50 years of comedy panels and only one featured an all-female lineup

Narjas Zatat@Narjas_Zatat
Monday 26 December 2016 11:45

​The lack of female representation in comedy continues to be an exceedingly worrying trend in the industry.

Stuart Lowe, an analyst from the Open Data Institute, conducted an analysis of over 4,700 episodes and 1,488 comedy programmes on radio and TV since 1967.

Lowe looked at data from current and long-running shows from Love Graphs, IMdB, iPlayer, BBC Genome, and broadcasts from a number of other places in order to gather his statistics.

The results are grim: According to the four-year research, there has only been one episode of a British UK Comedy show that featured an all-female cast: BBC Radio 4’s Heresy in January 2012, presented by Victoria Coren Mitchell.

Despite this, the data does show a marked improvement in female representation since 1989, from just 3 per cent of female appearances to 31 per cent by 2016.

Speaking on the mammoth database, Lowe told the Guardian:

It’s a little bit of an obsession… And I’ve made a rod for my own back in that I have to keep it updated, which slightly drives me insane when I realise some weeks I’ve missed some panel shows and I have to go back and add them. I think it’s a problem that half the population isn’t fully represented.

Listomania, on BBC Radio 2 has the highest consistent female participation – with 60 per cent – as does BBC2’s Insert Name Here, hosted by Sue Perkins.

So what made Coren Mitchell's Heresy so special?

Well, it turns out - nothing.

My theory is that, because productions usually put one woman on a panel show (or none) and stop there, women get used to having to (at some wearisome level) ‘represent’ female humour when we appear on these shows ... But with four women the pressure was off.

Christopher Hitchens got into hot water after claiming that “women, as a gender, are not funny”. His argument, penned in an article, hinges on the idea that humour in men is vital to attracting women, but the same does not apply to women being funny.

Lowe found that only 18 per cent of stand-ups are women, and says it is the comedy circuit itself, which is the problem.

However, female comedians are expanding their reach: Tina Fey, Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling have utilised TV to write and act beyond the confines of traditional comedy.

HT Guardian

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