From my column in Newcastle’s Journal newspaper, August 17th.
Stand up comedy needs darkness, visceral unpleasantness and naked bile and anger. And that’s just Frankie Boyle’s set. However, what it maybe could do without is the pervasive, offensive woman-hating that seems to invade the material of the very young lads who are filling our stages in the hope of getting their first DVD deal by the time they’ve been weaned off the breast. I don’t want to think that the North East is any worse than any other region in the country for blatant misogyny, however I sometimes have a tiny, sneaking suspicion that it’s not up there as the first place Germaine Greer would look for a holiday home. I speak having just compered a new act night. I wasn’t very good at doing it-I’ve become rusty through compering too many poetry nights where the biggest audience reaction comes from clearing their throat a bit too loudly. Nonetheless, by the time the third or fourth bloke had detailed their woman-murdering ejaculatory fantasy, I wished that I’d written some searing material which would both prove my rapier wit on behalf of the whole of womankind and lead them to a profound political conversion which would end with them holding up a banner at the Celebrity Big Brother launch saying “More Women of Substance in the Diary Room Chair Please”. Instead, I suggested one of the lads could headline a feminist conference and left it at that. This came in a week where two women in very different contexts- one a BBC production assistant and one a council worker-reluctantly admitted to me that they felt they’d hit a glass ceiling in their working lives, even though they hadn’t previously believed there was such a thing any more. I’ve been having more and more of these conversations recently. They tend to happen in whispers or low voices in the corner of a room filled with men. The tone is of disappointment rather than anger. Often one of the women will say something like “It’s just about confidence. If only we could bottle the confidence they have and borrow it”. I’m not about to burn my bra. If I did that, innocent small creatures I passed in the street could be cruelly crushed. We may just need to get some new imaginary hammers though. Not the ones in the stand up sets of men who talk bit too enthusiastically about murdering women. But ones to smash through those imaginary glass ceilings.
Saw this today from the Guardian’s Tanya Gold- more detail on the same issue at the Edinburgh Fringe