Sally Phillips: Female comedians still have to work twice as hard as men

The Smack The Pony star said that progress is being made, but at a ‘glacial’ pace.
The Smack The Pony star said that progress is being made, but at a ‘glacial’ pace.

Sally Phillips has said she has seen a “huge change” for female comedians in recent years, but that it is “still much harder” for them in general.

The actress and comedian said women have to work “twice as hard” as their male counterparts to leave a mark in the industry, and that the likes of fellow comic Aisling Bea would have found success much earlier if she were a man.

Phillips, known for co-creating and starring in sketch show Smack The Pony from 1999 until 2003, told the Press Association that the changes she has seen over the past three decades are “completely fantastic”.

“And they’re so funny and so ballsy and so confident, I have seen a massive and brilliant change.

“But it’s still much harder for them, and I think the way in which it’s harder is not immediately obvious, but once you see it, you can’t un-see it.”

Phillips, 48, said the progress has been “glacial, just incredibly slow”.

She added: “The fact that the BBC will turn stuff down because they say, ‘We’ve already got a women’s thing.’

“It’s not just me that’s happened to.

“You think, ‘Oh, my stuff just hasn’t been commissioned because it’s not good enough and if I complain, it’s me complaining when my stuff just isn’t as good’, but actually when it’s happening to all the girls, bar two, you go ‘Hang on.’

“It’s just unlikely that of a 100 men and 100 women, 50% of the boys’ things are good and 3% of the girls’ things are good.

“That just seems unlikely. Really, really unlikely.”

Phillips said that “from what I know of the girls, they have to work twice as hard”.

“I think the other way in which it’s difficult is there’s this pressure on newness, so you don’t get credit points for having been doing it (for) 15-20 years.”

Speaking of Bea, whose sitcom Happy AF starring Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan was commissioned by Channel 4, Phillips said her situation “made me angry”.

The Wife Premiere – London
Aisling Bea (Isabel Infantes/PA)

“(She) is so funny and so beautiful and so talented and at 34, has only just now had something commissioned.

“She’s been writing that with Sharon Horgan, who is a known presence.

“She only had a 15-minute pilot commissioned last year and you just go, ‘I know if she was a guy, she would have already had three series’.

“I know that for sure.”

Phillips, who is also known for her roles in the Bridget Jones’s Diary films and sitcom Miranda, will next appear in celebratory show My Favourite Sketch, which sees some of the nation’s top comedians look back at their most-loved funny scenes.

My Favourite Sketch will be on Gold from Friday October 5.