In 2018, a report by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain revealed that women wrote just 28% of TV episodes shown between 2001 and 2016.
The findings suggest the bias against female TV writers is caused by a straightforward lack of representation. But perhaps, as Georgia Pritchett suggests in the first episode of Female Pilot Club, there is a concern that if there is more than one woman in the same writers’ room, “Their ovaries will start synchronising, clubbing together and forming a suicide pact.”
Comedy writers Abigail Burdess and Kay Stonham and actor Emily Chase founded the Female Pilot Club live shows to challenge the male dominance of TV comedy. They selected uncommissioned pilot scripts written by women to be performed at a club by the cream of the comedy crop. Participants so far, have included Sarah Hadland, Jordan Stephens and Robert Webb.
For the podcast, the club founders interview the writers of the pilots showcased. These are interspersed with clips of their biggest zingers, which are always funny and help to illustrate the points made as they discuss the craft of comedy.
Pritchett was a big get for the first episode. She is one of the UK’s most successful screenwriters. Her credits include Veep, The Thick of It and Succession. Her insights are brilliant, especially on the cultural differences between the UK and the US, and how they have influenced her work.
For a long time in the UK, she says, we’ve laughed at our characters and not with them. For her, it is more interesting if you endow them with wit, or at least show them compassion.
According to Pritchett, it is not just the comedy culture that differs: writers rooms in the US are noticeably more diverse than those in the UK. Hopefully, with the help of clubs such as these, the UK will follow suit.