“They don’t want too many women on the bill.” Update: Mirth Control, the company who does booking for the venue that canceled the comic’s performance, has issued an apology.
1. Update, March 8, 4:14 p.m., ET: Geoff Whiting, head of operations at booking company Mirth Control, told BuzzFeed he ended his relationship with Hemingway’s, where Jen Collier was booked, following the incident.
“It’s safe to say we have ended our ties with Hemingway’s,” he said. “We won’t be putting any shows into that venue.”
Hemingway’s owner has seemed to Whiting like he is “not awfully keen on women,” Whiting said, “which I’ve ignored, because I’m pro-female comedians.”
Whiting seemed upset at the incident, mentioning that 1 in 15 comics in the U.K. are female and he prides himself that the last show at Hemingway’s was 33% women, with 3 out of 9 female comedians.
“I’m known among comics as being an absolutely proactive female comic booker,” he said.
Whiting, a comedian himself who books shows at 106 venues, said this is “probably the only time a female comic has been canceled specifically for being a female comic” that he knows of in his 17 years as a booker. “This is a pinprick in my career,” he added.
3. Update, March 8, 3:31 p.m., ET: Mirth Control Comedy, the company that books comics at the venue where Jen Collier was scheduled to perform, issued a statement apologizing for the cancelation on their website.
In response to the cancelation of comic Jen Collier’s performance at Hemingway’s in Haslemere, England, because they had booked “too many women,” Mirth said they “apologise [sic] unreservedly for any offence [sic] caused.”
The show in question had booked three female comics in a show of five people, but Hemingway’s insisted that “female clients did not suit their audience.” Mirth wrote, “[T]his request was not to place any ‘ban’ on female comics only to temper the numbers in order to suit their clientele,” adding that a February show with three female comics was “well received.”
“We then elected to take a measured approach which was to remove one female act on that specific line up, leaving the two others in place.” The statement went on to say that Mirth Control books “more female acts on the UK comedy circuit than any other agent.”
The email Collier received was worded “perhaps a little too frankly,” the statement said, adding that they will offer her a “large number of gig opportunities” at other clubs “in order to redress this oversight.”
Although the company released the statement, a female employee at Mirth seemingly hung up on a BuzzFeed reporter after being reached Saturday afternoon. After calling back, the phone quickly went to a voicemail for Comedy Club Team member Suzy Simmons. Paul, a manager at Hemingway’s, also declined to comment.
4. In the meantime, women are responding by commenting on Hemingway’s Facebook page in anger.
5. And some men got in the on the commenting action as well.
Read Mirth Control’s full statement:
Mirth Control is an equal opportunities company that prides itself on championing women in comedy in the UK.
In response to the recent incident involving cancelling a female act from a show, we apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.
The client in question reacted to an email that we sent them (showing a bill onto which we had booked five acts so far, three of which were female) by commenting in strong terms that female comics did not suit their audience and could we take this into account please. We will not accept a relationship with any client who wishes to exclude women entirely from all bills, this is a consistent policy that has spanned many years. However this request was not to place any ‘ban’ on female comics only to temper the numbers in order to suit their clientele. Indeed we did respond to the client to point out that on the previous show (in February) three female acts had appeared and were all very well received. We then elected to take a measured approach which was to remove one female act on that specific line up, leaving the two others in place.
We would like to make it clear, that Mirth Control was in no way responsible for, nor does it endorse the decision made by the venue, we currently book more female acts on the UK comedy circuit that any other agent.
We would also like to apologise to the female comic for the email she received from our team who was expressing the view of the client unedited and perhaps a little too frankly and was inappropriate in our view in it’s wording. It is true that the email fairly reflected the desire of the client for less women to appear on upcoming shows but it did not offer an alternative booking at the venue on a different date, or alternatively a booking at a different club on a different date to make up for this loss of stage time and this was wrong and not in keeping with our general way of operating. She will be offered a large number of gig opportunities by us at a range of other comedy clubs immediately in order to redress this oversight.
We are glad that this important subject has come up for discussion and our policy of supporting and promoting female comedians is central to our core philosophy and will only be strengthened by an event such as this, indeed it has increased our resolve to ensure that they are given even more opportunities in future to perform for us and develop their craft at all the clubs with which we are associated.
This is our pledge to all female comics whether newcomers or established performers which will be met assiduously.