Jokes on racism, homophobia or ‘midgets’…? All good if they challenge issues, says female comic Tanyalee Davis

A Canadian comedian touring in Salford has spoken of how she regularly has to deal with abuse from strangers because of her dwarfism.

Tanyalee Davis, 43, performed at The Captain’s Comedy Club last night, offering a glimpse of her unique experience in comedy as a female dwarf.

Tanyalee revealed she experiences a lot of abuse from strangers on a daily basis due to her height and she is too often labelled a ‘midget’.

“This word is a taboo because for little people. We have no other identification other than that word, people say ‘oh look at the midget’, or ‘oh my god there’s a midget’,” she told MM.

“You don’t have a name and people will yell from cars and throw stuff.

“You might as well put a spotlight right on you in a shopping mall. I don’t think the general public realises how hurtful it is to ridicule with that word.”

Bullying is an issue close to her heart and she is a support of anti-bullying organisation Bullying Stinkz.

“I was bullied as a kid and I think kids these days are so strained, It’s not just in schools because they go home and can be cyberbullied and kids are killing themselves because of it,” she said.

ALL SMILES: Tanyalee poses with Liverpool comic, John Bishop

“Being a comedian sharing my stories, you’ve got to have a strong sense of humour to deal with things like that.

“I do think I’m a good role model because I have a very positive take on life and I have overcome many challenges, I think I inspire people so I’m proud to be part of the organisation.”

Earlier in 2014, popular comedian Warwick Davis slammed people who use the word ‘midget’ for searching for a ‘cheap laugh’ on behalf on little people.

“Warwick is specifically speaking to average sized people when he speaks, I do know that and often when it is used it will be in a derogatory sense,” she said.

“I use the word (on stage) but I do explain that I am going to use it and that it can be considered quite derogatory.

“I do agree with him there are a lot of comedians who use the word in really shitty jokes.

GIRL POWER: Laurie Kilmartin (right) is one of the top female comedians out of New York

“Some will use it during gigs when I’m on next and people are left thinking ‘I wonder if he knew she was on the show?

But pushing boundaries and challenging prejudice is all part of being a comedian according to Tanyalee.

“As a comedian we have free speech so despite people speaking out and saying don’t use the word, comedians can do whatever the hell they want unfortunately,” she said.

“I’ve seen some brilliant acts based on racism and homophobia and if they suck it’s not good but if they’re funny you’ve got to admire them for that, if they challenge those issues in a really clever way.”

The performer, who has also featured in events at the Frog and Bucket as well as XS Malarky, also spoke out against the ‘lack of respect and opportunities’ for female performers trying to break into the industry.

ICON: Warwick Davis has also voiced his concerns with the term ‘midget’ (Image courtesy of Star Wars, with thanks)

“Being a female comedian is not easy in a male dominated industry, there’s a lack of respect and opportunities given and being a little person the industry has not really given me a proper shot,” she told MM.

“If they have a woman on the show it’s a token female act and I just wish there wasn’t such an emphasis on gender.

“I constantly hear people say ‘I don’t find female comedians funny’ but I can name a number of female comedians that are hysterical.”

Later in the year the Female in Comedy Festival will come to Manchester for two weeks of female comedy acts.

Tanyalee performed in the festival only last year and was full of praise for the opportunity for more women to make a dent on the comedy business.

“I did it last year and was very happy to be a part of it, in the whole scheme of things it’s all male dominated shows anyway so this gives people exposure to a lot of the great comedy by women.

“It’s a bit like doing the Paralympics because people don’t have much exposure to disabled athletes similarly to how people don’t have much exposure to female comedians.”

Images courtesy of Tanyalee Davis, with thanks.

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