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Julian Hall

Julian Hall is the comedy critic for The Independent, a role he has held since 2003. Previously, he spent two years writing for, and eventually editing, the paper's "Pandora" gossip column. As comedy critic he has reviewed most of the major figures in comedy (including Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock) either at the Edinburgh Festival or on national tours. Julian has been on the judging panel for the Chortle Comedy Awards three times and for the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Award twice. He was also a member of the judging panel for the if.comedy awards (formerly The Perrier Awards) in Edinburgh in 2007 and in 2008. Julian’s book, Rough Guide to British Cult Comedy' was published in October 2006.

Julian's online portfolio can be found on: jnhfreelancearchive.blogspot.com

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Germaine Greer, Funny Woman

Posted by Julian Hall
  • Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 01:26 pm
"I should probably not have said, in so few words on television recently, that women aren't as funny as men." So said Germaine Greer in The Guardian on Monday, opening up that old can of chestnuts about the difference between men and women in the humour stakes. It's a subject that surfaces time and time again. Christopher Hitchens wrote a big piece on it a few years ago and I put a few pennies worth on the issue here on my blog in piece called "In Praise Of The Female Foursome".

There's a lot more I could say as pontifications on the subject have, like joke angles on the difference between men and women, infinite room for reinvention and an infinite shelf-life.

To contextualise Greer's backtracking she continues: "Put so baldly, the observation sounds like deliberate provocation, as if I was baiting feminists, or looking for some kind of a knee-jerk response. I was actually trying to present an aspect of the psychopathology of everyday life that strikes me as interesting and important. Women are at least as intelligent as men, and they have as vivid and ready a perception of the absurd; but they have not developed the arts of fooling, clowning, badinage, repartee, burlesque and innuendo into a semi-continuous performance as so many men have."

Hmmm. Let me stop you right there Germaine. If proof that sisters can do badinage were needed I can (and will) prescribe some further reading for the academic. Greer's Guardian piece has set many pens-a-scribing in response (it is interesting that on the net there is little reference to the televised remarks, I still don't know what show they were made on, and indeed most of the riposters don't seem to know either) of which one piece was penned by comedian Kate Smurfwaite who dissects Greer line-by-line.

Various points made by Smurfwaite show Greer up for not having her finger on the pulse. If you can't get past French and Saunders and still nostalgise about Victoria Wood you're not seeing the bigger picture and one that includes great talents like if.comedy newcomer Sarah Millican and a host of other women on the circuit now whose quality varies as much as their male counterparts.

Yes there have been female comedians who have won awards (though I accept that the awards they have won need a higher profile) and that remarks made in jest have been used against the comedian they originated from.

As far as Smurfwaite demonstrating her own wit and badinage I particularly enjoyed these "exchanges":

Greer: "Comedy is learned; you get better as you go along."

Smurfwaite: So - you would think - is journalism but honestly Germaine, I preferred your early stuff.

Greer: "Men who emerge as professional comedians grow up within a dense masculine culture of joke-making and have been honing their skills ever since they started school. Girls have nothing similar of their own and are not invited to horn in on the guys' act."

Smurfwaite: Because girls don't sit in classrooms giggling amongst themselves? Have you ever been to a school?

And if you are still looking for female badinage and repartee how about my friend Corrie McGuire, a comedy industry professional, who has allowed me to reproduce her Facebook status posted after she read The Guardian piece:

"Corrie McGuire thinks Germaine Greer should disappear up her own vagina and leave women in comedy to it."