Stand-up comedians and comic actors Katerina Robinson and Kat Ronson have written and star in LADS, a mockumentary about Charlie and Dave, two men from East London. As they talk about in this article for British Comedy Guide, your gender can have an impact on your experiences working in comedy. They say they felt more respect and safety playing men in their show, than they do when they perform as themselves.
Over the years, the comedy world can be seen as heavily male dominated. As female comedians, we aspire to be the best in the business, but is our gender stopping us from achieving our career goals?
This feature isn't a feminist rant over men, it is our true experiences and views from being comedians and how we have struggled to prove our comedy is quality and, most of all, funny.
As women in comedy, you're just treated completely differently to men. The number of times we have been referred to as "the girl", "that girl was alright", "she was good, for a woman" and not about our comedy is really devaluing and degrading for us as comedians.
Kat Ronson's experiences
Both myself and Katerina love the sociable side of the comedy and many gigs are arranged by WhatsApp, Facebook message, etc. Throughout my time performing, I've had 2am d*** pics sent to me randomly after a gig. It just makes you feel like you're not taken seriously. It makes you feel like some sort of joke.
The worst thing about it is they're in a position of power; they're booking gigs and they know you don't want to call them out and risk being looked upon as the problem.
When you're dealing with people who've got their mates around them and they've been in the industry for 20 years - they know they have you snookered. Most women just ignore it and try to move on. If you call them out, you risk them blacklisting you and ruining your reputation. So, they get to carry on doing it.
When I leave a gig without any uncomfortable experiences, I'm actually in awe. It's rare.
I even chose to try out a female-only comedians' night and I still managed to be slut-shamed at the end of the night. The female organiser said I was young and pretty and just relying on that. That I'd only appeal to men. That I should change my material. It was astonishing to me that I could feel so low at a progressive female-focussed night.
I have always been open about my experiences as an ex-stripper in my comedy sets. At an Edinburgh Fringe gig, I received a text saying: "are you still a call girl then? I'll pay". I was mortified and felt deflated AGAIN. If men talk about sex in their gigs, that's just normal. Sex is part of our lives too, we're comedians sharing our life experiences. I don't expect to be harassed or have it used against me at a later point.
Katerina Robinson's experiences
I've also had real struggles trying to prove myself in the comedy world. When I first got into stand-up comedy, I never even classed it as a male dominated industry, I just wanted to perform and explore comedy more. It wasn't really until I started gigging, and often being on all male line-ups, where it became more noticeable.
I am a very feminine woman and I like to look glamorous, but sometimes I feel I have to pull this back so it doesn't distract my comedy work or reduce the laugher in the room. It almost makes you feel apologetic for choosing the wrong outfit. I have had many comments after gigs from punters telling me I will struggle in comedy and it's harder to succeed in comedy as an attractive woman. Instagram messages I receive include: "Well what are you? Are you a comedian or are you sexy because you can't be both?"
I want to raise more awareness of this issue and encourage men to see past the looks and appreciate the comedy. I personally think comedy shouldn't have any rules and I think a new age of female comedians, like London Hughes and Katherine Ryan, are really championing owning your sexiness and breaking the stigma of it being a male dominated industry.
A lot of times I've felt like the 'icebreaker', 'the token female', in between the serious male acts. Most heckles I've received in comedy has been stuff like "My mate wants to f**k you", "how much for a blowjob" and just general slut-shaming. If this happens towards male comedians, it's more your generic heckles or if they're talking about sex there's still some level of respect.
Being cat called, groped, followed down roads and being flashed are all real situations that have happened to both of us as well as a large number of the female population. As comedians on the circuit, we're used to travelling to unknown locations and not leaving gigs until 10.30/11pm at night. While we have luckily never faced an attack before, we think it's really important to have these experiences brought to light and want to share our personal experiences to continue to raise awareness for female safety and to break down the barrier of female comedy.
With our new TV show LADS releasing on 2nd April via Vimeo On Demand, we go as far to say that we felt more respect and safety playing men as comedians in our new TV show than we do as ourselves as women. We wrote, produced and directed the series and we truly immersed ourselves into the characters. LADS is a 6-part comedy series based on the stereotype of men in our society and can also be streamed from your Apple TV, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast.
Published: Friday 2nd April 2021