Not getting a word in edgeways? Language, gender, and identity in a British comedy panel show

Robert Lawson, Ursula Lutzky

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Despite the great strides made over the past 30 years by female comedy performers, their status in a male-dominated industry has typically been marginal. This is coupled with the widespread view that even women who do appear on mainstream comedy face the challenge of getting their voices heard in an arena where it is often the loudest voice that wins. In order to investigate claims that female comedians contribute less than male comedians on comedy panel shows, this article presents the findings of a sociolinguistic analysis of the British show Mock the Week, drawing on an XML-annotated corpus of the transcripts of series five. Rather than viewing features such as talkativeness and interruption solely as a substantiation of conversational dominance (cf. Brand, 2009), we suggest that these can also be understood as strategies in the production of humour in the context of comedy panel shows. In addition to genre-specific considerations, our results show that the use of these features on Mock the Week is influenced by an interplay of social factors, rather than gender alone. Overall, this study could act as a catalyst for writers and production companies to use more linguistically-informed approaches to comedy show scripting, particularly in relation to issues of linguistic and representational inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143 - 153
JournalDiscourse, Context & Media
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 602011 Computational linguistics
  • 602004 General linguistics
  • 602048 Sociolinguistics
  • 602


  • Sociolinguistics
  • Conversational Dominance
  • Gender
  • Situational Role
  • Comedy panel show
  • corpus linguistics

Cite this