An Ungrateful Woman
Why Should I Be Grateful? Men Aren’t Are They?
Comedian Bridget Christie is seriously funny - unafraid to throw some feminism in among the laughs. She tells Stylist about her new Edinburgh Festival Fringe stand-up show...
in Stylist Magazine on July 1st, 2014
Some comedy acts make you laugh embarrassingly loudly, complete with snorting, tears and possible falling off chair.
Stylist favourite Bridget Christie is definitely one of these.
With her conversational yet sarcastic tone and occasional dark subject matter – female genital mutilation and anti-rape pants featured in the preview show Stylist saw – Christie is one of the comedians to see live (she picked up the top gong at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe for A Bic For Her), listen to (she’s doing a second series of her Radio 4 show Bridget Christie Minds The Gap), and read (her literary debut, A Book For Her, is due out next year).
Based in London with her husband, fellow comedian Stewart Lee, and their two children, the 42-year-old returns to Edinburgh this week with new show An Ungrateful Woman. So when booking your tickets for August’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, make sure she’s top of your list.
Here, in her own words, Bridget gives an exclusive preview of what to expect…
“After Edinburgh last year, I noticed my female friends saying they were grateful for promotions or opportunities they were getting and I thought, ‘Hang on. Why are we being grateful for things we should just have anyway? I’m not.’ I found an incredible quote from [19th century American women’s rights activist] Susan B Anthony: ‘Our job is not to make women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going. Gratitude never radicalised anybody.’ I’m not annoyed we’re making steps forward, but I’m not grateful. Why should I be? Men aren’t, are they?
Like the recent cabinet reshuffle: it’s only an extra four women in there. Let’s get real. Sadly, I think we have another 100 years before women are truly represented in parliament. That’s the reason for my show’s title. But I have a bottomless pit of material. I’ve progressed from last year, when I talked about pens made for women. This year, I also talk about the police, the judiciary, the media and how we’ve not dealt with the crime of rape. There is
a culture of doubt that you would not have with any other form of violence. Violence against women is not treated the same way as racially motivated or homophobic attacks. We’re talking about serious crimes, not casual sexism. Pretty light stuff, then [laughs].
I start from scratch when putting together a show. Stand-up has to be conversational, so I’ll write something but won’t learn it by heart – that way it sounds natural when I perform it.
I will do several work-in-progress previews over a few months, then do a really harsh edit. You have to be unsentimental about your material. I don’t just talk about things willy-nilly. There has been some thought put into it [laughs].
I know this sounds obvious but a comedian has got to make people laugh.
There are some dark things in my set but they are punctuated with silly things. If it was up to me, I’d do the whole hour about awful things but it’s not fair, is it? I’m a comedian, so the audience has to be laughing, but can I get the information in there as well?
Maybe one year I will replace all my feminist jokes with fart jokes; I would love that.
But I’m not worried about doing well. I’m not an ambitious person.
However, there’s a difference between not being ambitious and not wanting to be sh*t. But I’m not thinking, ‘What can I do this year that would go down well?’ The media really picked up on feminism last year, but apparently it’s not trendy any more.
So what? I should talk about something that will make me more popular?
I was on a train to a festival in Wales with [author and feminist] Kat Banyard, who is absolutely amazing, and we were discussing the abuse any woman who talks about basically anything gets. Kat told me this quote, which I really love. It’s not relevant to feminism specifically, just life in general.
‘To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.’ Aristotle. Isn’t that amazing?
If you’re looking for any really juicy details about my personal life, you’ll be disappointed. I don’t go into it. But there is the odd joke about my fictional children or husband, like the stereotype of the nagging wife. It’s amusing to have a fictional husband because I’m a feminist. The actual mundane conversations we have would not interest anyone. Domesticity kills conversation.
I only get nervous if people I know are in the audience. I think, ‘Please don’t let this be the one bad one out of 10 or 20 shows.’
When I’m in Edinburgh, I see all the Americans and Australians who I might not be able to see on the London circuit. I go through the programme putting a ring around shows, then get a massive piece of paper and write in the times, like a spreadsheet but an old-fashioned one.
Like one someone in prison would do.”