Dara O'Briain: BBC ban on all-male comedy panels will lead to 'token woman' tag

Dara O’Briain thinks the BBC’s ban on all-male comedy panels should have “evolved” without making future female guests appear as the “token woman”.

The Mock the Week presenter criticised the decision, arguing that stand-up by nature has a larger share of male comics.

“I wouldn’t have announced it, is what I’d say, because it means Katherine Ryan or Holly Walsh, who’ve been on millions of times, will suddenly look like the token woman,” he told the Radio Times.

“It would have been better if it had evolved without showing your workings, if you know what I mean. Legislating for token woman isn’t much help.

“A certain number of women want to go into comedy and they should be cherished and nurtured, but you’re not going to shift the fact that loads more men want to do it.”

O’Briain went on to argue that tackling gender inequalities in other areas such as computer coding would be a more effective use of time than dwelling on the representation of women in comedy.

“I wish a tenth of the energy that was put into the women-on-panel-shows debate was put into women in computer coding, in which there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in Europe and 11 per cent of them are done by women,” he said. “It seems a more sensible challenge than these 300 people (in stand-up comedy) and how they are represented.

O’Briain added that because of the small pool of female comics, Mock the Week books some panellists who are far less experienced than their male co-stars, which only “makes it even tougher for them”.

The Irish comedian’s comments follow Danny Cohen, BBC director of television’s recent vow: “We’re not going to have any more panel shows with no women on them. It's not acceptable."