In 2018 Mixed Bill created a space for discussion and action around comedy and marginalisation. The focus of our 2018 event, which took place at Sheffield Hallam University on 9th and 10th November, was comedy and power. This interdisciplinary conference reflected on the role comedy has played in the fight for equal rights for under-represented groups and how the comic both informs and disrupts political debate. A group of international scholars, activists, comedy makers and students discussed whether comedy can play a role in the move towards a more equal society…. or whether it holds us back?
The event involved a keynote address from Dr Sharon Lockyer, Director of the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (Brunel University), who discussed the intersections between comedy, disability and sexuality.
On the second day Dr Anamik Saha (Goldsmiths, University of London) built on his research into race and the cultural industries (from his recently published book of the same name) to discuss the way production contexts impact on the representation of British South Asians in TV comedy.
The event was closed with a plenary discussion chaired by Dr Kate Fox involving Steve Canny, Executive Producer for BBC Comedy, and comedian Isma Almas . This panel, which also included Dr Anamik Saha considered the current production context of UK comedy, the BBC’s diversity agenda and the continuing barriers to participation.
Attendees also worked together across the two days to create a reflective zine in response to the papers, presentations and performances. Here it is….
This document gives an insight into what was discussed, the questions everyone was left thinking and where we might take some of our collective comedy research next. The zine also contains various incongruous images relating to ‘in-jokes’… you had to be there for those bits…as is the nature of comedy.
Zine making with Chella Quint
The full programme of speakers can be found below and the abstracts of their papers can be downloaded here.
This year Sheffield Hallam University will be hosting us!
We are also thrilled to announce that we will be joined by keynote speakers Dr Sharon Lockyer, Director of the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (Brunel University), who will be discussing intersections between comedy, disability and sexuality, and Dr Anamik Saha (Goldsmiths, University of London) who will be drawing on his research into race and the cultural industries (from his recently published book of the same name) to contribute to our discussion of race and representation in comedy.
If you have any questions or want to talk through a potential proposal for the event please just get in touch.
We are very excited to announce that the keynote speaker for our Women and Comedy symposium at University of Salford on 19th October will be Dr Rosie White Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature, Theory and Popular Culture from Northumbria University.
Rosie’s published work includes material on Michèle Roberts’ fiction, on female action heroes and on the representation of women spies in popular fiction, film and television. Her current research examines women and comedy on British and American television, arguing that comedy has the potential to queer our understanding of gender as either masculine or feminine. She has written book chapters on the work of comedians Miranda Hart and Roseanne Barr as well as articles on character comedy performer Beryl Reid, and (a Mixed Bill favourite) Jessica Hynes and Julia Davis’ TV pilot Lizzie and Sarah.
Her keynote lecture will relate to her forthcoming book on Television Comedy and Femininity: Queering Gender (I.B. Tauris, forthcoming). And we CAN’T WAIT to hear it!
Smack the Pony: Queering Postfeminism in British Sketch Comedy
Dr Rosie White
Despite running for only three seven-episode series on Channel 4 (1999-2001) followed by two special one-off episodes in December 2002 and January 2003, the British sketch show Smack the Pony continues to generate discussion amongst fans and critics (Lewisohn 2003:705-6). Winning an International Emmy in 2000, Smack the Pony featured in the 2001and 2003 line-up for the fund-raising gala Comic Relief (BBC). It was screened as part of a British Film Institute season on ‘Trailblazers: Queens of Comedy’ in August 2012 during the festival which heralded the London Olympics. In this paper I examine Smack the Pony as a millennial comedy show which worked to queer heterofemininity at a moment when postfeminist discourses were establishing new gender ‘norms’. Popular fascination with artists such as The Spice Girls and shows such as Sex and The City (HBO, 1998-2004) reified a hegemonic femininity which was predominantly white, slim and heterosexual, with enormous resources to support a laborious regime of personal grooming. Rosalind Gill and Christina Scharff propose that ‘a postfeminist sensibility includes the notion that femininity is increasingly figured as a bodily property,’ for a body that is self-regulating, self-contained and sexualized primarily in terms of its capital within consumer culture (2011:4). In this paper I explore how comedy might challenge that postfeminist sensibility through the strategic deployment of grotesque and silly performances.
Watch this space – Registration details to join us on 19th October are coming soon.
Mixed Bill is a newly established comedy and gender research network currently made up of interdisciplinary researchers from Sheffield Hallam, Salford and Leeds Universities. The network exists to explore under-researched aspects of comedy and humour and the way this intersects with gender identities. Collective research interests include (but are not limited to) performance, cultural studies, contemporary feminisms, creative writing, celebrity studies, visual cultures, film, television, media and gender studies.
The core focus of the network is on raising public awareness of these areas through a series of events. These events will engage a variety of audiences including those working within the comedy industry, academics and the general public. Mixed Bill’s first event, a one-day symposium, will take place in October 2017 at the University of Salford and will explore the topic of women and comedy, an area which all three founding members are currently researching.
The programme will be released over the summer along with details of how to register for the event. So stay tuned.
Women and comedy symposium University of Salford
Thursday 19th October 2017
In 1985 the Guerilla Girls protested about the lack of women artists included in exhibitions at New York’s many internationally renowned museums. The argument underpinning their protest was that women are disproportionately represented as the object of art rather than as the artists themselves. This could be considered to be similar to the way the comedy industry in the UK has historically operated. Although women have always been involved in the creation of humour often their contribution has been overlooked, remained un-captured or simply written out of history.
Since the alternative comedy movement of the 1980s women have played a more active and high profile role as the generators of performed comedy, rather than operating solely as the subject for stereotypical punchlines. Put simply, ‘her indoors’ has become ‘her onstage’. This symposium event seeks to address the under-representation of women in critical considerations of comic performance and to provide an opportunity to explore the contributions made by those identifying as female to live and recorded comedy.
This symposium will be the first convened by Mixed Bill, a newly established interdisciplinary comedy and gender research network currently comprised of researchers from the Universities of Salford, Leeds and Sheffield Hallam. This inaugural event will be a vibrant mixture of academic papers, interventions, workshops and panel discussions and will coincide with the opening of the 2017 Women in Comedy Festival in central Manchester. As part of the symposium, attendees will be invited to the launch night festivities as a chance to socialise, network and encounter first-hand the evolving strategies that seek to challenge the inequalities on today’s live comedy circuit.
We welcome abstracts for 20 minute papers on comedy and female performance/representation which may include, but is not limited to, the following areas:
Comedy and politics
Intersectional issues and comedy
Comedy and contemporary feminisms
Comedy and female sexuality
The female body in comedy (self-objectification and ageing)
Comedy and women’s health and wellbeing
Comedy and female protest
We are particularly interested in papers and interventions that explore the work of UK based performers (either in the live arena or in recorded forms of comedy). This event is inclusive to all genders, however the focus of the papers will be on the work of those identifying as female.
Please submit abstracts by Monday 22nd May. Abstracts should be 250 words maximum in a Word document (not a PDF), with minimal formatting. Please also include (in the same document), and as independent of this word count: name; email and postal address; title and affiliation(s); recent publications / creative outputs; any further relevant biographical information. Decisions to be communicated by 9th June.
If you have any questions please get in contact with the symposiums organisers.
Ellie Tomsett (Sheffield Hallam University) Lisa Moore (University of Salford) and Kate Fox (University of Leeds) – email@example.com Follow us on Twitter: @MixedBill
If you have any questions, have access or dietary requirements then please just get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
You can see the full programme of awesomeness here.
We are very excited to announce that our industry panel will include the dream line-up of screenwriter Caroline Moran, stand-up comedians Ava Vidal, Sameena Zehra and Jackie Hagen, director of the Women in Comedy Festival Hazel O’Keefe and TV comedy producer Rebecca Papworth.