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Ban all-male comedy writing teams? It's a joke at the expense of genuinely funny women

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Female writers like Phoebe Waller-Bridge have produced some of the most ground-breaking comedies of recent years - without the need for quotas

What matters most is whether you have chemistry with your fellow writers – male or female

Saskia Schuster, ITV’s head of comedy, says she “won’t commission anything with an all-male writing team” anymore, and to correct “the significant lack of shows written by women”, she has launched a scheme called Comedy 50-50.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Sew up my splitting sides! Sorry, I thought it was a joke, it sounds so much like an episode of BBC2’s W1A.

But it’s unlikely to be a joke, because as a comedy writer for 30 years, I know that very few heads of comedy have a sense of humour.

Now, if Schuster’s rule had been enforced in the past, we would never have had men-only masterpieces like Clement/Le Frenais’s Porridge, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, or The Likely Lads. No Galton and Simpson’s Hancock or Steptoe and Son. Monty Python’s Flying Circus would never have taken off and The Office would have remained deskbound.

God, I hate quotas. Women comedy writers don’t need to be promoted for their gender alone. Are you funny? Can you write funny? That’s what’s important – not whether you’re male or female.

Women have written some of the best, sharpest and most ground-breaking comedy since television began. Carla Lane, Victoria Wood, Jennifer Saunders, Sharon Horgan, Tina Fey, Miranda Hart, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. None of them made it because they were on a fast-track diversity programme, where their scripts went to the top of the pile because they were girls. They were successful because they wrote funny, fabulous comedy scripts.

If you are putting a writing team together, the last thing you should be thinking about is the gender balance. It’s not some sad, suburban dinner party, where the hostess insists on a “boy/girl” seating plan. What matters, more than anything, is whether you have chemistry with your fellow writers – whatever their sex or gender.

And hang on: if you ban all-male writing teams, shouldn’t you, in the interests of equality, also ban all-women writing teams?

Schuster believes that “too often the writing room is not sensitively run, it can be aggressive and slightly bullying”. So, is she saying that women are weak and tearful and can’t stand up for themselves? That everyone must be nice and polite – “After you, with the joke” – for women to thrive?

Sensitivity is death to a writers’ room. Honesty is the only way to make a funny show funnier. Producing comedy is a brutal, serious business and if you’re going to break down in tears because nobody liked your ferret joke, it’s not for you. Has she never seen the documentary on the Roseanne writing room, where the eponymous star reduced most of the men to gibbering wrecks?

Maybe what Schuster is really saying is that men can’t be funny without a woman to help them. That makes more sense. I have written at least six long running, prime-time comedy hits, with my husband. Yes, he’s a man. But we write together because we make each other laugh. Most of the time.

However, I’m writing my new comedy series – Conversations from a Long Marriage, starring Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam – on my own. Yes, I’m not only a woman but also a grandmother. Now there’s an under-represented minority, in comedy.

Hey, why not put a Nana on every comedy writing team? That’s real diversity. It makes me laugh, just thinking about it.