Today Woman’s Hour asked ahead of Comic Relief: “Feminist comedy: what’s funny?” Listen Again here from 31 mins 40 secs. I would suggest this is not a wise question to ask. Feminism + comedy = disaster. Feminism = good subject for comedy. Feminism itself = not funny.
The report comes from What the Frock in Bristol at The Square (nice venue) where there was a crowd of about 80 for an evening featuring six female comedians, including me. The interviews were done in the bar before the gig and the crowd was very vociferous: “I don’t go to comedy because it’s very male-driven.” “I don’t think Miranda is a great role model.” “The guy tripping over the pavement, that’s my kind of humour.” “The male-bashing side of it is very amusing. But swearing… It becomes not amusing.” No pressure, then.
The Bridget Christie interview is lovely here. “Feminist comedy? It’s a hard sell. People are embarrassed and suspicious.” “I don’t care about fish. I’m a feminist.” I really want to meet the book shop man who made regular visits to the Women’s Section for his important business. Bridget Christie: “The Women’s Section stunk of farts. It was the least popular area of the book shop. It was symbolic to me.”
Looking forward to two events celebrating the eve of International Women’s Day next Thurs 7 March. First, I’m at the new St James’s Theatre with Funny Women, hosting a panel about “the place of women in society and how our humour defines us.” Discussing “the place of women in society” sounds like it could turn dangerously unfunny. So I will be careful to focus on the second bit. Or wear something silly that people can laugh at. Like a sequinned playsuit, perhaps.
Later the same night I’m heading over to Greenwich for Oxfam’s Touch of Glamour Night at the Trafalgar Tavern. There will be a catwalk show and free manicures! And you get a free cupcake. I promise not to monopolise any of these offers. Actually I don’t. I will trample people to get to the manicurists and the cupcakes. But in a sisterly way. I will also try to be “inventive and hilarious” after having been billed as such. NO PRESSURE.
Very excited to be interviewed for Run Riot by Katie Antoniou ahead of next weeks Impro Fest 2013: one venue, seven days, nineteen shows. I’m performing at the launch night on Monday 25 Feb and then we’re doing a full show of Upstairs Downton on Saturday 2 March, 7.30pm.
“Boom, shake, shake, shake the room! Boom, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, BOOM!” Improbably but exceedingly pleasingly the people at hip-hop-lovin’ DJ hoedown For the Love of Mic (“the silliest rap night in London”) asked me to be Agony Aunt on their show for London Fields Radio. This required me to dissect the lyrics of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems and advise him on future life decisions.
I took the view that 99 Problems is an expression of deep delusion and defensiveness. This man believes he has a lot of problems but a woman is not one of them. I would argue that by foregrounding the woman, he shows that really she is in fact the root of his problems but he is in denial of this key fact.
Mostly, though, I asked DJ Alexi Duggins (in another life, Editor-At-Large at Time Out) many middle-aged, high-court-judge-style questions about what rap words mean. A “gat” is a gun, apparently. Why not just say this? Also on this recording: Kris Kross (“Jump! Jump!”), Dizzee Rascal and Betty Boo doing the do. Those are the people I had heard of anyway.
Tonight I became the proud winner of Made-Up Stand-Up at The Miller in Borough, a monthly show hosted by Sean Ruttledge and the other lovely people of Impro Punks. The final will be held in autumn 2013. I won due to the arbitrary nature of the contest and thanks to my enthusiastic efforts during the tie-breaker rap battle in which I praised the pantyhose of my opponent. But mostly I won due to the fact that I refused to leave the stage until they awarded me the prize. I highly recommend this strategy.
To Richmond Literary Festival to speak at an event on women and comedy writing entitled “Sex, Lies and Lots of Cake”. There was no sex. This was Richmond, after all. But there were certainly lies. About the existence of “lots of cake.” In my view there was only a small amount. (In defence of the cake, supplied by Alberts Deli, I think I just got to it late.)
Woman in audience: “I object to the title of this event.” Me: “Yes! Me too. It’s supposed to be a reference to Sex, Lies and Videotape. But it doesn’t even scan. Sex, Lies and Battenburg I could have accepted.” She: “No. I don’t mean that. I just mean that women and cake… It’s such a cliche.”
She went on: “I don’t mind lemon drizzle. But frankly I would rather have a sausage roll.” You tell ’em, lady. Sex, Lies and Sausage Rolls: The Sordid Truth About Greggs. Now, that’s an event I would attend.
Favourite moment? During a discussion about Fifty Shades of Grey, another woman (not the sausage roll woman) shouted, “SEX IS FUN.” Informative, truthful, concise. That’s Richmond for you. Pics by Amelia Wells here.
Natalie Guest writing in the Independent about “funny women leading the feminist fightback.” She references last Sunday’s Stand Up to Sexism gig at the Harold Pinter Theatre: “From Viv Groskop’s rapping about women’s issues as “Feminem”, to Lucy Porter’s promise to play a tune on her “little button-like organ” at the (ahem) climax of the show, one brilliantly funny woman after another (and a few lovely like-minded feminist men) took to the stage and proved that YES, actually, we can joke just as well and pun just as badly as the next man.” Just as badly? Worse, surely. That is the aim. That is the aim.
Sunday’s Stand Up to Sexism gig at the Harold Pinter Theatre in aid of the No More Page 3 and Everyday Sexism campaigns was a great success. Lucy Porter, Suzi Ruffell, Tiffany Stevenson, Patrick Monahan, Joel Dommett, Joe Wells, Chris Coltrane, John-Luke Roberts, a crowd of 600 and £4,000 raised.
On her blog Not All Who Wonder Are Lost, Hannah Thompson writes: “Viv Groskop’s feminist-Wollstonecraft-Emily Davison-referencing rap gets a mention for sheer, bizarre, entertainment value.” Camilla Turner on Harker: “Highlights included Viv Groskop’s frap (feminist rap).” Something of a turnaround for the frap’s reception compared to the many places I have honed it, which included a dilapidated pub in Croydon where a fight broke out between a teenage boy and a geriatic man while I was performing.
Laura Ashton of Funny Women: “Viv Groskop’s feminist rap, which included the endearing term “mother-lovers”, was a truly sparkly performance.” It was actually “mother-appreciators”. But we will not split hairs, sista!
Performing at this fem-tastic (geddit?) comedy event in aid of the No More Page 3 campaign at the Harold Pinter Theatre, the old Comedy Theatre on Panton Street, Piccadilly, on Sun 18 Nov. Click here for tickets.
I’m sometimes wary of “wimmins activism” in comedy, especially since the time I had to go on after a domestic violence video at the Funny Women Finals. (“And now on with the comedy…!”)
But this is a good cause. I do get some of the pro Page 3 arguments. “You don’t have to buy the paper.” “It’s a private commercial enterprise so it’s their business what they publish.” Or as a man called Geoffrey tweeted me: “You are a killjoy. It is harmless fun.”
But it’s a newspaper. A massive-selling newspaper. Which sits on the front table at the curry house where I pick up takeaways with my children. “Mummy, why is that lady showing her boobies?” “She got a bit warm with her cardigan on. More Bombay mix?” (Quality parenting.) We wouldn’t put up with it on the news on TV. So why put up with it in a newspaper?
I tweeted back to Geoffrey: “Can’t you use back copies? Or do you need fresh ones?” He replied: “My wife uses the back copies for the vegetable peelings.” It’s all they’re good for, Geoffrey, it’s all they’re good for. We all deserve better. Stand up to sexism!
Reviewed HBO’s Girls starring Lena Dunham (above) on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. Listen here from 23h20 and see a rubbish picture here. Girls is most definitely not rubbish. In fact it is brilliant, extraordinary even. Very difficult to pack a description of the first three episodes into three minutes of radio. I didn’t even get to mention how much crazy, weird, dysfunctional sex there is. Or how edgy the humour is: date rape, abortion, STDs…
Masses will be written and said about how this is a new dawn for “wimmin’s comedy”. It sort of is. With Judd Apatow as exec producer, of course – how else would this have got made? But the best thing is, it sort of isn’t. It’s just a great, original sitcom which just happens to have been written, created and directed by a new talent who just happens to be female.
I got annoyed they even called it “Girls” because it really isn’t about the “Girls” at all. It’s about what it’s like to be young and goofy and hopeful and despairing and trying to be good at sex but failing miserably and not having any money and wondering if you will ever do anything or become anything or be anyone and then going out and getting drunk with very unsuitable people. That is not just a “girl” experience. That is life. They also take opium! Is that a New York thing?
Picture by David Shankbone at Tribeca Film Festival.