Monday, October 26, 2015

Is Winnipeg's Comedy Scene Too Male And White?

I read an article/opinion peice today in The Uniter, a paper put out by the University of Winnipeg. Lovely paper, I like what they do. And the article I read was quite well done and interesting indeed.

It was called "Funny Men", written by Tess Gauthier. In it, she argues, based on going to the regular comedy showcase at the Park Theatre, the Winnipeg's comedy scene is too male, and too white. Now, I'm getting older. In fact, I appear to be turning into a middle aged white man, the enemy of everything and everyone. And, I guess I'm growing more and more cynical of university kids and the whole liberal attacks on not enough diversity. Don't get me wrong, I am very liberal. And I am pro-diversity. In fact, in Winnipeg's comedy scene, I always hope to see diversity. The more the merrier from across the spectrum, I say. No matter what your religion, your race, your skin colour, your ethnic background, your gender, your sexuality or what have you, I hope that the comedy scene, in general, everywhere, would be a place where everyone can come together, laugh and have fun.

It's long been a complaint that comedy has been very male dominated in general. Ya, okay. Is it because it's an old boys club where women aren't welcome? Well, anyone who is making it that way is a jerk. Don't make it that way. There is and should be room for all. If you are a promoter, a fellow comedian, an audience member, or what have you, help support those from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and appreciated.

At the same time, if you want to see more women on stage, and you are a woman, get on stage! Make it happen! Make the diversity happen! Is it hard? Damn right it is. Comedy is not easy, no matter who you are and who is doing it. And you might run across jerks who say or do stupid things, either because their egos are out of wack, or they are sexist, racist, what have you. But that cannot stop you. You must keep going. It is hard. Ya. That doesn't mean it's impossible. Make it happen. Don't just say "Hey, the scene is too white and too male". Help make it so that it isn't. Ya, I can understand that it might be harder for women, as either a perceived concern or an actual concern. I can't speak for women, as I am not a women.

Now, it is argued in the piece that it is hard for women, kind of for the same reason it is often hard for women in many other fields...families. And I think that's why a lot of comedians of all stripes get out of comedy once they start having families. For touring comics, it's a lot of time on the road, and that is hard. So, it thins the herd.

In the end, however, I take a certain amount of offence to the article. I think the author, although a good writer, completely overlooked a large swath of the Winnipeg comedy scene in her assessment of it. I think she ignored much of the diversity, looked at a small portion of the Winnipeg scene and too quickly came up with a judgement that corresponds with a generalized idea of the world of comedy as a whole. Was she trying to actually report on a problem in Winnipeg comedy, or did she have a preconceived notion and tailor an article to fit it? I almost feel it is the latter.

Dig deeper, Tess. You are a good writer. The diversity is there, even if it's not perfect. Dig, come out to some of the others shows and events, see who is performing. As a native AND gay local comedian said, the diversity is's the visibility. Help by promoting and highlighting the diverse range of comedians in the scene. Help show the diversity. And, heck, help by grabbing the mic and getting on stage and adding to the diversity!

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