Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Unfunny Gag-the silence of the female comedian

Why aren't women funny? Are you joking! I'm not even going to answer that question, women are frigging hilarious. Women have always had me in stitches and I'm even funny apparently, unintentional on my part , a bit funny rather than ha ha. The question we need to ask is why people assume they are not.

People think women are unfunny because there are so few female stand up comedians. This is the logic of a sexist society, the same logic that concludes women are not top chefs because they can't cook, 'if you can't stand the heat don't come into the kitchen ladies'

'if you can't enter the pissing contest, don't come anywhere near the comedy panel show'

Funny women on T.V are being gagged and it's not a joke. There is a fear that women may crack jokes about periods, body issues, and god forbid CHILDREN! What, like Michael McIntyre? People love it he's hilarious. Mothers and fathers weep into their wine together. Even if they do joke about 'women's,' topics, women do make up half the population, there is a market for crying out loud. Silencing people's humour gives the message that we only want to laugh AT them not with them, that we do not want to hear about their experiences. Laughing together is based on empathy and it bonds people.

No, women are not underrepresented on panel shows and prime time stand up comedy because they are unfunny, but because the most interesting, prestigious, and well paid jobs in this country still go to men. Directors of films, companies and countries. Kerching. Cue cynical canned laughter.

Enough of our absence. I want to celebrate the moments women have made me wet myself, spit out drinks, made me hoot and laugh in the street when I remembered their jokes/comments. Women who make me feel a little happier. Here are some of my top comedy moments entitled laughing my tits off:

1. Margot in ' The Good Life' trying to play pass the balloon between the legs

2. Alison Steadman as Beverley in 'Abigal's Party'. I could watch that on a loop I never tire of it. The voice, the shoulders. the observation.

3. Not a fan of Corrie but Deidre Barlow and her mother!!!! When she died, Deidre pronounced in her camp manner ' she should never have gone to Portugal, it was madness!'

4. Lisa Lynn -Daugher of Evesham -(not famous) One fine sunny day in Eastbourne sipping cold lager in the Wish Tower Cafe, Lisa looked over and pronounced 'I can't wait to be old, you can throw your fashion sense to the wind' I looked round to see a couple of elderly women in bum bags, brightly coloured ankle swingers and huge sunglasses. I laughed so hard beer came down my nose.

5. Sue Perkins-I would marry her if I was a lesbian, not already married and famous. Too complicated, but the sentiment is there. Sharp, funny, and inoffensive-you don't have to bully people to make other people laugh. And she's posh! Having a GSOH is a turn on for both sexes.

6. Jennifer White (Little sister when 6) Opened the door to my husband wearing bike leathers and a helmet. She slammed the door drolly stating 'we didn't order a pizza.'

7.Jo Brand and all the women she enabled to drop those expected, feminine manners. Women can now be crass, rude and gross. Dull women at school gates take note, let's rant and moan it's a riot and it breaks down barriers.

8. Louise Almeida (The other sister) All round ginger loon. The only person who can make me belly laugh even when the chips are down. From humming the theme tune to 'Hawaii Five O' as the priest came into the church, to her impersonations of Beverly 'you have very beautiful lips'. It's true that those who grow up together laugh best together.

9. Caitlin Moran- When 'How to be a Woman' came out, Lewes was awash with women laying in the sunshine snorting, shoulders shaking as they read her book. I have a horrible habit of trying to stifle a laugh when walking along the street, it comes out as an unattractive demented cough. I still find her funny even though she wont RT me on Twitter. I should unfollow that would show her. Ok. Ok. That was cringey.

10. Me!! You have to laugh at yourself in this life or you'd go mad. I Once walked into a cinema and when asked 'How many tickets would you like?' I responded '50 Please' The man looked bemused, I thought I was on the bus. (That was a while back, 50p from Preston Park to Hove!) There is a fair chance I had a hangover.

So yes, women are a laugh a minute, a hoot, great comedy actors, social commentators, wry, witty loons. We are all becoming bored with the macho bullying style of humour. There is nothing entertaining in seeing the way some panel shows treat the token woman guest. In my mind humour should not be a contact sport, it shouldn't be sparring but a way of connecting and making us feel better when our spirits are low. Women, your country needs you, male dominance in comedy, it's time to stand down (ummm, not sure that works.)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Growing up with Kate Moss

As the nations favourite waif turns 38, I'm taking a pause to think about my body. Whatever I think of the most succesful model of all time, she's always been there for me to compare to. I can barely remember a time she wasn't around.

I first saw Kate Moss on the front cover of The Face magazine. I was about sixteen and unimpressed, she was young and skinny, so what. I was 6.5 stone wet through and was fed up with being mistaken for a child, being ID'd for cigarettes, being overlooked and patronised in adult conversation. I was 4ft 11 and I hated it, I wanted to look like a 'real' woman, tattoed with boobs and long legs, one that couldn't be mistaken for a child. In those days they didn't sell size 8 let alone a 6, fortunately for me grunge was all the rage, ill fitting was par for the course. No I didn't want to be Kate Moss, I wanted to be like the goths I saw at The Harp club New Cross (Now the Venue) the immaculately groomed uber Goths who worked in Kensington Market (No longer trading.) This story is dating me by the sentence.

So my first body issue was not about weight, it was height. I hated being short, Petite, even my clothes size is patronising. Acceptence of my height eventally came via an unlikely source, the polar opposite to teenage angst and goth, Kylie Minogue. Here was someone of 5ft that would become one of the world's sexiest women. She is the poster girl for short women and she is my guiltiest musical pleasure. At forty I would even go as far as to say that I like being short, you've got more room in the bath and you can sqeeze into vintage shoes.

Since our early teenage years most women over 35 have grown up with Kate Moss. We have been bombarded with images of her skinny jeans and chiselled features for so long we've forgotten there's an alternative. Until recently, until the campaign for the appreciation of 'real' women. Burlesque buxom beauties took to the stage, the retro curves of Christina Hendricks hit the newstands, bigger women now had positive representation, curves were back in Vogue. Christina looks fanbloodytastic, but I have a problem with the notion of 'real' women. For one, curves look incredible but when most people put on a few pounds the only curves in evidence are convex they grow a gut not an hourglass shape to die for. And what is a 'real' woman. Cut me at 7.11 stone and I still bleed, I squeezed two kids past these 31inch hips. I am all woman believe me. The problem is not unreal women but the persistant representation of beauty coming in tall, thin and young packages. We don't need to pit curves against cheekbones, we just need a bit of variety.

Most women have body issues and i've had my fair share, I have bored my husband and family rigid with my obsessive moaning about my stomach. I've started to wonder how I stop my daughter inheriting this body obsession that has plagued the last few generations of British women. I can't think of anyone I know who is confident in the body they have been given to wear and i'm seriously at a loss as to how to stop her falling for the same vanity trap. I can tell her she is beautiful and that this is irrelevant because she is capable and intellegent, but this doesn't cut much ice when it comes from your mother.

At forty I follow the progress of Kate Moss as you would a girl you went to school with. I no longer think 'she's skinny, so what?' I wonder how the hell they airbrush the fag and booze damage from the corners of her eyes and mouth, how she kept that stomach so flat after having a child. By the time my baby Pearl is sixteen, there will be some other model setting the body beautiful trend. Whether she considers herself beautiful may depend on whether she matches this girls colour, height, look or shape. I hope however that we have moved on by then, that our daughters have learned from our pathetic navel gazing. Alternatively Kate Moss may still doing the rounds, radicalising how we see the older woman, fag hanging out of her mouth on the front cover of Vogue.

Happy Birthday Kate Moss, you're persistant I'll give you that!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Relative Poverty

It is estimated that 2.5 million British children are currently living in poverty. This week channel four 4thought TV are running a serious of short films looking at children's experiences of poverty. As I listened to the first child I thought of my own childhood and what I would have considered poverty to be in 1978.

My first home was a rented flat with no bathroom or inside toilet. No phone, washing machine or central heating, This was the seventies and despite pampas grass and leopard print bedspreads, mod cons were still not accessible to all. Unscrupulous landlords peddled shoddy accommodation, splitting houses without proper conversion and renting them as flats. When the front ceiling fell in we waited weeks for it to be repaired, watching television together in my parents bedroom. If you had asked us if we were living in poverty we would have been shocked, my parents would have been offended.

We ate good homemade food , chicken cobbler, whitebait, stuffed marrows, fish and chips from Andy's, the occasional giant Chinese spring roll. As a child I was well turned out, to be honest I knocked spots off even the most wealthy judge's daughter in Dulwich Village. I went to to the pictures, on holidays , received treats, toys and pocket money. No, poverty was other people, people who were starving, Sometimes we would take an evening walk into Dulwich Village and look at all the big houses as a form of after dinner entertainment. Window shopping, we didn't expect to live like that, in the seventies you knew your place. I am possibly one of the last generation to remember a time before general home ownership and mass consumerism. Posh people lived differently, it was accepted.

No, we felt sorry for people who were uncared for, the scruffy girl whose mother walked about done up to the nines, kids who looked like they hadn't had a wash for a while. I learned to fear emotional poverty from an early age and it still knots my stomach to hear of children with no human kindness in their lives. I have met people who have risen from poverty to wealth who are still searching for that lost experience of early family life. Family is still vital in determining a child's experience of poverty on both emotional and material levels. A child living with a single parent on benefits without family will suffer far more than a mother who is helped financially by their extended family.This by no means suggests that single parents cannot provide a loving and secure home, its just tougher for them, especially for those without a supportive network. Help with clothes and extras make a big difference when money is tight. When the state is failing to provide, those without extended families suffer the most.

My parents were determined people. My mother walked to the phone box and hassled the housing until we were rehoused. We eventually ended up living in one of the more salubrious parts of West Dulwich until I left home for university. In 2012 most families will not have this option. Social housing is thin on the ground and high rents and rising fuel costs are driving people to cut back on social activities, clothes and food. Further Education will be out of my son's reach. We may have phones, washing machines and computers coming out of our ears, but once these goods are worn out we are left with less than the the children of the seventies. For all of our progress we are relatively poorer today, if hope is gold we are reduced to counting coppers.

The question of poverty and how it is defined still remains a hot potato. Does it matter how we lived in the past, that we don't know we are born today. Relative poverty is not about who has the latest Wii or comparing ourselves to Victorian England. It's about deciding how we want our children to live today. Properly fed, warm, clothed, educated to the best of their ability, socially engaged, treated and loved.

Photo of me enjoying a 1970s holiday