There’s no question that women are developing large followings on the UK comedy circuit, and rather excitingly, a lot of these women are making us laugh without tired old jokes rooted in misogyny, racism, disability, homophobia. Here are just a few brilliant names it’s worth checking out.
I never wanted to be a ‘feminist comedian’, I wanted to be a ‘wildly successful comedian’, but when I saw the way women were treated in the industry, and the media, and the world in general, it became obvious that someone was going to have to do something about it. It’s a big problem but there are 3.5bn of us, if we all chip in it shouldn’t take too long.
Kate Smurthwaite is a comedian and activist. She performs throughout the UK and abroad. Since 2009, her work has been a staple at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2012, Kate wrote and performed a programme for Radio 4’s ‘Four Thought’ series, entirely about sexism and sexist humour. She makes regular TV appearances and writes for ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’ and ‘Have I Got News For You?’, as well as publications such as The Guardian and The Independent. She is the Vice Chair and media spokesperson for Abortion Rights, and is involved in a variety of campaign work with a number of charities and organisations, including Eaves Housing and Object.
It took me such a long time to work up the confidence to do a show by myself because I’ve always been weighed down by thoughts like ‘If I’m not funny enough, maybe another woman won’t get another chance’, which is not a worry any male comic ever has.
Nadia is a Welsh-Iraqi comedian, actress and writer. As part of a comedy-sketch double act called The Behemoth, she has performed several Edinburgh Festival shows. She also performs her solo show around the comedy circuit. Her debut solo show, Wide Open Beavers, which she described as ‘socialist, feminist whimsy’ took the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by storm in 2013, receiving huge critical acclaim. Furthermore, Nadia has started her own theatre company, Found Objects, and is also a board member of and performer at the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society. She also designs and makes socks.
I’m a feminist. That’s not creepy for me to say. I don’t like to bang any less for having said it.
Josie Long is a stand-up comedian and writer. She won the BBC New Comedy Award at aged just 17 before completing a degree in English at Oxford. She has performed her solo shows throughout the UK, at festivals around the world and is a stalwart of the Edinburgh Fringe, where has been nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Show three times. She is a regular on TV panel shows, organises club nights at venues around London and has recently made two short films. Her comedy is friendly, accessible and whimsical but also fiercely political.
I’m still finding my voice, which sounds terrible because I’ve been doing stand-up for ten years. You can’t ever think you’ve cracked it, you never will.
Bridget studied acting before becoming a stand-up comedian. Much of her work is feminist-themed and many consider her a pioneer. Nominated for and in receipt of numerous comedy awards, she tours extensively and has written and performed 8 consecutive solo shows at the Edinburgh Festival. Her 2013 /14 show, A Bic For Her, won various prestigious awards and was the best-ever selling comedy show at the Soho Theatre. She has appeared extensively on radio and television comedy programmes, including her own Radio 4 programme, Bridget Christie Minds the Gap. She frequently writes for The Guardian and her first book, A Book For Her, was published in summer 2015.
You don’t always want to be singing to the choir… I’m proud that I can do that material in a club gig where a lot of people think Page 3’s a bit of fun and you’re the feminist with the problem.
Sarah is a comedian, writer and actor. She began performing stand-up in 2007 and first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 2010. She has appeared in many television comedy programmes and panel shows and co-wrote and performed in an all-female sketch show, Girl Friday, on Channel 4. In 2014, Sara toured the UK for the first time with her critically acclaimed show, Sara Pascoe Vs. History. Drawing on Pascoe’s own personal relationships, the show explored themes such as female sexuality, censorship and body image and challenged the traditional perception of women.
We often hear about the ‘testosterone-packed’ atmosphere of stand-up comedy being one reason less women are drawn to it as a profession. Yet we forget that women have testosterone too.
Rosie Wilby began her career as a musician and music journalist, but moved into comedy in 2004 after encouragement from fans who enjoyed her banter during music performances. She has taken various shows to the Edinburgh Festival: Nineties Woman was a look at early 90’s feminism and The Science of Sex was an exploration of sexual attraction. She performs at comedy venues around the UK and curates and hosts the all-female cabaret Femmes by the Thames. She is a regular radio broadcaster and presents the weekly LGBT programme Out in London.
I think there’s a classism and sexism in comedy… They’re too scared to try anything different.
Luisa is a comedian, improviser and actor who is taking the UK comedy scene by storm. She studied improvisation and clowning in Chicago and has taught improvisation to both adults and children in the UK. Her 2012 debut solo show, What Would Beyoncé Do?, was unprecedentedly successful. It sold out in Edinburgh, was a huge hit in a number of other venues, received rave reviews and toured to America, Canada and Singapore. Luisa’s second show, Am I Right Ladies?, is proving every bit as popular and is now enjoying a second run at London’s Soho Theatre.
I absolutely don’t believe in censoring comics at all, but what you say on stage doesn’t happen in a bubble, it’s a complicated issue. If an audience sees enough comics, (average I’m-just a-regular-bloke/girl-like-you-comics), doing misogynist, racist, homophobic, disablist or whatever material, with no context beyond ‘it’s funny if I say awful things about this minority’… it becomes part of everyday dialogue.
Danielle started performing stand-up in 2004. In 2006, she won the Time Out best newcomer award received the BBC Radio Writer’s Award, one of only five women to hold it in thirty years. She writes extensively for TV and radio comedy programmes, including Dilemma, the Radio 4 show she created. Though she takes regular breaks from stand-up to pursue writing and acting projects, she has taken two critically acclaimed shows to Edinburgh and is a regular on TV and radio comedy shows. She is also an experienced bass player and has released three albums with indie band, The Loves.
References include artist websites, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Funny Women, Femmes by the Thames, Broadway Baby, Chortle, Soho Theatre, The Times and The Independent.
©The Heroine Collective 2015 – Present, All Rights Reserved.