Voices: The real reason I’m heckled has nothing to do with being gay or disabled

When I initially toyed with the idea of trying my hand at stand-up comedy, a lot of my hesitations had to do with my disability. Would the audience understand what I was saying? Would I get heckled for the speed of my voice? Would people make the wrong assumptions about me because of my cerebral palsy?

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Aside from the online stampede of ableist spanners who descend on me every time I appear on television (yawn), I don’t really experience any barriers in comedy when it comes to my disability.

Something I never expected to be an issue though, was my gender. As a gay and disabled person, I had so many other boxes to tick in my life I had almost forgotten the fact that I was a woman.

When I was growing up, I never felt like I was “lesser” because I was a lady. My mum was (and still is) my hero. She had a full-time job throughout my childhood, and she and my father were the best examples of a healthy and entirely equal relationship. They shared all the jobs... apart from cooking. That’s my dad’s domain. My mum can’t cook for s***!

In terms of comedy, my mum is so bloody funny – much funnier than my dad – and we would watch absolutely anything with Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, and French and Saunders. These women (including my mum) are the reasons why I decided to become a comedian.

When I started on the stand-up circuit in 2016, the first thing I noticed was that I’d often be the only woman on the lineup. Particularly on the open mic scene, where gigs were dominated by boys in polo shirts, making jokes about w***ing and having a fit mum. On the rare occasion that I would gig with another female, we’d both be delighted. We would cling to each other fiercely, unsure of when we’d get the opportunity to be on the same bill again.

Comedy is a lot like school, and often those comedians who started together, rise together. We’d climb through the ranks, from the open mic circuit to the paid circuit, and then, eventually, to the dizzy heights of the television panel-show world.

The group who were my peers, or my class as it were, was filled with brilliant female and non-binary comics like Maisie Adam, Kemah Bob, Sarah Keyworth, Chloe Petts and Sindhu Vee. We in turn were following in the footsteps of powerhouses in the cohort ahead of us: Katherine Ryan, Sara Pascoe, Roisin Conaty and Aisling Bea.

But even so, time and time again, I would still find myself being the only woman booked on a panel show. It’s almost as if the producers would seek out “a lady one”, secure one of us, and move on, without considering the damage done when you make the decision to only book one woman.

Our gender is not a style of comedy, nor is it a personality type. One female comedian does not speak for 52 per cent of the population, but when we are the only representation of our gender on a television show, there is a misconception that we do. That we have to.

The tide is changing. I recently hosted a new comedy show where the team captains were Katherine Ryan and Judi Love. I know – at least three female comedians on every episode of a television show, and yes it was still funny, and no our periods did not sync.

Whilst filming the series, I felt an incredible elation and a huge weight off my shoulders, and I think Judi and Katherine did too. For once we did not have to individually represent all the women in the world who have ever lived. We could simply focus on the thing that really matters: being bloody funny.

I am also being called a “comedienne” much less now, which is smashing news, because that used to really grind my gears.

Women are in a much better position in the comedy world than we were even five years ago. I no longer pass female comedians in green rooms, or in television studio corridors, like lonely ships in the night. I am no longer told that I am funny – dot dot dot – “for a woman”. And I no longer feel the immense and impossible pressure to speak on behalf of an entire gender.

I can simply speak for me, Rosie. A 33-year-old comedian, who happens to identify as a woman. Lovely stuff!