Some interesting responses to the post about the Screenwipe TV writing special. It hadn't occured to me that the writers Charlie was interiewing were all male, but when I tried to think of some female television writers as well-known as RTD, Paul Abbot, Bain and Armstrong or Tony Jordan, I simply drew a blank. After a bit of a struggle, I came up with Kay Mellor and Lynda La Plante, although I can't pretend to be that familiar with the work of either of them.
Yet if we're specifically talking about comedy, there are of course, plenty of female comedy writer/performers: The Bearded Ladies, Sharon Horgan, French and Saunders, Ruth Jones, Meera Syal, Catherine Tate and Julia Davies to name but some. So why is this?
1. I think mainly because comedy-writing as a profession is just terribly terribly geeky, which has to be combined with a sort of misplaced rage that women don't seem to suffer from in quite the same way as do men. It's quite a macho little world, in a seedy, sad sort of way.
2. Performer to writer is quite a natural sidestep. This annoyed me terribly when I first started out. These people already have careers of their own, why would they want mine as well? But it actually makes perfect sense: all that time sitting around doing nothing while you wait for people to fiddle with lights means you often have time to think 'surely I could write better than the load of old rubbish masquerading as a script in front of me?' Plus, comedy's a small world - if you already have a living, however meagre, as a performer, you're well placed to get your material to agents, producers and commissioners, in a way you simply don't if you're just starting out.
UPDATE: also, lest anyone think I'm having a go at writer/performers here, people who regularly have to read out their own lines, or those written by other people, usually pick up a load of skills directly transferable to writing: dialogue written by those used to performing is often much more convincing than that written by someone who's never actually had to say their own words aloud. Comic timing translates to the page better than you'd think: think of Victoria Wood, for example. Writer/performers can often fall down on structure (which I often think is overrated anyway), but they usually know how to write dialogue that sounds like something someone would actually say, rather than a bit of speech that just bridges a gap, or fixes some other minor technical problem.
3. Comedy seems to be more and more geared towards writer/performers generally. There really isn't that much cash on offer for writing a half-hour episode of comedy (the starting rate for a channel four sitcom is about seven grand, which may sound a lot until you realise that has to cover month's worth of writing and rewriting, and often you'll be put on a Comedy Lab or similar scheme, which can pay about half that). There's more money in performing, so many actors write scripts almost at a loss, knowing they'll make back the cash if they cast themselves.
4. Female writers just don't seem to do that sort of 'snappy one-liner auto-cue here comes a joke about John Prescott being fat' sort of thing that gets so many comedy writers started. Not to say that they couldn't if they wanted to, but for most of the female comedy writer/performers I know, their material seems to be more complex than that, less reliant on kneejerk 'lol Will Young is teh gayz' type stuff. Thankfully.
5. I suspect quite a few women comedy performers are pushed into writing almost solely because good material for women comic actors is so thin on the ground.
But that's just off the top of my head, and I'm not a) female, or b) a performer, so they could all be completely wrong. Any other points of view, please feel free to comment below.