“Find me a woman who can be funny for hours without a script. It’s a huge problem. Plus Channel 4 will not use women that are not already known.”
How do women become known in comedy? By doing the stand-up circuit, which is notoriously gladiatorial. I would also argue that confidence, an essential component, comes later for women, who often take time out for bringing up children. Combine that with the obligation for women on TV to be young and beautiful as well as funny, and you end up with a dearth of comediennes. Women can be funny. I personally know several who are as quick as men although it is said that women’s humour is more observational, less combative and therefore less suited to the quick-fire repartee of panel shows.
In this Guardian article from 2004, the writer optimistically predicts that women will become more visible in comedy. It didn’t happen. There is still the same minority trickle of humorous women. I found this quote from Ronni Ancona, the female impressionist(2) revealing:
(1)Apparently the suffragettes were well aware of the uses of humour in politics and used ‘sillyness’ as a weapon.