Monday, August 21, 2006

Dawn French. Again.

It was part two of "Girls Who Do: Comedy" last night. French asked if women comics found that their humour attracted boys. Does being funny act as a man-magnet? Or instant man repellent? (Form an orderly queue, people. When I've perfected the formula, I'll bottle it and start selling.)

I was worried about the way that French really seemed convinced that ALL women are trying to catch a man; we're not ALL straight. But then she changed her pronouns when she interviewed Sandra Bernhard and I wondered if she had tailored all her questions to fit what she already knew about the sexuality of each interviewee. I'd be interested to know the answer to that.

That aside, I actually found it very important to understand what happened when women were funny in mixed company. One or two women were explicit about the way that men found their humour threatening. Funny women are powerful because they can destroy the male ego. Funny women are intelligent and can expose men's frailties.

On the other hand, French explained that she had learned from an early age that if she wanted to "get snogged" at the end of an evening she had to let the boy have the biggest laugh; she couldn't take all the applause for herself. It seemed that if you kept a lid on it, being funny could actually get you some action. For most of the women interviewed, it seemed to be about "beauty". It boiled down to the idea that pretty girls don't need to be funny.

Here's the thing: if you have classic good looks than you don't need to be able to make people like you by being funny. This got clearer and more unfunny as Jenny Eclair recounted the tale of her miracle perm. Sometime in her teens, she had her hair permed and suddenly became very pretty and recognised that she didn't need to settle for the role of comedian anymore. Ruby Wax talked about being ugly and funny. Meera Syal was a big fat girl with a facial "twitch". How depressing to find that even these amazing, talented, powerful women are still stuck defining themselves by their appearance.

I remain delighted by the programme. The credits rolled and I felt an adrenaline rush from just listening to these honest, flawed conversations about women and comedy and life and power and all the attendant worries. I feel like I am in the conversation; I am included. I feel empowered by this kind of television. Even when what is being said drives me mental, I'm loving the saying of it.


therealUK said...

Ah, I wondered if anyone had blogged this. It's a great programme. I missed the last 20 mins of it unfortunately.

I liked something Liza Tarbuck said, that it's pointless for women to deny their humour or anything else just for male attention. Why would anyone want that sort of attention ? If you want to be with a man then why not like men who actually like women, sense of humour and all ?

It would be good if women's voices like these were hear more often, more mainstream, rather than just an occasional 40 mins specialist slot.

PS who is the young American woman, long dark hair in a pony tail ?

Pippa said...

Yeah i liked Liza Tarbuck's comment too. I love the whole series, I just would like there to be more acknowledgment of feminism! It might get there yet. The american woman is Sarah Silverman. She's gorgeous! I loved her bit about periods when she asked if it was okay to talk about them and dawn french was saying "yep. The more bleeding the merrier!" Brilliant.

witchy-woo said...

Funny women are powerful because they can destroy the male ego. Funny women are intelligent and can expose men's frailties.

You know what this reminded me of? It reminded me of the way some schoolchildren can divert the class bully from picking on them - by making others laugh at them.

There could be a lesson for all of us in that...

Anonymous said...

Is this blog being written from some weird 1980s wormhole?

You should get out more - the world has turned for Dawn and her 'alternative' ie multi-millionaire celeb playmates, who all succeeded in a left-wing BBC hegemony in which they were all complicit.

Your views really are bizarrely quaint and uninformed, and as for that creepy ragdoll ...

Pippa said...

How dare you!? My ragdoll is so not creepy. have you nothing nice to say? Then say nothing.