Opinion: That'll Teach Me To Google Myself...


OK, serves me right for googling my name on Twitter. As the end of the Fringe approached I wrote a piece speculating on who might make the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award shortlist. For my sins I did not pick out many women, mentioning that it was “not a strong female field this year”. 

Last night I came across a tweet from Tiffany Stevenson at the time quoting me and saying “seen them all have you Bruce?”. I hadn’t. Neither had I seen all the shows by male comedians, but I’d seen enough reviews and spoken to enough people who had seen lots of shows, including panellists, to be in a position to feel informed enough to write about who were awards contenders. Please don't shoot the messenger Tiff, I was just reflecting what I had heard.

Naturally I got it wrong in places. I was certain Felicity Ward would pick up a nomination – as did many – but it was a different excellent Australian altogether who made the final list of eight. Sarah Kendall thoroughly deserved her placing.

It was only a surprise to see Kendall on the list because, just to prove no system is perfect, her show had not been heavily hyped, plugged or chatted about until that final week, whereas Ward had been the talk of the town from the start. In fact from before the start for me, when she stormed it on The John Bishop Show.

All I was suggesting in my passing remark was that there were no truly major female breakthroughs this year. No Bridget Christie, no Sara Pascoe. Katherine Ryan didn’t do a full run and might have been too big to be award-eligible anyway. Luisa Omielan only did a short run of an old show. No Susan Calman. No new Josie Long show. 

Obviously there were women who did fabulously entertaining, thought-provoking, lager-spraying-out-your-nose shows, I’m not for a moment saying there weren’t. Lazy Susan, Angela Barnes, Tiffany Stevenson herself, Jo Neary, Beth Vyse, Mae Martin, Shazia Mirza, Pippa Evans, Bec Hill, Jo Caulfield, Zoe Coombs Marr are just a few that spring to mind off the top of my head. There are, of course, loads more, so I apologise in advance for missing them out.

The Best Newcomers list was certainly strong, with Sofie Hagen moving up through the gears to win it. Lolly Adefope should have surely been on the Newcomers list too. But it’s still early days for these acts, although I’m sure we will be seeing Hagen doing the panel show circuit soon.

But at the risk of facing the feminist firing squad again I still stand by my remark. It doesn’t mean women are not funny. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a tidal wave of women about to break. In fact it is abundantly clear that women are now well and truly established as part of the comedy firmament and that comedy should not be split down gender lines. Now I think about it I don’t even know why I needed to write this. Except to remind myself to stop googling my name late at night.


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