The Difference Gender Makes to Humour and Comedy in Contemporary British Culture.

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The Difference Gender Makes to Humour and Comedy in Contemporary British Culture.

The purpose of this essay is to look at the difference gender makes to humour and comedy in contemporary British culture. It will do this by firstly looking at the history of women's humour. It will then explore the production of humour and comedy, and then the consumption of humour and comedy with gender differences. Humour is a universal human characteristic which all cultures posses. In the British society it is important to have humour, it is seen as a demonstration of health and well being. Gindele states of humour: 'even laughter is a sign: it can signify pleasure, "detached" amusement, and anxiety'.(1994, p159). Humour is a way of relieving tension.

Theorists such as Wagg (1998), say that all clowns were male in the 1940's, for example Charlie Chaplin and Max Miller.

Even a cursory glance through the archives of popular British comedy between the 1930's and the advent of 'alternative comedy' in the 1980's reveals both a numerical lack of roles for female comics and that the available roles fulfil a relatively narrow range of comic stereotypes. (Porter,1998, p.65).

According to Alice Sheppard (1995), women rarely ranked among important comedians. It was in the 19th century that some female writers became humorists, but it was more problematic for female comics. Porter says there is a lack of early documentation of comic performers, she argues that this is because there were fewer female comics or they were written out of history. She also says that early women comics have occupied clearly defined roles, used only as comic objects. Those who made it to the stage operated in fixed stereotypes, for example, Barbara Windsor was a tartly, giggly blonde, others were mother-in-laws and housewives, Phyllis Diller originally had a frazzled housewife appearance on stage. Joan Davis was the 'funny person', she was clumsy and showed constant self-rebuke, but when a female tries to imitate the male 'funny-person' by wearing baggy clothes, she is classed as 'fat'. According to Porter it was inappropriate for women to perform 'risqué' humour that expressed sexual desire because her sexuality was only seen to be a direct function of his. McGhee (1979) found that people in higher professions initiate jokes more than those in lower professions and so supporting his theory that joke tellers have more social power than others do. He states that until more recently women have occupied lower status roles than men have, with the Feminist movement improving their status.
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The production of humour and comedy ridicules others. Women have always had an aversion to ridicule. This means that there is a big distinction between male and female joke-tellers. McGhee says that the 'single main difference in humour is whether the joke teller is male or female.'(1979, p.201). He says that the male is more often the joke-teller whilst the female is usually in the position to react. Practical jokes and ritual insults are all part of humour and are very masculine, the clown or trickster is always male. Theorists such as McGhee (1979) and Sheppard (1985) say ...

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