Unfunny stories of funny women: Why comedy lacks enough female talent
They had us in splits. But putting the spotlight on women and humour, was serious stuff at the Women Writers Fest, Bangalore. Rachna Singh, Itisha Peerbhoy and Jane De Suza spoke about why there are fewer women in comedy and humour writing. Men may just be too high in numbers. Are they just too many men willing to take a chance on themselves? Let’s get women to do that too? Here are Unfunny stories of funny women and just why comedy lacks enough female talent.
STOP BEING APOLOGETIC
“It’s not a matter of cracking the joke. But the material of what you are saying a little edgy. Women hesitate to say edgy stuff thinking haaw so shameless she is. Do women just leave it to the men?” asked an audience member. And the panel’s unequivocal answer was yes! Women need to rise let the story go, let it be bold, let it be outright.
Jane said we were too apologetic most of the time as women. “We are often apologising if the joke was bold, oh was it too offensive?”
“Women try to live up to patterns all the time,” says Rachna. “That needs to be broken.”
SISTERHOOD, KICK IN!
Talking of the stereotypes, Itisha said the sisterhood needed to kick in. “You see other women eyeing you differently. Please break the stereotype. Women need to help women.”
UNFUNNY VS FUNNY
The authors talked about incidents that made them wonder about writing humour, depressed about how things were or even angry with the world for slotting humour. What’s unfunny about being funny asks Itisha. “I was proud of myself when my first book sold so well, I was floating a bit in big big clouds,” said Jane. “Then I went on a panel where a panelist told me that humour is the best defence mechanism. That shattered me.”
“Writing humour is very hard work. I often tell people to tell me what they don’t find funny,” says Rachna. She also wrote about eloping to get married and coming close to death in a book called An Autumn in Awadh. “We were chased around the country by dharm rakshaks. Injecting humour isn’t easy.”
JOKE OR NO JOKE?
Are there walls between what’s a joke and what’s not”? What would you not joke about? “Most of my humour is very clean,” Rachna Singh shared. “Everybody should be able to read it. I wouldn’t joke about sexist stuff. I don’t like potty humour that much.” India for years has been fed on a diet of stereotypes and expletives in humour. Jane De Suza called that out that kind of writing. “One of the easiest things to do these days is to put ‘fucking’ in anything and think its funny. But that’s so not true and not worth your craft?” She also spelt out what she just wouldn’t do. “I wouldn’t joke about disability.”
Does is there laugh track of comedy writing? Jane said she gets turned off by people who start their jokes with ‘this is the funniest thing you will read today. I am stubborn about this.’