There are two major problems with TV in this country: that Gok Wan is allowed on it, and that there are hardly any female comics on mainstream shows. I recently wrote an article asking where the bloody hell all of the funny laydeez are, and challenged readers to list 10 stand-ups sans peepee. Needless to say, nobody could think of very many, and I didn’t have the heart to tell the person proud of themselves for naming 11 (after thinking about it ‘all day’) that newspaper columnists didn’t shitting well count, nor did semi-retired actresses who hadn’t been on the telly box since the Cretaceous period.
But anyway I digress, what I was trying to figure out was where these mistresses of merriment (sorry) were hiding while we were watching Miranda Hart slip on a banana skin for the 48th time, and then it hit me. AMERICA. The US of bloody A. Across the pond, women are writing their own shows, starring in them and lapping up critical and commercial acclaim. Future funny women of the UK take note, for this is how it’s done.
So in the US there’s this show that not many people write on/talk about/excessively over-intellectualise called Girls, where young women who are funny and spend zero time talking about their hair (SHOCKER) actually provide belly laughs, pertinent storylines and a worryingly realistic glimpse into life during the festering shit pit that is one’s early twenties. The first series felt like the freshest thing to hit the small screen in years, with witty writing aplenty and such a stronghold on the zeitgeist that it seemed hard to believe that anything could ever better encapsulate the moment than these bra-less fuck ups who couldn’t make rent. (Let’s be real, the second season was a massive let down but I put that down to the premature dispatching of Elijah. Bring him back, Dunham, and we’ll say no more about it). And then Lena Dunham, its writer and creator, became a hero, which here means someone people propelled to fame and fortune, got jealous of and then tried to tear down at every opportunity. In other words: she made it.
But while Girls did bring something new to the table, there were quite a lot of people sitting there already. Take, for example, Parks and Recreation – the Amy Poehler fronted mockumentary about a rag tag group of local government workers who make the dullest premise on earth for a show utterly hilarious. Although written by and starring many-a-dude, the show’s most prominent relationship is the one between Poehler’s lead character Leslie Knope (unisex name – in your FACE, conformity) and best friend Ann, and they use the programme as a vehicle to address issues of actual importance like gay marriage and the under representation of women in government. The BBC may have only just got round to airing it, but the show is nearing the end of its fifth season in the States, and those who stick with it through the admittedly less accomplished first series will not be disappointed.
And those shows are far from the end of America’s funny females pool – New Girl still makes for great viewing two seasons in and is starred in by everyone’s favourite not-actually-that-offbeat oversized specs wearer Zooey Deschanel. Again, it’s written by a woman, and again, displays a strong female friendship as one of its central relationships. Then there’s Tina Fey’s award-nabbing hit 30 Rock, which recently bowed out after seven successful series, and Mindy Kaling has just picked up the comedy baton in her new self-titled show, The Mindy Project. Not only is Kaling the creator and star (much like 30 Rock and Girls), but the show is also the first in the US to feature a south Asian American as its lead. Hear the (archaic) barriers crashing down, people.
I think amidst my waxing lyrical in the last 500 odd words I have at least tried to make a point, which is that America is wooping our pasty hineys when it comes to showcasing original female talent. I refuse to believe that a 6ft woman being mistaken for a man every three minutes is the best lady-fronted entertainment this country has to offer, and while Miranda does genuinely deserve some big old kudos for giving women a small screen comic presence, it’s about time we started evening out the criminal gender motivated comedy divide.
And can somebody please see to Gok Wan.