Andrew Watts - Feminism for Chaps, The Old Fire Station, Fri 5th June
Standing faux-nervously in a suit and tie at the front of a harshly lit studio, Watts begins at the beginning. Brandishing a notebook, he reads out parts of a scathing review of a previous show in which the reviewer accuses him of saying that women can be placated by a simple question about accessories. Watts is bitter; he is married to a feminist Guardian journalist after all. We’re five minutes into the show and despite Watts’ assurance that his gig really is for the chaps, and that he has no intention of trying to teach women about being women and about feminism, I am feeling dubious. ‘Here’s a man, his ego bruised, trying to reassure everyone that he really is into equality and all that’, I thought.
I could not have been more wrong. Over the 50 minutes the followed, Watts provides a cleverly constructed and amazingly witty crash course in feminism, from a brief history, to a man’s role in childcare, to an explanation of mansplaining. There’s even a bell hooks reference thrown in the mix. Between care duties and cricket analogies, Watts ensures that everyone is engaged and, importantly, that everyone is laughing.
Watts' humour arises mainly from the intelligence of his set-ups. He may be the only comedian to combine a feminist wave metaphor, with the actual theory of waves, in the context of a feminist sex party, in order to explain why we must rally behind a feminism that we believe in so that feminism is not cancelled out. The pacing is deliberately fast so that you’ve barely had time to cast your mind way back to GCSE Physics before Watts has slipped in the important message, delivered the punch line and moved on. Although this delivery style suits his awkward ex-Oxonian vibe, and stops the show becoming a lecture, I can’t help thinking that one more breath between jokes could have pulled in some more laughs. I love a good pun and this show is full of them. I especially like scribbling them down to whip back out in reviews, but there was certainly no time for that in this whirlwind of a show. You'll just have to go and hear them for yourself.
Perhaps the Oxford audience at the Old Fire Station is a relatively easy target for Watts’ message. He acknowledges this and tells us a story about adapting Feminism for Chaps for a comedy night in a strip club. This story is challenging, self-reflective and outrageously funny. And this is really what sums up Andrew Watts and Feminism for Chaps. Whatever position you're starting from, you'll leave feeling challenged, charmed and chortled-out.