The line-up for 2018's season of Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents is here and if you thought comedy would improve for women following the Louis C.K. allegations and the reckoning happening all over the industry, I'd invite you to think again. Three out of the nine comedians on the docket, Emmy Blotnick, Megan Gailey, and Sarah Tiana, identify as women. I almost wasn't going to write this article because I've been conditioned to think that, when it comes to comedy, 33% of the representation is not that bad. But it is that bad, because this is technically the highest percentage of women that have participated in a season of the series.
During the first season of The Half Hour, Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents' predecessor, there was exactly one (1) female act, the duo Garfunkel and Oates, starring Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci. This made up 8% of the twelve slots that year. That number slowly climbs with 11% making up season 2; 16% season 3; 21% season 4; 29% season 5; and last year's Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents just breaking 30%.
So who do we blame for this? Is it Comedy Central, who could have made an effort to include more women during a year when it feels like it's way too late to not notice this problem? Or society, which stops women from pursuing comedy in the first place?
"I want to talk about how women as a whole have been hobbled by systemic sexism and misogyny," comedian Eliza Skinner wrote in an essay for Refinery29. "How – because we have been held back, discouraged, or assaulted – not as many of us have become the comedians, writers, directors and producers who can make film and TV from our perspective."
But at the same time, as Skinner later writes, that's no reason to overlook the ones who are still in the industry. I mean, I live in Brooklyn. I literally can't turn a corner without bumping into someone who wants me to come to their open mic. It's disappointing to see that not enough of these women are making it out of the back rooms of bars and onto an actual stage, let alone in front of a camera. And it's disappointing that, even now, as I'm writing, I'm worried I'm overreacting, that I should be grateful that we finally hit 33%.
I'm not grateful — but I am hopeful. Here's to 2019.