Some Thoughts on Being a Woman in Comedy
I don’t speak for all women. I’m an individual person and in some cases, my gender isn’t the most important thing about me. Also, in some cases, other women aren’t going to agree with my point of view. But here are some thoughts that I personally have on being a woman in comedy.
If you start a scene about a bunch of football players and I’m the only woman in the show and I come out and act like everyone else and lower my voice and change my center of gravity, you should notice that I’m playing a male character. I did what I should have done. Now you do your job.
I have no problem being named a mother or girlfriend or wife in a scene. Go ahead! Want to know why? Here’s why: more than half the females in the world are mothers. So if you label me as one of these things, I’m just going to play a mother/wife/girlfriend who has other things about her. Because that’s doing good improv.
However, if you’re being labeled as these things all the time by male improvisers or are being forced to play into stereotypes, you get to speak up. You get to tell them to stop. That’s allowed. You get to be comfortable on stage.
If I’m the only woman in the show and someone calls for a mother/wife/girlfriend in a scene, I don’t have to play that person. But I do deserve to trust that whoever does play that person will do so with respect rather than by making the femaleness a joke.
There are few things grosser than male improvisers playing females as a joke. The grosser things that come to mind are: playing at gay on stage, taking your actual pants/shirt off in a scene, and labelling the one female improviser as a prostitute/stripper. Stop being gross.
As a woman in our society we are taught to be polite. We need to quit that. There is no need to censor yourself to get in with the boys. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, say it. If people are treating you poorly, stand up for yourself. The guys who label you as not fun or unable to go with the joke or just generally a bitch aren’t worth your time on stage or off.
I don’t have to like all other female improvisers. I also absolutely 100% do not get to hate them because they’re female. If I think of other female improvisers as a threat, it just points out my own weakness. There. Is. Room. For. More. Than. One.
The fact that a team is all-female is not schtick. A whole lot of female improvisers have been in situations where they were the only woman and where they were made to feel uncomfortable. Creating a space where women feel comfortable to improvise isn’t a schtick. It’s fucking art. And also, if we treat “all women!” as a schtick, then we should do the same thing for every all-male team, of which throughout improv history, there sure have been a lot. You can’t devalue one without intrinsically devaluing the other. Yay!
Please stop asking me to be in best women improviser shows if you aren’t going to ask me to be in just generally best improviser shows. I don’t like it. Other people might. Ask them.
That being said, I think these shows can have great value, depending on how they’re put on and by whom. Women supporting and producing women is great - especially in communities without a strong history of female performers. But if your theater is putting on all-women shows because they don’t generally have women on stage, you’ve got deeper issues to look at. Please look at them.
Women deserve to have female improvisers to look up to and be taught/coached by. If your theater is missing women in these positions, you’re doing something wrong. Figure out what it is.
I think in general, our city is good to improvisers who are female. And I think in general, things are getting better. But I also think things could be much better. Equality seems cool. Let’s aim for it.