Written by Helen Zaltzman

In The News

Are the statistics of tickets a joke?

Sales of tickets to see female comics have shot up in the last years. But before we start looking for bunting, Helen Zaltzman thought it wise to take a bite out of the statistical apple, to see if anything unpalatable was crawling around inside.

Big percentages are all well and good, but tickets for female comics still only make up 14% of the market. This is not funny.

Have you heard the good news, comedians without penises? Ticketmaster have announced that sales of tickets to see female comedians have risen by 300% since 2011. This is a big bird-flip to anyone still trotting out such wrongisms as “Women aren’t funny” and/or “Female comedians only make jokes about tampons/lazy boyfriends/childbirth”. Evidently female comedians are at long last a commercial force to be reckoned with.

Or are they? Before we get too excited, let’s examine.

Firstly, stand-up comedy has enjoyed a burst of popularity in recent years, so ticket sales have increased across the board: there are more people interested in buying tickets, and more gigs for which they can do so.

Then there’s the source of the statistics. Ticketmaster only bothers itself with the bigger gigs – not the many comedy nights above pubs where the booking system consists of dropping a fiver into a shoebox by the door. It’s bloody brilliant news that acts like Sarah Millican, Miranda Hart, Dawn French can sell thousands of tickets – and all at the same time as being female, how do they do it? – but what’s the picture across the stand-up scene as a whole?

Well, according to Uncle Ticketmaster, in the past five years sales for female comedians’ shows have shot up by 1,064%. Pop the champagne! But hang on – what proportion does this represent of overall ticket sales? That would be 14% in 2014. Depressing? Well, wait till you hear that in 2009 it was only 2%. That must have been when women were only one seventh as funny as they are now.

Sure, it’s difficult for audiences to spend an exact half of their comedy ticket budget on female acts. There are far fewer female comics than male ones on the circuit. When you consider female acts run the gauntlet of sexist promoters, institutionally hostile audiences, fewer opportunities and stand-up remaining a near-impossible pursuit for mothers of young children, it’s no wonder that many women think, “Sod it,” and take an easier career path, such as becoming Angela Merkel.

The good news is, YOU can help! It’s easy. For starters, if you find yourself in any of the following situations, here’s what to do:

Scenario 1: You are gripped by the urge to shout “Get your tits out!” at a female comedian on stage.

Action: You are in the wrong venue! Rush to the nearest exit and go to the strip club down the street. The performers there probably won’t appreciate your suggestion either, but at least it’s less irrelevant to their material.

Scenario 2: You are a journalist interviewing a comedian who is female and the question “What’s it like being a female comedian?” is about to escape your mouth.

Action: Remember, very few people have first-hand experience of their job from the point of view of more than one gender. Therefore, the only accurate response is, “Until people stop asking me that question, worse than being a male comedian.” This won’t be any good in your article, so feign a coughing fit to buy some time to think of a question that isn’t completely stupid.

Also, before you file your copy, remember to autocorrect every instance of the word ‘comedienne’ to ‘comedian’ or ‘comic’. Would you refer to women in other jobs as, for instance, ‘soldieresses’ or ‘butcheresses’? That’s a rhetorical question. If you did squeak out the answer ‘Yes’, seek a job where you are not allowed to give an opinion anywhere, ever.

Scenario 3: You are the booker of a comedy night or TV panel show. You suddenly realise that, while more than 50% of the population is female, 100% of your line-up is male.

Action: Quick, find some women and add them to the bill – but DON’T TELL ANYONE that you have done this! If someone compliments you on your unusually gender-balanced roster of acts, pretend that this was the plan all along.

Scenario 4: You are a person who wants to see some comedy.

Action: Buy tickets for shows that include female comedians. Shun promoters who do not book female comedians.

Keep it up, and eventually an act’s gender will be so unremarkable, we will all be able to refer to female comedians just as ‘comedians’. This might make Ticketmaster’s statistics trickier to interpret, but it’s a sacrifice worth making.

www.helenzaltzman.com

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Written by Helen Zaltzman

Helen Zaltzman is the female 50% of the comedy podcast Answer Me This