Veep and Bridget Jones’ star Sally Phillips has warned that British television is still sexist and there are fewer opportunities for women to break through.
Phillips, who played UN Special Envoy Minna Häkkinen in the HBO comedy, said sexism is just more hidden than it used to be on the small screen. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Phillips, who co-created influential comedy series Smack The Pony, was asked if women are as funny as men. “I don’t want to legitimise that question, because it’s an inherently misogynistic question. Of course, women are as funny as men. You have Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey and here we have Phoebe Waller Bridge, Roisin Conaty and Sharon Horgan. The sexism is just much more hidden. It used to be there were hardly any women with their own shows, or just a few like French & Saunders and Victoria Wood and now there are. Their progress is so slow through the ranks.”
She highlighted the progress of Aisling Bea, the Irish comedian who has appeared on panel shows such as 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, has had roles in series such as Gap Year and Hard Sun and has written with Catastrophe creator Horgan. “She had her first script read by the BBC when she was 26 and she’s now 34 and just made a taster tape. Whereas Rob Beckett, who is the other captain on 8 Out of 10 Cats, is very talented but has been given multiple platforms and had a pilot commissioned [Static]. It’s much slower and much harder for women. All of us have had scripts turned down because they say they already have a women’s thing,” she said.
Speaking as part of a special show to mark 100 years since women won the right to vote in the UK, Phillips, who stars in Genesius Pictures’ forthcoming comedy feature The More You Ignore Me, added that women are still only 31% of panel show contestants. “Because there are five slots for men and two for women, it feels like you’re at a job interview or on a date. Women are much sillier. There’s a different kind of humor, men sexualize everything. You just feel different when surrounded by blokes,” she added.