My friend Karen O’Keefe, a hilarious comedian, has the best response to the question, “What’s it like doing stand up comedy as a woman?” She responds, “I don’t know. I’ve never tried doing it as a man.”
When someone asks me, “What’s it like doing stand up as a woman?” It’s hard for me to not just blurt out, “IT’S AMAZING! ARE YOU KIDDING?” It IS amazing, but that’s not the question they’re asking. They’re asking, “As a woman what is it like? Is there a difference between male and female comedians?” I feel like I have answered this question a billion times now (along with every other female comic in existence) and the answer still remains, “Obviously. Obviously it is different.”
I’ve always been a firm believer in, “If you’re funny, you’re funny.” Any one person can make any topic funny if they really want to. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Take for instance: audiences, bookers and managers. Now obviously, not all of these people are closed-minded. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some pretty amazing people and performed for some epically awesome audiences across North America.
I’ve also performed in small towns in Alberta, where when the audience finds out a woman is on the show they expect her to take her clothes off (which is terrifying because I own underwear that says “$A$$Y”). Even if you do get the audience on your side in small towns, you’ll likely get the classic half-assed compliment, “I don’t usually find female comics funny, but you were funny!”
I don’t care so much about audiences as I care about the bookers and management involved in running a comedy club or one-off show. I’ve had some weird experiences with bookers. One guy said to me after a show, “Thanks for being on the show! We needed a girl.” I know he didn’t mean it like that. I mean- 100% I know he didn’t mean it like that. But it doesn’t matter how he meant it because that’s what he said and that sentence is part of the bigger problem in comedy, which is casual sexism.
“We needed a girl?” Thanks for getting me the job, vagina! You are the most hilarious part of my body. (And also the most terrifying, have you seen those things?!) Sorry… we’re getting off track.
Recently I had a very unfortunate exchange with a booker from Thunder Bay. I’ve known this booker for a few years now; he did stand up a few times in my hometown of Calgary and then moved to TB. We were by no means “friends,” but we were certainly acquaintances. He had seen me do a show and asked if I would be interested in coming out to do a show in Thunder Bay; it was a fundraiser for breast cancer (for his mother) and he wanted to book an all-female show.
Basically he made a (poor) joke about staying in my hotel room, and then said he didn’t think the crowd could “handle” more than one female comic after I suggested four or five other females that should be on the show. The entire exchange was wrong and demeaning. It made me feel cheap and lessened what I have been honing for the past five years of my life.
After I posted the article, I had a lot of positive support on the matter. Which was nice, because I sometimes worry that I’m being too “sensitive” about situations like this. But this was something that enraged me, and I am really proud of myself for talking about it. Because we have to talk about these things or else they will continue to happen.
I received two messages from people whom I really respect and appreciate telling me that I had overreacted and handled the situation poorly. It made me really sad because it made me think there are a lot more people who probably felt the same way.
I’ve had some time to think and reflect about everything, and I still stand by what I wrote. I didn’t bash the guy or tell people not to work for him. I didn’t even say who he was and it’s not because I am a coward. I didn’t say who he was because it wasn’t about outing that specific person. I wrote that blog to show people that sexism is still very much “a thing” in comedy and because we (female comics) continually get the “What’s it like being a female in comedy?” question. That is what it’s like sometimes. Thank God it’s not all the time. But it happens. It’s unfortunate and it’s real.
I hope that by talking about these things other comics who have been mistreated are motivated to speak out. I know I’ve been inspired by comics like Jen Kirkman and Christina Walkinshaw (who was recently fired from a gig after getting sexually harassed on stage) for publicly talking about it. We’re definitely moving in the right direction, which is great because I love my job. I just can’t wait until “as a woman” is omitted from questions about my occupation, or any occupation for that matter.
Let’s have these conversations and give people a reason to omit it.
Coming from an improv and sketch background, Amanda Brooke Perrin ventured out into the stand up scene in 2007. Since then, she has multiple comedy festivals under her belt including The 2012 Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland and The 2012 Women In Comedy Festival in Boston. Her training includes sketch writing and improv at The Upright Citizens Brigade and Groundlings Theatres in Los Angeles. In 2011, she worked as The Comedy Network’s “Social Media Insider,” after winning the network’s “Best Summer Job” competition. She is currently a writer for “Mother Up”, an animated series premiering this fall on City TV and has been a contributor to CTV’s newest sitcom “Spun Out” starring Kids In The Hall alumni, Dave Foley.
Amanda was also nominated for Best Stand Up Newcomer at the 2010 Canadian Comedy Awards and taped her first episode of CBC Radio’s “The Debaters” this past May. Despite all of these credits, her proudest achievement to date is moving out of her parents’ house before her older brother did. Follow her on twitter @brookeperrin.