All entries for Sunday 14 November 2010

November 14, 2010

On comedy promoters

Sometimes you read something that just makes you angry. So it was with Wend Smith’s amazing article on Chortle last week.

When I read the opening I thought that this was going to be one of those pieces that both annoyed me and made me feel a bit guilty. I like to think I’m something of a feminist, but I’m not the sort that will deny their own sexuality just to prove it. Obviously someone physically grabbing a woman at a club or on public transport is wrong. Equally it’s pretty bad shout sexual remarks at a woman you don’t know in public. But then some people always take the argument too far and start saying that even checking out a woman wearing a low-cut top in public is just as bad as the rest. And while you can’t argue the point that being looked at in that way makes some women uncomfortable, at some point one’s right to wear what they want has to be measured against one’s right to look in whatever direction they want.

So I thought it would be with this article. I imagined that it’d highlight the shocking truth that some promoters book female acts based on their looks, and after doing so they flirt with them. Obviously a promoter shouldn’t be book acts based on anything other than comedic ability, but to assume it doesn’t happen is naive.

Luckily the one night I run has a pretty open booking policy, with a mandate to find stage time for anyone that wants a chance, regardless of level. So it’s never been a call I’ve had to make. But yes, lots of promoters are sad lonely men approaching middle-age (I count myself in that) and might well book a young female comic based on her looks in the pathetic hope they might get lucky. I’d like to think it’s not something I’d ever do, but I can certainly imagine not living up to that hope. So I expected to mostly be made to feel uncomfortable by the article and find myself disagreeing with it in parts. Then I read through it.

Bloody hell.

Go read it, but if you can’t be bothered, a few quotes:

“receiving communication from a middle-aged man using unsavoury language based entirely on my appearance, my gender and my sexuality is somewhat hard to swallow.”

“I have been told by one promoter that he ‘must be in love with [me] as [he] is willing to offer more work’.”

I’ve talked before about the backwards relationship between promotors and open spots. Specifically that, as far as I’m concerned, the open spots are doing me a favour by performing at my gig, and I feel awful that most of the time I don’t have the budget to even buy them a drink. Hell, I feel too guilty to even accept drinks from open spots when they offer.

So the idea that a promoter wouldn’t just book an act based on her looks, but then proceed to pretty much tell her this and make a point of it just boggles my mind. In an ideal world, it shouldn’t happen in the first place. Gender and appearance shouldn’t be part of a booking policy. We don’t live in an ideal world, but we do live in a world where a degree of basic human decency is expected, which surely should include not sexually harassing your open spots.

In an industry that’s worked hard to shed the aggressive, laddish image that’s been built up around it, it’s depressing to see that parts of it are stuck in the 1940s.

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