Bridget Christie tells us how her career was kick started by a Damascene moment in a bookshop on April 30, 2012. An unhelpful (male) bookshop assistant, who had never heard of Virginia Woolf or Mary Wollstonecraft, passed wind in the women’s studies section because he assumed that it is the safest place in the shop to do so — that nobody ever visited that particular area.
Something went ping! inside Bridget Christie’s head: “This is where feminism is today ... something to be farted at. No one goes to the women’s studies section anymore, not now. There’s no need for it! That’s all done now, isn’t it? Women can vote and vajazzle and vomit at weekends now, can’t they?”
Bridget Christie is a fortysomething feminist comedian. “People think feminists are all a load of butch hairy lesbians, stomping around academia using impenetrable language, calling all men rapists and drawing trousers on ladies’ toilet signs,” she writes in her new book, A Book For Her. “But that’s not all feminists. That’s just me, working alone.”
She writes as she speaks, an absurdist stream of consciousness which takes on everything from flatulence in bookshops to female genital mutilation without pausing for breath. “Historically, us women haven’t been allowed any actual power,” she says. “We’ve had to make do with power’s sickly cousin, status.”
Her thing is that feminism and being funny are not, as the male- dominated world of comedy would have us believe, mutually exclusive. That feminism is as funny as anything else, and that comedy is as sexist as anything else.
Her comedy is not exclusively about feminism: “I hope loads of angry feminists don’t start asking for refunds. Or for my head on a stick. Oh they love heads on sticks, the feminists.”
She’s been at this a long time. Earlier on, when a male reviewer suggested her career progress was due to her sleeping with the appropriate people, she responded: “There isn’t a casting couch in stand-up comedy. There isn’t even a couch. That’s why we’re always standing up.”
Her shows were surreal and involved costumes and role play and had titles like War Donkey and My Daily Mail Hell. Then, after the bookshop incident, she realised that she had to write about stuff that really bothered her.
Once she began doing that, she produced her breakthrough show in 2013, A Bic For Her, named after a real product (check out the product reviews from the general public on Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B004FTGJUW.
You will weep with laughter, unless you happen to work in Bic’s marketing department). Since her bookshop epiphany, Christie has won seven major comedy awards, been nominated for two more, as well as publishing A Book For Her.
“Attitudes towards female stand-ups are much better now because there are loads of us,”she writes. “People are used to seeing us now, like recycling bins.”
Christie is the youngest of nine children, and left school at 14 to become a biker. She was in the Swiss Alps on a motorbike by the time she was 17, and working in London a year later. She spent five years as a gossip columnist with the Daily Mail, despite her strong leftwing background. Her Irish parents met in London as “teenage immigrants”, and brought their family up in Gloucester; they were “lifelong Irish Catholics, lifelong Labour Party supporters and lifelong Tory-haters”.
Her late mother was “fiercely feminist, but she’d never have identified as one”. These days her dad and siblings come to her shows, which she sees as a mark of her success — that she can perform comfortably in front of them.
“I didn’t chose Catholicism, by the way,” she tells us. “I inherited it, along with alcoholism, two webbed toes on my right foot, and a large collection of Pope memorabilia.” Coming from a large Irish family, she says “we’re like an amphibious version of the Nolans. Who can’t sing.” She married comedian Stewart Lee in 2006 and the couple have two children.
Bridget Christie is urgent, insistent, surreally funny and satisfyingly cerebral. The obvious comparison is with Caitlin Moran, but Christie’s voice is too unique to be compared with anyone. In terms of awkward subject matter, she remains fearless - and logical. Her suggestion that feminism should be about men, not women, because it is how men perceive and behave towards women which makes women feminist in the first place.
Take gendered language: “John beat Mary” turns into “Mary was beaten by John” turns into “Mary was beaten” turns into “Mary is a battered woman”.
Where has John gone? How did he manage to be removed from the picture? Why is this all about Mary? Writes Christie, “Sure the story is ‘WHY did JOHN beat Mary’?”
Christie asserts that what all feminists do all day long is sit around burning bras and hating men for holding doors open for them. She is kidding. This is her great talent. She takes our perceptions of funny and unfunny and turns them on their gendered head. More please.
Let’s hear it for the girl.