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.


To those of you who left condolences, comments, e-mails or otherwise.