you will see an interview with Stephen K Amos this week in which he talks very specifically about the prejudice he's up against as a black gay comedian.

...or maybe it's offensive for him to even mention what he's experienced.

Brendan said...

From my dealings with Harry, I can confirm he is bitter, usually a bit angry, and generally a misanthropic man to deal with. I like him a lot. It also makes him quite a good candidate to edit a magazine like The Fix.

I do not necessarily agree with his list for the top 50 acts in Edinburgh, but I back him 100% to compile one. And there's no reason for him to be bound by race, gender or creed when doing so.

Sure, having a separate section for women, and applying the tag-line he did, is a bit offensive... but as such it's in line with the magazine's usual antagonistic stance. I smiled when I read it, because I was amused by the cheek. In the context of the magazine, I think it's fairly clearly supposed to be taken with a pinch of salt. If anything it's a nod of recognition to a prejudice that exists, beyond the pages of the Fix, in the entire world of comedy. Moreover the Fix isn't the first to make a separate group... there have always been female only events like Funny Women, and there's a pretty standard if unofficial convention/quota of 1 women to 3 guys on the usual late mixed-act stand-up bills. Maybe The Fix might like to deal with that debate in a future issue - and I'm sure they would if anyone fancied writing the article.

The editorial is clearly intended to be the rantings of an angry, offensive man, and thus the views he's putting forward are part of that angry, offensive world. It's obviously intended to provoke disagreement, so he's hardly flying the flag for sexism - quite the reverse. If anything, it's nice he's briefly stopped telling us how much he hates Comic Relief. And really, he's stereotyping comedians as selfish, egotistical, dishonest, sex-obsessed men. Putting to one side the fact that's it's obviously supposed to be a joke, do you really want in on that stereotype?

I'm not really sure what 'cissexual' means, and am resisting the urge to google it at work, but I'm fairly sure most comedians are it. So I don't really see a problem with a summary list predominently focusing on those people. I'd probably have included Paul Sinha, and Ginger & Black. But it's not my list, and it's a subjective device.

In summary, I don't think anyone has been excluded from the list because of their gender, race or sexuality. So there's not much to criticise really, beyond Harry's sense of humour. Which is uniformly terrible, and therefore quite readable. If 12% of the listed acts include women... well, that sounds to me to be a fair-to-generous reflection of the gender-makeup of the Edinburgh Fringe, which is undoubtably a white male dominated industry. That isn't particularly healthy, nor does it mean that women are not as funny as men. But I really don't think the Fix set out to suggest either.

Dominic said...

Definitely pissing off the right people here.

It's not in the least surprising that the smug fuckwits at The Fix assume that what they're being accused of is "premeditated" racism, sexism etc. - of which, of course, they could never possibly be guilty, since that would require actually thinking about race and sex beforehand, rather than just sleepwalking into the usual lads' club assumptions about what makes teh funny.

"Misanthropy" is a useful cover for the angry white het male's global contempt for his fellow human beings. Of course the "misanthropist" is going to think that the funniest (coolest, most rad) thing out is other angry white het males voicing the same contempt - who needs any other perspective? As for the objects of that contempt - women first and last and always - no-one need hear from them: they're spoken for already, and what the angry white het males say about them will always be funnier than whatever they have to say for themselves...

You useless, useless tossers.

Unknown said...

I have also worked with Harry and can say very little apart from - see what Brendan said.

I love the Fix.

I genuinely think you should submit an article. I'd be interested in reading it. As long as you calmed down and stopped accusing people of being racist/sexist. It's just rude.

Unknown said...

Unbelievable, and you're supposed to be a comedian Kate? Blimey. Grow some funny balls. Oops sorry

Cruella said...

Mmm, if you have seen me on stage you will be aware that I am well able to deal with hecklers and also that I'm funny. That doesn't actually mean that I should be expected to compete on a non-level playing field all the time.

sian and crooked rib said...

kate - i think yu were right to criticise. calling stand up comedians "men" and then adding a separate women genre is offensive. it just is.
you wouldn't put simon amstell in a gay genre would you? you call him a stand up comedian. so why would kate/jo brand/shappi khorsandi/lucy porter/etc etc be classed as anything other than stand up comedians.
it's so obvious! i can't believe so many people think kate is being out of order when the fix are treating women as a different species than men!!