The Wodehouse Prize has been running since 2000, with the winner receiving a jeroboam of Bollinger and a Gloucestershire Old Spot pig. The judging panel is dominated by men each year, and in many years has had no female judges at all. The three women writers who have won the prize are Helen Fielding for Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries (2017), Hannah Rothschild for The Improbability of Love (2016, shared with Paul Murray for The Mark and the Void) and Marina Lewycka for A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (2005).Asked why most of the prize’s winners have been men, Keyes replied: “Because they’re men. Because male voices are automatically given extra weight. I mean, anything that’s ever been said or done by a woman just matters less.”There is both cause and effect there. Power and money are lovely, and those who have it want to hold onto it. One way of keeping those who don’t have it from having it is to mock them and mock the things they love. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.”Things that women love are just automatically dismissed as frivolous nonsense. Football could be considered as frivolous nonsense but it’s treated as hard news in the newspapers. Marian Keyes has accused a leading comic fiction prize of sexism after failing to be shortlisted, claiming women writers are not considered funny and asking: “What else do I have to do to qualify?”The best-selling author, whose books have sold in their millions, said she had a bone to pick with the judges of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize.The prize was cancelled this year after the organisers concluded that they had not read anything sufficiently amusing.In the past 18 years there have only been three female winners. Keyes said: “The one thing I have a grudge about is the Wodehouse Prize for comic writing.”I have never been shortlisted. Say what you like about me, my books are funny, they are comic. What else do I have to do to qualify?” However, it appears that Keyes’ own publishers did not submit her most recent novel, the Break, for consideration.The Irish author was speaking at the Hay Festival in a discussion recorded for the BBC’s Talking Books programme. The festival director, Peter Florence, is one of the prize judges and said Keyes’ novels had not been submitted for the past two years. He insisted that the judges “do not play the representation game” and the funniest book wins regardless of the author’s gender. Tanken yew 😊 https://t.co/Ica7zuSrrP— Marian ‘Demonically Possessed’ Keyes (@MarianKeyes) June 3, 2018 “So I think by giving the men the prizes, it just reinforces that the men are more important.”She added: “I love many men but that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the sexist imbalance.”This year’s prize was cancelled after the judges concluded that “despite the submitted books producing many a wry smile amongst the panel during the judging process, we did not feel that any of the books we read this year incited the level of unanimous laughter we have come to expect. We look forward to awarding a larger rollover prize next year to a hilariously funny book.”Keyes has sold 33 million copies, beginning with Watermelon in 1995 and most recently The Break, published in September last year.The Irish writer said: “I don’t think many men read my books, but it’s a fact that men will only read books written by men whereas women will read books written by men and women.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.