Jo Brand has defended Lee Mack, who she says was unfairly treated by the press for expressing views on Desert Island Discs recently that women weren’t cut out for comedy.
Brand and Mack (photo courtesy of Brunel University) were both attending the launch of the new academic Centre for Comedy Studies Research, at Brunel University, London. They were both previously students at Brunel and have honorary doctorates. During a panel discussion on comedy Brand said the “backlash” that Lee Mack had received following his comments on Desert Island Discs was “unfair.”
Lee Mack also spoke about the issue. “People are sick of the conversation of why there are no women on panel shows. The reason is that there are less women starting in the first place. That was symptom, not the cause,” he said.
Mack's views were based on his undergraduate dissertation at Brunel University in Drama with Film and TV Studies in 1996 on female comedians. “I was quoting a professor from my thesis who had said that women are less competitive, and tend to listen more. Men are more likely to show off. Once they start, women are absolutely equal to men.”
Brand, who has previously spoken publicly about the competitiveness and aggression on panel shows said “lots of women refuse to go on panel shows because they think they’re going to get a pasting. I know a lot of male comics who are quiet, sweet guys who want to do their stand-up. It’s not a gender thing but a personality thing. I know one comedian who went on Mock the Week and hated it. He couldn’t get a word in edgeways. It wasn’t his form of comedy. It’s not what his personality was like.”
The Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR), run by sociologist Dr Sharon Lockyer, is the first centre of its kind to be opened in the UK, giving students a chance to study humour seriously. Its aim to to promote an international, interdisciplinary approach to understanding comedy and is supported by four CCSR “Ambassdors,” Eastenders actor Nitin Ganatra (who plays Masood), Jo Brand, Leicester Comedy Festival founder Geoff Rowe and member of sketch group Abnormally Funny People, Steve Best.
Dr Lockyer commented, “If a student is reading sociology and communications, understanding the role of comedy in society is absolutely fundamental. Comedy is really important to society. For example there is a rise in the number of disabled comedians who use comedy to break barriers and raise an audience’s awareness of its own possible prejudices.”
The multidisciplinary aims of the Centre are to integrate research in the fields of media and communications, sociology, psychology, theatre, drama, film and television, computing, English, creative writing and social work, using comedy as the common denominator. The new research centre will cover stand-up, literature, clowning, television comedy, and joking and humour that is used in daily life.
For more information on the CCSR see here.