Arabella Weir regrets poking fun at female neurosesby Arabella Weir / November 16, 2011 / Leave a comment
Boys and boy-related stuff always have and always will dominate British humour—you only have to watch ten minutes of an episode of The Inbetweeners to know that. In times of yore, so the excuse has it, women weren’t visible outside the home. But it’s the 21st century now. Women work alongside men, sometimes while wearing trousers; men are legally entitled to paternity leave, some openly admit to using moisturiser—and yet the predictability with which boys react to breasts, snigger when called upon to act like adults and their indefatigable ability to wank feeds the fountain from which, it appears, all British comedy is sourced.
Observe a female guest, usually lone, on any one of the panel shows peopled by men and you’ll note she’s not in the same club, membership of which ensures laughs. Male traits are recognisable by both genders, and therefore accessible, and they cross all cultural, social and racial divides—boys will be boys. The acceptance of that epithet as an unchanging and unchallenged truism is why British humour has changed so little. It’s the scale on which men indulge in self-delusion that makes themes based on their foibles far easier comic territory than those of women. Can anyone imagine a female Alan Partridge? Could Father Ted ever have been convincing with a bunch of cohabiting nuns?
Americans seem to be braver and bolder when tackling comedy possibly because they can’t rely, when addressing their nation, on the all-boys’ school of reference for jokes. British female comedy tends to be self-deprecating—inviting, perhaps, male sniggering. In the mainly male-orientated Fast Show, I came up with the very female catchphrase “does my bum look big in this?”—positively asking the audience to laugh at a very female neurosis. More fool me, eh? I made a rod for my own back. Now, talking of rods…