Chaired by Kate Stuart who has worked at the Edinburgh Fringe for almost 30 years, the panel was made up of Lynne Parker of Funny Women, cabaret hostess and singer Lili La Scala and comedian Kate Smurthwaite. Each has been coming to the Fringe regularly. Kate Stuart commented that until she was invited to chair the panel she had "not thought of the Fringe as 'gender specific'".
However when Kate Smurthwaite, who is currently putting both her 8th and 9th show on at the Fringe and has a regular column in the Guardian said she had never been reviewed by a national newspaper it appears that maybe there is a problem. This wasn't another 'Are Women Funny?' event, it was a discussion of the treatment of funny women.
Now, I have never seen Smurthwaite's stand up. It could be that she is simply not great at comedy. The answer to every knock back unfortunately has to be 'try harder'. As Tiff Stevenson said at the end of her show "Live comedy is a meritocracy".
Don't ask and you won't know if this is sexism or timidity.
An observation of Smurthwaite's of other women performers is that while their male colleagues go out and ask for the work while many women won't. Don't ask and you won't know if this is sexism or timidity.
Performer Rachael Clerke commented that so far all her reviews from the Fringe referred to her as a girl, meaning she felt she couldn't use them. A woman of colour who had visited the fringe in 2006 noted there were still very few acts on the fringe who weren't white. The cost of putting on a show has also resulted in the white women of the Fringe being predominantly middle class.
A thing I did notice at the Fringe is that women comedians are going on stage and somehow bare their souls altruistically. This is their autobiography but it is not self obsessed, it is reaching out. Mae Martin is talking about her various anxieties, Susan Calman discusses her nervous breakdown and dislike for herself, Abigoliah Schamaun tells of her promiscuity and being bereaved, Tiff Stevenson discusses body dysmorphia, dermatillomania and suicide all for a laugh but also to open up the desperately needed conversation.
We currently have a huge amount of brave, funny, intelligent women on the comedy scene, we all need to be more mutually supportive and louder.