Women and improv

While my buddies and I were waiting for the doors to open for a “women’s improv event,” we started talking women and comedy. My stance was along the lines of “seriously? this is the 21st century, of COURSE women are as hilarious as men, and have a strong presence in comedy, why is this even an issue, didn’t we get past it decades ago, sheesh.”

The next day, I found a compilation of the best Vines of 2013, which features about 5 women in 23 minutes of 6-second Vines.

(There are more than 5 women in total, but at least 20 of them are sidekicks/ cameos.)

It might just be this one video, but the skewed ratio got me thinking.



1. Numerical presence.

What is the actual proportion of women in— for the sake of keeping it to things I sort of understand— improv? The ratios seem pretty evenly 50/50 men/women… but are they really? Remember that Geena Davis piece where she mentions crowd scenes are usually only 17% female, which we viewers see that as totally normal and evenly co-ed?

I ran down all the current improv house teams in NYC that I could find, and averaged the results. (I am not a statistician.) The vast majority of house teams have 2 or 3 women per 8-person team.

Magnet: 23.657% female

PIT: 37.8% female

UCB: 34.375% female

UCBeast: 47.5% female*

*UCBeast has Detroit, an all-woman improv team, and only five house teams in total (that I can find personnel lists for.) I’d say this skews the results in their favor, but no other theater even HAS an all-woman (regular**) improv team, so screw that, UCBeast totally gets all the points here.

**Magnet has The Jezebelles— which are musical improv and not included in this particular count.


Overall average: 35.8% female

Maybe that’s better than it used to be, back in Ye Olde Days, but I’d still like to see it closer to 50/50, and I don’t have a good theory why it isn’t.



2. Characters

I don’t have much experience or insight to offer on this, but I hear that back in Ye Olde Days, female improvisers used to get pegged into submissive/inferior roles. I’m also told that women tend to play much stronger characters now, so maybe that’s coming around, I guess, hopefully.

…Just making a note. It seems important. I’d feel remiss if I left it out.



3. Are women funny?

Yes. What the fucking fuck, don’t even go there, the fuck is wrong with you.


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