BBC/Two Brothers/Steve Schofield

The rise of female-led comedy

Last year, I got to see the renewed run of Fleabag in its original format as a one woman show, the way it was first staged at the Edinburgh fringe festival. Ever since, I’ve been a huge fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s work and cannot wait to watch the second season of the show, which premiered this Monday. I particularly love Irish culture and comedy, so Derry Girls has been on my to watch list for a while now and I’m looking forward to finally getting to binge watch it this Easter. What both shows illustrate is the more prevalent coverage of female talent in comedy, and I think this is an incredibly exciting time for TV.

Upon reflection, I’ve realised just how much female led comedy I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.  It’s brilliant to see female talent in front of and behind the camera receiving more production and acclaim. Though there is still a need for more female directors and crew, the driving force behind the greater availability of female comedy is the emergence of prominent female executive producers, creators and writers.

Female comedy is coming into full force with women of various ages, figures, sexual orientation and experiences leading the charge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Lisa Mcgee, the latter whom wrote and created Derry Girls, have done fantastic jobs among names such as Jenji Kohan (Orange Is The New Black, Glow), Tina Fey, (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Marta Kauffman (Friends, Grace and Frankie), Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel) and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). I’ve enjoyed all these works, to only name a few (I really did try to restrict myself)! What this list highlights is the variety of women that are coming to be represented. Female comedy is coming into full force with women of various ages, figures, sexual orientation and experiences leading the charge. However, I personally should take more time to experience shows from BAME women (I’ve already added Insecure and Chewing Gum to the binge list as well).

Women such as Kauffman, Sherman-Palladino and Fey show that this surge hasn’t happened all at once. The span of their careers suggest the boom in female comedy has been on the horizon for some time now. But we are finally coming into an age where women have more opportunity to shape and create their own work, and become named individual successes in their own right like their male counterparts. We now regularly see comedy shows with ensembles of nearly all female cast, when not so long ago it seemed some female characters were added as tokens to play the straight man (ironically) in comedic antics. We don’t question if women can act, make music, or play sports, let’s not question whether women can do comedy anymore.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but pain and comedy are fundamentally intertwined

What is incredible about these shows is the gear towards frank discussion of female experiences. But these conversations are not reserved for women to just have among other women, I hope men feel they can enjoy these shows too. I’ve already made a pact with my boyfriend to watch the second season of Fleabag over video call.

Perhaps it’s wrong to label such shows as female comedy. It’s true that these shows give a distinctly female experience of topics such as dating, relationships, mental illness, age, trauma and… wrestling. Ultimately the human experience is an absurd one, however you identify, and having the chance to laugh at that is one of life’s greatest joys.

Comedy is so much more nuanced than the credit I believe its reputation receives. It may sound counter-intuitive, but pain and comedy are fundamentally intertwined. Comedy exposes how life isn’t perfect, it doesn’t go according to plan and you can’t always get what you want. In comedy, as in life, flawed people can do horrible things to each other, make terrible and embarrassing decisions that feel like the end of the world. Comedy can be a practice in empathy, and that’s not reserved to one gender.

I look forward to a time where I won’t need to write an article about how great it is that there’s more female comedy. It will all just be comedy.

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