Flip and Maggie: Where are the older comedians?

Flip & Maggie. Image shows from L to R: Flip Webster, Maggie Bourgein

Flip Webster and Maggie Bourgein make up the comedy duo Flip & Maggie. Describing themselves as "women of a certain age", they have formed views on comedy over their years in the business.

Flip was the "token woman" in Punt & Dennis's first radio show Live On Arrival and has appeared in Giles Wemmbley Hogg Goes Off and Cabin Pressure, amongst other things; whilst Maggie performs more in musical theatre and comedy cabaret.

The duo wanted to make a comedy sketch show for their contemporaries, and thus are performing Women of an Uncertain Age at the moment. They share some of their views with us below...

"Where are the people - in particular, women - of our age in comedy? Well there's Jo Brand and, well, Jo Brand. There's plenty of comedy out there for the under 40's, and re-runs on TV for people even older than us, but little for us 'inbetweeners'. Things are changing a bit - note the public love for Miranda Hart - but comedy is mostly provided by young men and much of it stems from the Oxbridge humour machine, largely unchanged in 50 years. If they don't find it funny, it isn't. Well, maybe women - and in particular women of our generation - find other things funny. In fact we do, so where's the comedy for us that covers subjects we can relate to? Where's the comedy for our male counterparts too?

"We get swept along by the aggressive and egotistical behaviour of some comics into thinking that's how comedy should be, but the great comics - Morecambe & Wise, Tommy Cooper, Beryl Reid - weren't like that, they had warmth. We wanted to create the sort of comedy we would like to see but aren't getting.

Flip & Maggie. Image shows from L to R: Flip Webster, Maggie Bourgein

"At BBC Television all of the commissioning team are young(ish) men. This doesn't represent either the gender or age demographic. There are more female executives in broadcast comedy now but none nearing our age and they are not all championing women. The show we are doing at the moment is a sketch show. Only the BBC and Channel 4 tend to do sketch shows and there are none done by people like us today."

Maggie adds: "The BBC was shamed years ago into finding some female comedy performers and, after they had included French & Saunders in their schedule, it was over 20 years before they gave us any other women."

It's not just a lack of older women performers, the duo wish to stress. "Where are the male older comedians - run out of town by political correctness? I have even heard Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield almost apologise for winning an award because of their age.

"It's not even as if our comedy only appeals to our age group. It was a group of young men at a scratch event that initially encouraged us to develop our show. Our audiences are all sexes and ages."

The 50+ demographic aren't all winding down to retirement. "We still have the same things to deal with that the young do - careers, relationships, social life, politics - but we have other things to deal with as well, as a result of our age - being made to feel we're invisible and on the scrapheap being one."

They summarise: "Is there any evidence to show that you stop being funny after a certain age? No? Well, buggar off! Flip and Maggie aren't ready to stop creating or having a laugh yet!"

To find out more about Flip and Maggie visit www.flipandmaggie.co.uk

Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014

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