All right, so lately I’ve been hearing people say, “Women aren’t that funny,” or sometimes, “Women just can’t be as funny as men,” and it got me thinking. It got me thinking about all the strong and hilarious female comedians that have surrounded me my entire life, whether it was on television or in movies or even in real life, shaping me to be the person I am today. That’s why I am writing this blog entry; to remind everyone just how funny women are in the world of comedy. It pains me to know that women are being criticized for their work because of their gender. It hurts because women are working just as hard as men for their work. Actually, I would even make the assumption that most women have to work harder than men to be accepted and taken seriously as a comedian. So, I am writing this to try and remove some of the stigma behind women in comedy, and to hopefully make you laugh about some famous female comedians.
Who knows? Maybe I can change the minds of some people who believe women aren’t funny. Or, maybe their attitudes towards women in comedy will never falter. But maybe if I share with you a few of the women who have inspired me to try and be funny, maybe I can change some minds. All right?
Okay, let’s do this!
When I think of comedy, I think of a certain woman, who to me is the Queen of Comedy. She was certainly a trailblazer in her time, paving the way for all those who followed in her footsteps. Can you guess whom I am referring to? If you said Lucille Ball, you are correct! Good for you! Lucy, born in 1911, is an obvious place to start when discussing funny women. Her humor and willingness to perform physical comedy distinguished herself from other actresses and landed her the leading role in I Love Lucy, which premiered on October 15, 1951. Her character’s bubbly voice and can-do attitude lead her into many zany and hysterical situations. Who can forget the iconic scene from the episode, “Job Switching,” in which Lucy and Ethel must keep up with a fast moving conveyor belt carrying chocolates? I know I will never be able to get the image of Lucille Ball stuffing chocolate after chocolate into her mouth in order to succeed at the task at hand. She would not give up no matter what, which was similar to her attitude in real life. She worked hard to get to where she was and she deserves every bit of credit—even if she is a woman. Because, remember, women are funny!
(You can watch the scene here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI)
From Lucy, I make the easy transition to another funny red head: Carol Burnett. Carol is a jack-of-all-trades—actor, comedian, singer, writer, and inspiration. In her show, The Carol Burnett Show, which aired on September 11, 1967, she was able to show off her versatility and ingenuity. She played a variety of characters and pulled off hilarious stunts. My favorite joke of hers originated from the show’s parody of the film, Gone With the Wind. In the scene, Carol (playing the Scarlet character) descends a stairwell, wearing a regal dress made out of curtains. It is obvious the dress is made out of curtains because the curtain rod is still attached to the dress, sticking out across her shoulders. When she is complimented on the dress she replies, “Thank you. I saw it in the window and just couldn’t resist.” It was genius. I’m laughing just thinking about it. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about—seriously, check it out.
(You can watch the scene here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6bOpJ5elW8)
These two red heads have been a part of my life for a while, but just recently I was introduced to a wonderful comic who was cracking jokes years before Lucy or Carol. This woman is Jackie “Moms” Mabley who, born in 1894, is definitely one of the firsts of her kind. She was actually given the nickname “Moms” because she was often a mother to her fellow comedians. Moms was certainly a lady to behold—a woman, African American, and a lesbian. Three things, those maybe at the time, were a bit controversial. But that didn’t stop Moms. She appeared in movies, on televisions, and stages like the Apollo Theater and Carnegie Hall. Her tackling of edgy and provocative material landed her the billing of “The Funniest Woman in the World.” Now who can argue with that? I would like to share one of her jokes with you about buying bras. It is hysterical! You need to listen to it.
(You can hear the joke here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eSjwvcVrSQ)
I hope that generations to come will not forget about these three women and the many wonderful other ladies who played a significant role in the world of comedy—the ones who started things and opened doors for female comedians to thrive. Their humor is everlasting and still holds relevance in today’s fast paced world. And that is saying something. Their jokes, told years and years ago, still have the ability to make us laugh all over again—their comedy is eternal. That is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Luckily, women are continuing on the legacy started by Ball and Burnett. Ladies like Margaret Cho who is a comedian, author, fashion designer and star of many one-woman shows; Ellen DeGeneres who went from stand-up comedian, to actor, to the host of her own talk show; Wanda Sykes who is one of the funniest stand-up comics I have seen and an activist for equality in the LGBT community; Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who ruled SNL when they were cast members and both went on to spearhead their own shows on NBC (30 Rock and Parks and Recreation) and to host the Golden Globes together. These women are hilarious and I only listed a small amount of the wonderful female comedians out in the world today. There are so many of them it would take forever to list all of them.
I know most of the women I have talked about have been around the comedy scene for a while now, so I thought I would give you a few names of some up-and-comers that you should look out for in the near future. Aubrey Plaza, Ellie Kempner, Aparna Nancherla, Phoebe Robinson and Anjelah Johnson are just a few!
I look at these ladies and wonder, how could anyone say women are not funny? I can only dream of being half as funny as any of these women, and I would certainly be content with that. They are passionate people who put in as much hard work and dedication as any other comedian in the field.
So, I hope I was able to help any of those teetering on the path of indecision about whether or not females are funny. Or, I hope I could bring a smile to your face as you remember something funny that one of these women did.
Laughter is pure. Laughter is release. Laughter is peace. Laughter knows no prejudice and knows no gender. Laughter will set us free.
Thanks for listening!
PS. Here is one more reminder that female comedians are AWESOME. Check out “Mom Jeans” written by the one and only Tina Fey.
(You can watch the clip here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/10333)
This blog entry was written by Caroline Lux, intern for LaceFront Entertainment, LLC. and volunteer for the NAPW Bethlehem Chapter. Caroline is a senior at Muhlenberg College double majoring in Theatre and Media & Communications. She is also a member of two comedy groups on campus: UiP, a long form improv troupe, and Fun With Science, a sketch comedy group. She wishes to continue working in comedy, inspiring others but mostly making them laugh. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org