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January 19, 2012

That Comedian’s Girlfriend
by Liz McKeon - 0

By WICF Contributor Barbara Holm

Today Eddie Brill got fired for saying he doesn't think women comedians are authentic. I don’t celebrate anyone losing a job, but I am glad that there is some accountability for sexism in comedy. The stigma against women in comedy is diminishing. The best way we can change the perception of women in comedy is to be as funny as possible, keep working and help other funny women by booking them as often as we can.

"My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism … ask yourself the following question: "Is this person in between me and what I want to do?" If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work, and outpacing people that way." -Tina Fey, Bossypants

I'm not surprised by Brill's comment. I know the demographic Letterman caters toward. But when everyone jumped down his throat, Brill dug his own grave whilst trying to defend himself. The very funny Amy Schumer told a reporter something to the extent that it seems like he doesn't book a lot of women. Eddie Brill's response was, "That comedian's girlfriend made up facts."

That comedian's girlfriend has her own Comedy Central presents and her own album. Brill apologized for identifying Amy that way so I'm not mad at him, but more so at the institutionalized sentiment I've seen from many comedy club bookers and members of the industry. I hate that if two comedians date, the woman is viewed as an extension of the man.

A few years ago I heard a club manager say to a friend of mine that the only reason women perform stand up is to get to date a male comic. Like male comics are some sort of prize that everyone wants? I don't think anyone throws themselves into the world of painful open mics, staying out late, and getting criticized while making no money just to meet someone. I am not doing stand up to get laid. That is offensive not only to women but to the art form of comedy.

"If you're gonna risk your reputation fucking comics, I suggest you pick funny ones." -Bonnie McFarlene, Shecky Magazine

The inverse has happened to me a few times, because I'm like, so pretty. (Sarcasm!) When I first started, one comedian told me that I would do well because I could fuck my way onto shows. I am really sensitive about the idea of a comedy groupie or anyone using their sexuality as an asset to get stage time. I’m not riding on my feminine wiles to enhance any aspect of my career and it makes me uncomfortable to think that anyone could or would do that. I guess the 'who you are dating' card may hold some smidgen of weight, but just as much as the 'who you are friends with' card and neither card works long term if you aren't funny.

Many of my comic girlfriends have been asked out, hit on, or flirted with by male comics, and that doesn't make them any more or less funny. It is inevitable when you're out every single night, clumped together for hours in a green room, drinking and talking. It happens. I developed a defense mechanism: when a male comic I don’t know talks to me, I retreat into a metaphoric turtle shell. It’s effective, but I don’t recommend it.

Women should never be defined as an extension of someone they’re dating, especially in regards to their value as an artist. So, if you see two comics dating, try to bite back the gossip jumping out of your mouth. If they’re funny, who cares? Don’t talk shit, and be as supportive of women as possible. If they are however in the small tragic minority of women who aren’t funny, the small group who do ride the casting couch, just ignore them. They will go away.

I guess my point regarding dating a comic is simply to be funny. Going back to what Tina said about institutionalized sexism, just ignore it and focus on getting funnier. That’s the bottom line. One of my best friends and comedy heroes gave the best advice ever: "I get worked up about that shit and then it's like you can't control what some idiots think. So, just work hard, prove them wrong, and make them hate themselves more" -Rylee Newton.

Barbara Holm is a stand-up comedian from Seattle, Washington. She has performed at Bridgetown Comedy Festival, The Women in Comedy Festival, and Bumbershoot Festival. She has been described as clever, creative and unique.

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