Diary: Backward step
Comedian Maureen Younger is unimpressed by the return of the rape joke
April 2005, Manchester: The onset of a premature mid-life crisis combined with the advice of an unreliable friend means I decide to become a stand-up. So here I am gigging in Manchester. I have to share a bedroom with Shazia Mirza. At about 4 am a woman keeps wandering into the room. I turn to Shazia and say ignore her, she just wants attention. So we do. Turns out later, it’s her bedroom.
June 2006, Hammersmith: Typical open mic night. Acts outnumber the audience 3 to 1. I still have a good gig, and a male comedian comes up to me and whispers, “You’re quite good actually”, unable to completely remove the shock from his voice. It’s great being patronised by some lad in his early 20s with designer stubble, when all you’re thinking is “My facial hair grows quicker than that.”
November 2007, Southampton: As I make my way off stage, the MC says “Maureen Younger everybody. I’ve fucked her.” I turn round and point out to the audience what a ludicrous assertion that is as he’s far too old and far too ugly. On hearing this, the MC seems to be rather narked, though the audience agree that I have a point.
February 2008, Richmond: At a heat for a competition the comic on before me does his entire set about mutilated vaginas, referring to them as “flanges”. He then proceeds to show the audience A3-size photographs of mutilated vaginas with titles such as “Spewing Chunks”. The audience is stony. With the atmosphere in the room plunging well below zero, the MC brings me on by saying, “Here’s Maureen Younger, let’s hope she doesn’t show us her flange.” I go on stage, slap him and then threaten to get my cock out. That shuts him up.
October 2008, Worcester: I’m the warm-up act for Puppetry of the Penis. This entails sharing a small dressing room with two naked young men. In the process I get to see quite a lot of scrotum. It seems you can have too much of a good thing after all.
November 2008, London: At a heat for the Hackney Empire New Act Competition, for which I’m a selector, eight of the 12 male comics tell rape jokes. Later that month I follow an act doing 10 minutes of rape jokes to increasing silence. He puts this down to the “edgy” nature of the material rather than a more obvious reason: he’s not funny. Some young female comics on the circuit start telling rape jokes and other anti-women gags, ranging from the theory that women aren’t really people to extolling the virtues of low self-esteem. One female comic lambasts feminism, and is at great pains to point out that just because she uses the term Ms, this doesn’t mean she’s a lesbian. From the audience’s response, it seems that it’s an assumption that no one besides her would be likely to make.
May 2009, Manchester: It’s always a tough gig when the bar staff start heckling, and the back row are using the comedy as cover for a major drugs deal. The comic on before me flees the stage after just five minutes of his 20-minute set. The gig is pulled. Following a lively chat between the promoter, the publican and myself, I agree to go on. Just before I do, a fellow comic kindly informs me that all female comics are shit. End up having a great gig and being asked out by the drug dealer. I decline the offer, but it’s nice to be asked.
Maureen Younger runs the monthly all-female comedy night Laughing Cows.