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The Only Female Comic in the Room

An Open Letter to the Male Comics Around Me

By Natalie TolandPublished 5 years ago 4 min read
Top Story - July 2018

To the men that I share the stage with, know that I don't hate all of you. Some of you are very, very funny and I admire your work. I would even go as far as to say that I would be honored to collaborate with you someday, if you will have me of course. You know what? I think some of you are up there with George Carlin! Dave Chappelle! Bill Burr! Joan Rivers—oh, sorry, of course not... Steve Martin!

Okay, cool. Now that I have built the men reading this up enough, their egos will be able to survive this article.

Coming from a young Chicago woman with a literal Bachelor's in Comedy Writing and Performance (I know, same), here are some tips, tricks, and insider looks into the world of being the only female comedian in the room.

Don't Flirt with Me

I wish I didn't have to preface with this, but clearly it's necessary. I also wish I could say that I believe you actually like me, but for most of you this is a power play. You're nervous just like the rest of us, so might as well make at least one person in the room more nervous than you, right? A woman would be the easiest target, right? Wrong. I had to pepper spray six men on my way here, so I think I can tell some jokes in front of drunk tourists.

I'm a Woman, Please Applaud

I have an easy applause tip for the other women and non-binary comics out there. If you notice you are the only non-male person in the lineup, announce this at the beginning of your set. You're going to get the most thunderous pity applause ever, which will also pick up the energy that was killed by the guy who just bombed before you. Also you're hilarious and deserve to be there.

Oh Right, You Won't Get This

For stand up comedians, there is nothing worse than an audience that doesn't get your joke. It could be a really good joke that just wasn't phrased right, or it's content that the audience can't relate to. For women, most jokes related to any women's issue tend to fall flat in a room full of men. If I make a joke about forgetting a tampon inside me for days in front of women, they'll laugh and say "same!" or be disgusted, but at least understand. If I say that in front of a bunch of men, they're offended that I stooped low enough to remind them of the natural and normal occurrence of the period. Then they'll regret flirting with me earlier because they're concerned about my cavernous vagina and then BOOM, my set is over and they've missed all my Jimmy Buffet jokes.

I Don't Owe You a Laugh

I find myself giving pity laughs more than I should. I don't know if that's because I'm a woman or because I have secondhand embarrassment, but I'm working on it. However, I will not laugh if the joke you say is sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, or if you're just too arrogant. This is where it gets fun. Sometimes when I don't laugh at your offensive joke, you will point me out and attempt to humiliate me for not giving you a laugh. I don't know why you men do this because it never helps your set, so calm down and move on please. The absence of my laughter should be constructive criticism for your set, or would you prefer I scream "fuck you" throughout your stage time? To women: you do not owe anyone a laugh. To men: When you humiliate a woman to get your stupid laugh, you look like a big idiot.

Being a comedian is hard for everyone, regardless of gender. It's hard to be vulnerable in front of strangers who don't give a damn and are desperately asking for the check. We are lucky that the world is changing a little and there more female comics thriving in the comedy scene, but it is still a boys club. So thank you to the women before me, to the men that support us, and to the hosts that randomly choose our names out of hats every night. I hope next time I'm not the only female comic in the room.


About the Creator

Natalie Toland

I'm a Rhode Island native currently living in Chicago, IL. I'm a stand up comedian and aspiring late night television writer. I've often been referred to as a Slytherin Gemini Dreamboat (SGD), or at least I'd like to be.

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