By Sarine Gulerian
It’s been a decade since the funny woman debate formally began. On one end of the boxing ring we had comedic heavyweights such as Tiny Fey, Kristen Wigg, and Sarah Silverman. On the other, journalist and contrarian Christopher Hitchens.
The match was eloquently reffed and fairly weighted by Vanity Fair, but 10 years after the first punch was thrown by Hitchens, the debate is still being hashed out.
The argument was based on a single premise: women aren’t funny — or more fairly, evolutionarily speaking, women don’t need to be funny. It’s been disputed by many that the straight woman, the ultimate prey for the primal straight man, can simply use her feminine allure to attract the opposite sex, therefore she lacks the need for wit, quirk, or comedy.
But Stand-Up Comedian Sophie Buddle has something to say on the debate: “I didn’t grow into my nose for a very long time. So, I did have to be funny. I was funny first and cute second.”
Buddle, sitting on a half-pipe in the back of the Slice of Life Gallery and Studio, has just stepped off the stage after filming of a pilot episode of Barely Legal, an underground comedy show she co-hosts with Gavin Matts. The event was sold-out and packed full of young vibrant artistic types sipping Jackson-Triggs red wine out of small clear plastic cups and eating the KFC that Buddle jokingly claimed to have spent her life savings on.
Buddle, an eight-year veteran in the comedy world made her first comedic debut at the age of 15 at Absolute Comedy Club in Ottawa. Thus far, she has travelled all across Canada, the United States and has even performed in the UK. Soon, she’ll be making her third appearance on Just For Laughs in Montreal.
Besides the funny girl question, it’s no secret that there is an enormous gender-gap in comedy. For the first time ever, a woman — Amy Schumer — finally made it on the Forbes list of the World’s Highest-Paid Comedians in 2016. As dumbfounding as that seems, one can still argue that there has never been a better time in history to be a woman comic, and, as we progress, the gender gap every-so-slightly lessens.
“It’s changed a lot since I started,” said Buddle. “But the thing is, an equal number of women and men will start comedy but girls will quit faster even if they’re good and men will do it for longer, even if they shouldn’t.” However, in the industry, she’s noticed that men have a natural confidence that women lack. This, she believes, inflates a male comics perspective on their own talent which elongates their careers. Whereas for women, they are more humble about their talent which diminishes their comedic careers faster. “It’s just shitty because it thins out,” said Buddle. For her, comedy seems to come just as easy for women as it does for men but she estimates that most shows have a set ratio of two women to every four men.
According to Buddle, it’s more difficult for women to do stand-up. They’re forced to filter gigs they’re offered, especially when deciding to go on the road. They must often consider the intentions of male headliners when asked to open for them and decide if it’s worth the risk of putting up with a creep while alone on the road to help accelerate their careers.
“It’s is a little bit exclusionary but in a weird way,” said Buddle, “If there is a new [woman], they’ll get lots of attention but a lot of the time, it is because male comics are trying to date them or trying to sleep with them,” she said. “Which I don’t like but it’s also like they feel welcomed — kind of. So, it’s hard to know how to deal with that.”
Although women now have the opportunity to crack jokes on stage and be the headliners, this unfunny issue highlights the fact that although we have come this far, we really haven’t come far enough.
Sarine enjoys poorly timed jokes, alcohol and politics—preferably together. She identifies most with Christopher Hitchens, Bridget Jones and anyone under 4’10. Her interests vary from Harry Potter trivia and hiking to ’90s and ’00s romantic comedies starring Tom Hanks.