Are female British comedy performers funnier and more original than men?

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Candy Gigi – Are men doing this sort of comedy act in Britain?

This is a story of two female performers who, on stage, are utterly different. One comes across as an English rose; the other can possibly be best described as a live-action version of Warner Bros cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil.

A few months back Martin Soan, who runs the Pull The Other One comedy club with his wife Vivienne, told me he felt a lot of the best up-and-coming comedians – especially the weirder acts – were women. Martin knows a lot about new talent and it is maybe worth pointing out that Pull The Other One is currently compered by funny woman Lindsay Sharman while Vivienne Soan is setting up a new Pull The Other One club in Germany.

As any regular readers of this blog in the last year will have spotted, I think phenomenally highly of former BBC Broadcast Journalist turned comedy performer Juliette Burton. She is not a comedian in the traditional sense – certainly not a gag-spouting stand-up comic, but she is a genuinely great creator and performer of full-length shows.

Her When I Grow Up show at this Year’s Edinburgh Fringe (which I saw four times, just to be sure it really was as good as I thought it was and not just a one-off freak) was masterfully (there is no non-male word) researched, crafted and performed, had unexpected intellectual depth and vigour and I shed a tear at each performance, despite knowing what the emotional twist to the seemingly lighthearted show was.

I am not normally a fan of – in fact, I usually actively hate – video inserts in live shows. But Juliette spent the year in the lead-up to the Fringe shooting interviews and video inserts which to my constant surprise fitted perfectly into the live show with live voice-overs and links by her. She also (there is no non-male word) marketed her balls off in the lead up to and during the Fringe.

There were video clips on YouTube and a pop song called Dreamers which she performed at T in The Park immediately before the Fringe

and which was accompanied by a pop video posted on YouTube.

All profits from sales of Juliette’s Dreamers song from iTunes and elsewhere will go to the BBC’s Children in Need. until 15th November, the BBC’s transmission day.

In Edinburgh, there were also QR codes on flyers linking to the Dreamers music video promoting her When I Grow Up show; she arranged a flash mob in the Royal Mile; and much more.

There was something else she did at the Fringe which she reminded me about yesterday. She is auctioning off a book.

“It starts today,” she told me yesterday, “and you can bid to become the proud owner of the When I Grow Up Dreambook.

“It’s a book I ran around the Edinburgh Fringe with. I asked lots of famous and soon-to-be famous Fringe performers to write in the book what they wanted to be when they were children and what they do now.”

“So who has written in it?” I asked.

“Ooh,” said Juliette, “loads,: Barry Humphries, Phil Jupitus, Frank Skinner, Robin Ince, Marcus Brigstocke, Stewart Lee, Andrew Maxwell and loads more including Gary Morecambe the son of Eric Morecambe and Brian Henson the son of Muppets creator Jim Henson. And John Fleming of the Malcolm Hardee Awards and the John Fleming blog.”

“Only the crème de la crème, then,” I said. “Was Brian Henson green?”

“He picked a green page to write on,” replied Juliette.

“Barry Humphries is an interesting man to meet,” I mused.

“I remember him being very well dressed,” said Juliette. “Patrick Monaham wrote in the book twice.”

“Did he hug you?” I asked.

“Twice,” said Juliette.

“He may have been thinking of something other than Children in Need,” I suggested.

“We even did a little video of it,” said Juliette.

“The hugs?”

“Me getting people to sign the book. You are at 3 minutes 30 seconds into it.”

“So it’s worth watching the first three minutes, then,” I suggested.

“People can bid to own the item and all of the money received is going to the BBC’s Children In Need appeal,” Juliette said.

“Why Children In Need?” I asked.

“With the show being about childhood dreams,” replied Juliette, “it seemed appropriate, fun and lovely to see if dreamers achieved their dreams.”

“How long is the auction?”

“It closes on 15th November – next Friday – the day Children In Need is transmitted. The auction is on eBay.”

“And,” I said, “as a result of your Fringe show, you have been offered four or five interesting projects.”

“Nothing signed yet,” said Juliette, “so we can’t talk about them.”

“Australia?” I asked.

“I can talk about that,” said Juliette. “A company are touring me in Australia for three months. They’re taking me there in February to perform When I Grow Up at the Adelaide Fringe sometimes twice, sometimes once a day and I’ll also be performing with Lizzy Mace in our Rom Com Con show which was at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. After that, I’ll either be doing the Melbourne Comedy Festival or touring around. The itinerary is to be sorted out.”

“And, when you come back to the UK at the beginning of May,” I said, “you have deals with a couple of British media companies.”

“Agreed but not signed yet,” said Juliette, “so we can’t talk about those. But I’ll be back in time to do a show at the Brighton Fringe.”

“Will your show at the Edinburgh Fringe next year involve making videos in advance?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Juliette. “It will involve interviewing people on video and I definitely need people to get in touch with me if they want to go on record talking about their appearance and their relationship with how they look.”

Phil Kay performed with a bread product last night

Phil Kay performed with a bakery product last night

After seeing Juliette yesterday afternoon, I went to see one of the monthly Goodfather comedy nights run by Thomas Ward and Phil Kay at the Comedy Pub, a short heckler’s cry from the London Comedy Store in Oxendon Street – although heckling Phil Kay is not something to be recommended.

Thomas encouraged me to review the evening, but I rarely blog straight reviews. Instead, I will mention the aforementioned Tasmanian Devil comic – Candy Gigi, whom I mentioned last week.

Any show compered by Phil Kay is bound to be interesting and have stand-up acts worth seeing. But Candy Gigi is virtually unreviewable except visually. Some people might (I guess) not like her act, but it would be difficult to actively DISlike it because you would be suffering from sensory overload and unable to think clearly. I was sitting at the back of the audience so I could not see faces, but I had a feeling some may have mirrored the open-mouthed facial reactions of the First Night audience at Springtime For Hitler in Mel Brooks’ film The Producers. A combination of disbelief and sensory overload shock is not necessarily a bad thing in comedy.

In my very erstwhile role as a finder of bizarre talent for TV shows, I would sometimes see acts which were wonderful live but which would never translate to two-dimensional TV screens. I always went for talent, energy and originality. Go for the performer who has that ‘X’ Factor (in the pre-Simon Cowell sense.)

Candy Gigi has it, though how she develops this eye-popping and ear-assaulting act I have no idea. All I know is that the only way to describe it is to see it.

..

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If there were any justice in the comedy and entertainment world, then both Juliette Burton and Candy Gigi – two utterly different acts – would become rich, successful and famous, not necessarily in that order.

There is not.

So I can but toss a coin and pray, hope and mention.

7 Comments

Filed under Comedy

7 responses to “Are female British comedy performers funnier and more original than men?

  1. John do you remember when i kept telling you to stop saying that acts should accept losing money in Edinburgh? Because they don’t have to, I told you It was like telling a battered wife that she had to put up with it. I think we have finally convincied you this year by promoting 27 acts in Heroes of Fringe venues this August, none of which lost money… Now I hope you dont mind me wagging my finger at you again…

    This was a good article on some really interesting comedians let down by its shamefully attention grabbing, tabloid title. The point you are making is that these are amazing comedians and this has very little to do with their gender nor does it or should it make any representation about who is the funnier sex. It’s this sort of well meaning but none the less marginalization of women as a sub-genre of comedy that unintentionally undermines women as being able to just be funny or not.

    What does Bob Slayer know about this? There are all sorts of marginalisations in the arts – and my experience was with Electric Eel Shock (EES), the Japanese band i managed. A whole bunch of promoters would immediately suggest some other japanese band as being the perfect support act for any particular gig, They meant well and their flawed thinking was that people who like EES like Japanese bands right? This completely disregarded that the two bands might have nothing else in common other than originating on the same landmass. Early on before i realised this was a problem and explained things to promoters, I even had one promoter after a gig complain that EES were not Japanese enough. After this we always made sure EES had other great rock bands to support them regardless of where they were from or indeed what sex or any other thing they were. Electric Eel Shock are a great Rock band first and foremost, who just happen to be Japanese.

    I’m sure if you ask most women they will tell you they would like to be seen as the same, I mean a funny comedian who just happens to be a woman. Maybe I am misguided in this well meaning support as well? After all we are both old men, what could we possibly know about this? But if you have to wade in about gender in comedy so that you can have an attention grabbing subject, why not ask them these questions first?

    Respectfully,
    Bob x

    • Quite right. I was just trying to get attention by doing a reverse on that ridiculous “Why Are There No Funny Women?” article.which publications do every six months.

      • But surely it amounts to the same thing? Look I am probably only pissed off that “feminism” became the main talking point of fringe 2013, somewhat overshadowing that it was the fringe for independent artists reclaiming the fringe… Surely the aim of any feminist movement is to not see gender, so why keep bringing it up at all? Have I missed something?

  2. Look, it’s not important. They’re only women.

  3. Worse than being women, quite a few of them are English.

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