After Backlash, SXSW Adds More Women Comics to Their Lineup

What Women Really Think
Feb. 24 2011 2:37 PM

After Backlash, SXSW Adds More Women Comics to Their Lineup

There was an Internet outcry last week when the South by Southwest festival announced their initial comedy lineup, and there was only one woman on the list. In a Jezebel post, comic and journalist Andrea Grimes wrote , "Even accounting for scheduling conflicts and drop-outs, I absolutely refuse to believe that SXSW organizers could only find one female comic ." SXSW comedy organizer Charlie Sotelo told me that he was "heartbroken" by the negative reaction to that list-and it's clear that he's listened to the criticism and responded. Of the four comics added to the lineup this week , according to a SXSW press release, three are women: Chelsea Peretti, Amy Schumer, and Jena Friedman.

I asked the Texas-based Grimes what she thought about the addition of these women to the lineup, and she was excited about the change ("Chelsea Peretti is especially brilliant," Grimes wrote in an e-mail). However, Grimes continued:

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Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

I guess the question I have is, would they have added these women (or three women, as opposed to one or two) if not for the backlash? Obviously there's no way to know. Adding comics (or bands) after the initial lineups is pretty standard for SXSW. But I think it's telling that they managed to get three women out of four here, but could only get one out of thirty two weeks ago. I think it calls into question their original reasons for not booking more women. On a more optimistic front, what it also does is show that this is a problem that is very easily solved, and that holding people responsible for doing better by female comedians gets results. And in this case, the result is an even better lineup than the original. These aren't token gals who get booked just to fulfill some kind of quota-they're awesome comics.

Indeed. I'm a fan of Peretti in particular ever since I saw her perform in a Variety Shac show. There's also a panel at SXSW called " The Female Funny " which will hopefully address some of these issues in a fresh way. And for the East Coasters looking for a lady comic fix, there's the Boston-based Women in Comedy Festival beginning on March 9 which includes our collective girl crush Morgan Murphy . Good news all around for comedy fans.

Update, Feb. 25: I received the following e-mail from SXSW programmer Charlie Sotelo, who says that the addition of more women comics on the latest press release was not directly related to the outcry:

This wasn't actually in response to the criticism. It's not like we were unaware before Thursday. We had been working to shore up the loss of a few comics well before the release. Programming something like this is a constant process of building while repairing what falls apart along the way. Our announcement date had been set for some time, and we went with what we had confirmed then. We would have likely ended up with 3 out of 4 women had nobody said a word. Not the same 3 though. After the reaction, dozens and dozens of comedians expressed interest. I'd invited a comedian I love months ago and when she recently gave me a definite 'no', I invited someone who reached out last week.




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