Dara O Briain has hit out at a BBC ban on all-male line-ups for comedy panel shows, saying viewers will now see any female guest as a ‘token woman’.
The Mock The Week host said stand-up comedy has naturally tended to have a much larger share of male comics.
And in an interview with Radio Times he said rather than dwelling on the representation of women in comedy, efforts would be better spent on tackling gender imbalances in other areas, such as the numbers who are involved in computer coding.
His comments follow BBC director of television Danny Cohen’s pledge that ‘we’re not going to have any more panel shows with no women on them’.
“It’s not acceptable,” Danny said in a newspaper interview about the exclusion of women.
But Dara suggested viewers will now view guests in a different light and said if changes were needed they should have ‘evolved’.
“I wouldn’t have announced it, is what I’d say. Because it means Katherine Ryan or Holly Walsh, who’ve been on millions of times, will suddenly look like the token woman,” said the maths and theoretical physics graduate, soon to host a new series of School Of Hard Sums for the Dave channel.
“It would have been better if it had evolved without showing your workings, if you know what I mean. Legislating for a token woman isn’t much help.
“A certain number of women want to go into comedy, and they should be cherished and nurtured, but you’re not going to shift the fact that loads more men want to do it.”
Dara said the smaller pool of female comics has meant that Mock The Week has booked some panellists much earlier in their careers than male guests, adding: “But this makes it even tougher for them.”
He went on: “I wish a tenth of the energy that was put into the women-on-panel-shows debate was put into women in computer coding, in which there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in Europe, and 11 per cent of them are done by women. It seems a more sensible challenge than these 300 people [in stand-up comedy] and how they are represented.”
A spokesman for the BBC said of the move to eradicate all-male panels: “We’ve had fantastic feedback on this from female talent and viewers who felt that change wasn’t happening fast enough. We’re confident that a wider range of voices and opinions will make for even better telly.”