Some of my work was recorded for this week's Newsjack but didn't make the final broadcast edit - but that's no reason not to tune in ;) Please do so here. There's some fantastic writing on it and I guarantee you laughs a plenty. What is great about this show is it has an open door policy. Anyone can write and submit, see the guidelines. It's very much how I got my first foot in the door of comedy writing (I got noticed on the Sketch Factor competition run by the BBC a few years back) and I'm proud to say I've now had credits on all five series of Newsjack and all series of Recorded for Training Purposes.
Last week I was invited down to the writer's meeting for that week's episode - the day before the recording when the script editor and producers put together the show, sketches are polished, as a topical show they make sure all the latest news is covered including any late breakers etc. I was the only female writer in the room bar Lyndsay who is one of the producers. Looking around the table there were more people with facial hair than ovaries. Admittedly I had one hell of a hag hair that day but I don't think they mistook me for a bloke.
If we look at this week's credit list for Newsjack there isn't one female contributor. Why the dearth of female writers for the show?
I can tell you it isn't because of a conspiracy. The door at the BBC isn't manned by a misogynist who throws dusters and polish at women if they dare to approach. It's actually a rather lovely environment and there's some great female producers within its walls but yes, the ratio tips in favour for the male of the species. Yes, there is somewhat of a boy's club feel around comedy in general which may be one of the things that puts some women off. In fact it reminds me very much of the other world I have my foot in - motorsport. Perhaps that is something that helps me - being used to being surrounded by men and the humour that abounds.
I believe that many women will talk themselves out of putting themselves forward. Comedy is very subjective, and the aim is to make people laugh - and what if they don't? What if your joke falls flat on it's arse? How many women won't tell a joke 'because they can't' - have you ever heard a man say 'no, you tell it dear, you tell it better'. No. I will be sending a paper to the Lancet shortly declaring testicles * release a hormone that makes all men believe they are funny and the confidence to demonstrate this.
Okay, perhaps we are wandering into the wood of stereotypes funny men and timid women, but the figures do tend to speak for themselves. There is a suprising unbalanced ratio when you get out there into the world of comedy writers. My call to any woman out there interested in comedy writing is just have a go. Forget the what ifs, the can'ts and the it's not for me. Send those quips in -maybe they'll be grounded but you never know, you may just fly - there is no harm in trying. You do not want to get to a point where you look back and think 'I wish I'd tried...' Less time wishing, more time doing.
There are wonderful female comedy writers out there and wonderful female writer/performers. One thing they all have in common, even though I know may not recognise it in themselves, is tenacity. That ability to just keep going. One of the greatest attributes you can have as a writer is perseverance.
Because, I do not want to think we ever need positive discrimination, something which I have also advocated against in motorsport on the same theme of female participation. If a script editor has room for one sketch and is choosing between mine and one written by a man, I never want to think the editor's hand feels pushed to mine for the sake of quotas or 'balance'; I want the best work, best fit for that show to make it through regardless of the author. But, as in motorsport, I do think there may be a place for women only initiatives especially at an entry level. If that is what is required to draw people out then perhaps it is a necessary evil. I've seen new female drivers enter through trackdays for women and certain female motorsport events, often enjoying support from peers in the British Women Racing Drivers Club and that grounding has given them the confidence to then move into the all out fray of motorsport.
So come on girls, pens out and give your comic creativity the chance to breathe.
*Actually I have testicles. I keep them in my handbag. Last time that racing driver answers back.
**This is an issue I've also been talking to Andrea Mann about and I highly recommend you whizz over to The Huffington Post and read her article addressing the issue, That's (not) Enough Female Comedy Writers. Ed.