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Women have the last laugh at Edinburgh Fringe

By Stephen Eisenhammer

LONDON (Reuters) - Stand-up comic Bridget Christie was about to put her career on pause as she realized that at 41 and with two young kids she earned less than her babysitter. But on Saturday she won the most prestigious prize in British comedy.

After sell-out shows and rave reviews Christie's show "A Bic for Her" won the Foster's Comedy Award for best act at the Edinburgh Fringe.

When she first booked the quiet 11 a.m. slot at the basement bar of a comedy club in Edinburgh, Christie never expected her show to take off.

"It took me by surprise how packed it was. I hadn't anticipated it... I expected it to be quiet and then I'd duck out for a while," Christie told Reuters in an interview.

Christie is only the third solo female comic to win the award, behind Jenny Eclair in 1995 and Laura Solon in 2005 and women still remain under-represented in comedy at the Fringe, with only 18 percent of all stand-ups being female.

But Christie's success with such a polemical feminist set suggests things might be changing.

"I think there's definitely something in the air," she said.

"I think people have sort of arrived at the same point at the same time. Everyone's just gone 'hang on a second is this (sexism) still not sorted out yet'."

In her set she furiously attacks the notion that women need to be treated differently to men, honing in on the pen designed for women by Bic - from which the show takes its title.

She writhes ludicrously on stage under the weight of a normal ballpoint pen and imagines a conversation between the Bronte sisters in which they bemoan the challenges of writing with a "male" pen.

For Christie, who is married to fellow comedian Stewart Lee, Britain has fallen behind its northern European neighbors in tackling sexism.

"My brother who lives in Sweden told me my show would not have been funny there because they have gender equality," she told Reuters.

Christie rages in her show against men's lifestyle magazines, which are strewn with scantily clad women but not classified as pornography. That means they can be displayed openly on the shelves of retail stores alongside glossies on gardening and gossip.

The ready availability of pornography, particularly on the internet, has also become a major political issue in Britain with growing public concern over its effects on children.

Prime Minister David Cameron proposed in July that adult content be blocked by internet providers unless users opt in.

Christie collected her award wearing a "no more page 3" T-shirt, a campaign to persuade Britain's top-selling tabloid newspaper, the Sun, to stop putting pictures of topless women on the third page of its daily editions.

The Foster's panel prize, awarded to the comedy act which best captures "the spirit of the Fringe," also went to a radical female act.

Burlesque dancer, Adrienne Truscott, performed most of her show "Asking for it" naked from the waist down, in a rebuff to those who suggest that women who dress provocatively invite sexual attacks.

Christie said comedy was a good way of raising awareness about serious issues.

"I'm not trying to make feminism funny... I just want my set to trick people into thinking about something serious."

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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