I once asked this of a female rookie
I’d just met. It was a clumsy thing to say and I wouldn’t say it
again, but my heart was in the right place. At least I thought it
was; I thought she had a strong personality and I wanted to see that
come through on stage, instead of what I had come to consider the
qualities of a typical female comic.

I grew up with standup, listening to
albums, watching every cable comedy program and special, short sets
on talk shows, whatever I could. I learned early on that when I’d
see a man on stage for the first time, I’d have no idea what to
expect from him (so long as he was white and between 20 and 50),
other than he’d probably mention his dick at some point. Any
variation on that, the material was dominated by it (i.e. weight,
ethnicity, etc).

By that standard, nearly all female
comics fit snugly in the niche of female comedy, sets comprised of
dating, periods, dating, mothers, dating, and dating. There were, as
always, exceptions; Sandra Bernhard was ahead of her time. And
though I thought the range was limited, it didn’t mean I didn’t
laugh. Paula Poundstone, Elayne Boosler, Ellen DeGeneres, Rita
Rudner, just to name a few that made an impression on me. But even
Ellen joked about her difficulties finding a man, the cause of which,
in retrospect, seems a bit obvious.

However, at the time I made the
request, I’d been performing for six months, not at all at the same
pace as today, and I’d performed in far fewer venues. What I’ve
learned since is that my opinion was completely outdated. Yes,
female comics do talk a lot about being women, about being female
comics, but that’s because it’s who they are and I’ve met few of them
I thought had limited themselves to that.

There are, naturally, some behaviors I
don’t like, and trying to change them is a recurring theme of this
blog. Some of them, in my experience, are overwhelmingly female, but
they are so uncommon I won’t paint an entire group as typical. In
fact, if I could do it all over again, I would’ve asked her to not be
an untypical comic.

If, for example, you don’t actively
hunt gigs at least at the rookie, open mic level, and instead wait
for, or expect, invitations from club owners, you’re being an
untypical comic. This is something you’re supposed to be aggressive
about. If it were easy, anyone could do it. You should hunt, nag,
pester, and be prepared for rejection. You won’t get every gig,
especially in the beginning, so make the best of what you do get.

If you feel threatened by and/or are
shitty to a comic just because that comic is physically attractive,
that is petty, catty and bitchy. Yes, I realize the sexist
connotation of “catty” and “bitchy” but if the shoe fits,
wear it. While I personally have not seen man-on-man action in this
regard, I imagine it could happen. Whether or not it’s an exclusively female
thing, just cut it out. You’re better than that.

Sometimes a funny woman will have an
easier time getting a gig than a funny man because she’s a funny
woman. If you are a funny woman with limited experience and you get
a great gig and claim gender has nothing to do with it, you are
insulting a funny man who had to work for years before he got the
same chance. Now, I don’t expect you to shed a tear over hurting a
man’s feelings, but if we’re ever going to move the ball forward, we
need to respect each other and get along.

If you say, “She only got that gig
because she’s a woman!” you’re wrong and you should shut the fuck
up. First of all, the primary reason she got the gig was because
she’s funny. Second of all, a funny man will have an easier time
getting a gig than a funny woman much, much more often, even when
said man is far less funny. Some club owners are more active at
levelling the playing field and this is a good thing.

I wouldn’t trade places with a woman
for anything in life and certainly not in standup. When I contact a
club owner for a gig, he (pretty much always a man) wants to know if
I’m funny, not how big my tits are. When I show up, none of the
other comics feels I’m a threat because I’m attractive (for the sake
of this story, let’s say I’m a very handsome guy). When I go on
stage, the host doesn’t say, “The next comic is a man! He’s very
cute and actually pretty funny!” No man in the audience folds his
arms and refuses to laugh at anything I say, nor give dirty looks at
his girlfriend when she laughs. No woman in the audience is more
interested in how I look than what I’m saying. When I’m done, no
female comic tells me I need to match my material with my wardrobe
(although once a guy told me not to wear a funny t-shirt). And no
woman labels me as a typical male comic…

…ok, actually that does happen. When
I joke about my dick and make sexist remarks, there are women who tsk
and write me off as just another typical male comic. I’m aware of
that, but it doesn’t always prevent me from talking about what I want to talk about.
I do what I want and I accept the consequences. Female comics have their own range of topics to watch out for, and if someone says, “Great, another typical female comic,” well, you can’t win them all.

I have this hope that someday, when I
see someone walk on stage for the first time, I won’t be able to
guess what he or she will joke about, at least not all the time.
Doesn’t mean the end of niche comedy, but it would mean the end of
comics being limited by them. It’s one reason I push fellow ex-pat
comics in Sweden to talk about more than Sweden.

In a perfect world, there will be no
funny women, no female comics, no comediennes. Just comics and
comedians, period. No pun intended.