Wednesday Feb 01, 2012
Wednesday Feb 01, 2012
Wednesday Feb 01, 2012
Are women funny?
This question is so laughably stupid that I don’t even know how to begin dismissing it. But for some reason this is an actual question people ask. I honestly don’t know why, but it is.
From a public discourse standpoint it kind of traces back to an article Christopher Hitchens wrote for Vanity Fair in 2007 cleverly entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” For some reason this became a public rallying point. There were response articles, responses to the response, and in the end… well, really nothing happened.
Well, not nothing, but nothing helpful.
No disrespect to the dead, but Hitchens was known as a Polemic, which is a fancy word for “bit of a prick.” He was looking for attention when he wrote it and he got what he wanted.
That being said, I don’t think his article was harmful. I think the reaction was. Some guy writes an article about women not being funny and instead of being met with an eye rolling chorus dismissal people reacted as if his position was serious enough to need formal refutation. The response was so earnest that it almost validated the original point. Why are you so up in arms? If you are funny why do you care if some guy who makes his living throwing public tantrums says that you are not?
If I wrote an article called, “Why white people are not good athletes,” would Peyton and Eli Manning get together with Dirk Nowitzki and the NHL to prove me wrong? No, they would dismiss what I was saying as the idiotic ramblings of an attention seeking hack and just dismiss it.
Why? Aren’t there real stereotypes about the relative athletic abilities of the races? Are white people not a minority of players in most major sports?
Yes, but there are also a lot of VERY talented white athletes, so my point would be so outlandishly stupid that it would be dismissed out of hand.
Well, there are stereotypes about women not being funny and there are more men working in comedy… but there are also a lot of brilliant female comedians out there. So why is this idea given any time at all?
I am not coming out in defense of women because women don’t need to be defended in this. I am coming out in blatant attack of the question. I am not responding to it because to respond to it would be to treat it as a legitimate question.
You could turn the question on the person asking, but that’s just feeding the trolls. It not only doesn’t help, it gives them the attention they want, because that is all they are after and they don’t care if it’s good or bad, as long as you are looking at them.
I know that I have publicly said “women aren’t as funny as men,” but I also name Gilda Radner as the funniest person to ever be on Saturday Night Live, consider Tina Fay to be the consistently funny writer on TV, and find Madelyn Kahn to be one of the most brilliant comic performers in the history of film. What I am doing when I make that statement is called “satire.” I am trying to cast a preposterous idea in an even more preposterous light.
I also tend to cast my satirical net pretty far and wide because my personal philosophy on this type of joking is as follows:
“If it is true, it isnt’ funny. If it is untrue, it is.”
What do I mean? Well, making fun of a stupid person for being stupid is mean spirited and unfunny. Making jokes about a genuinely intelligent person being stupid is funny.
Can women be as funny as men?
Yes. Yes they can. In fact, some are quite a bit funnier. But they can also be less funny. Some, in fact, are not funny at all.
No, I do not care for Lisa Lampanelli, but I love Ellen DeGeneres’s stand up.
I find Whitney Cumming’s shows and stand up to be cloying and embarrassingly awful, but Amy Schumer is stone hilarious.
Yeah, I am mystified by the success of Chelsea Handler, but you say one bad thing about Paula Poundstone and I’ll take an eye out of your head.
But guess what? Same thing goes for men.
I laugh myself stupid at Luis C.K., but would rather lose a leg than listen to Gabriel Iglesias.
I would rather sit and listen to Ron White all day than do just about anything, but ask me to sit for 20 minutes of Larry the Cable guy and we will fight.
Don Rickles is a God, but I honestly do not get Jeff Dunham’s appeal.
Even more simply… the comic “Cathy” is painfully unfunny… but so is “Family Circus.”
If you have satellite radio try spending one week listening to nothing by the standup channels (on Sirius it’s 95-99), or if your town has one of the new all stand up stations (Austin has one, don’t know offhand the frequency) and you will hear some absolutely brilliant, inventive, fresh, and genuinely hilarious comedy coming from both men and women.
You will also hear a baffling amount of hacky, recycled, formulaic, boring, and just embarrassingly bad stuff.
Check out any online sketch comedy group and you will see the same thing. Men and women united in their genius, their mediocrity, and their awfulness.
Neither sex has dominion over comedy.
I don’t think anyone can reasonably disagree with that.
Yes, there are more men who do comedy, but that has to do more with the fact that men tend to be more aggressive in the way they seek attention. It’s the same reason boys pull little girls hair, eat bugs, or start playing sports that could lead to lifelong injuries. Men will find the easiest way to get people to pay attention to them. We are so bad that “Jackass” isn’t only a global phenomenon, but you have kids doing life threatening stunts FOR FREE just in the hopes that someone online will see them do it. Let me clarify, this means that they are not only receiving NO MONEY but they don’t even have an immediate audience response. They are satisfied that some stranger in Iowa might watch them staple something to their face.
For that matter I do a free Podcast without sponsors. I am paying for you to read this and listen to my show. There is nothing more male than that.
The thing is, I think this question is fuelled more by marking and lazy media than anything else. How so?
Well, with “Bridesmaids,” 2011 seemed to become something of a “year of the funny woman” in comedy. I say somewhat because it was more of a “see, we can be crude, and vulgar, and that means we are funny too,” year.
(Side Note:I have not seen “Bridesmaids,” so I am not commenting on the film, more on how the movie was sold and treated by the media.)
If you follow movies you couldn’t avoid seeing things like, “now it’s the ladies turn to show how crude they can be,” or “men aren’t the only ones that can be vulgar,” as if that is something to be proud of. Funny and vulgar are not synonyms. Look it up. But the way this film was talked about, you would think they were.
Why is it suddenly some sort of badge of honor to act like a prick? Is it in the name of equality? See women get drunk, and act rowdy, and shit themselves in public… just like men do?
So, what is the point of the comparison? Why draw it in the first place?
Let me clarify my point. Putting forth this “women are just as funny as men” idea with such vigor is to give validity to the idea that women aren’t as funny. Why did “Bridesmaids” need to be pushed as “’The Hangover’ for women?” Were women unable to find humor in “The Hangover?” Are men going to be completely lost while watching “Bridesmaids?” Shouldn’t the point be that it is a funny movie?
By pushing the sex of the cast and writer as being important, aren’t you saying that there is something unusual about it?
Here’s the thing, yes that stuff is funny… for a little bit, then it kind of gets old. I found “The Hangover” hilarious. It was refreshing because it wasn’t watered down or sanitized for a family market, it was aimed squarely at adults. Here’s the thing, would you describe it as raunchy or gross? Yeah there are a few moments that were on the edge of taste and some that went beyond, but are those moments the ones that stand out? Not for me.
What I remember are lines like “Is this place pager friendly? Do you have, like a, like a pay phone bank?” or “Is this the real Caesars Palace? Did Caesar actually live here?” or the “Wolf Pack” speech. It wasn’t the gross out stuff that made that movie great it was the character moments.
With “Bridesmaids” we didn’t get, “hilarious situations,” or “genuine, well developed characters,” or even “the use of dialogue was amazing.” What we got was “the ladies can be just as crude as the guys,” and “raunchy humor isn’t just for men any more.”
Do you think Kristin Wiig set out to write a crude, raunchy movie, or do you think she set out to write a funny movie full of genuine interactions between real people with great dialogue and interesting situations that actually has something to say about how women relate to each other?
So, basically what I am asking isn’t “Why do people ask this question?” That’s an easy one. People ask it because being shocking is easier than developing a personality. I’m asking, “Why do people answer it?” Like I said before, answering it makes it seem like a legitimate question. If you treat it like a legitimate question then you legitimize the question, and it is a completely illegitimate question.