Well, gang, there's some good news and some bad news. The good news is that feminist comedians and feminist critiques of comedy have been all over the news lately! Woo! Yay!
The bad news is that this is, in large part, because there are a bunch of people who think that they have a constitutionally enshrined right to tell rape jokes and then never have to hear any criticism about them. Boo! Blerg!
There have been a lot of great recent critiques of this sadly evergreeen controversy (you can find some here, here, here and here) and also some awesome round-ups of rape jokes that don't undermine or disempower assault survivors (some examples can be found here, here, and here).
But while challenging rape jokes specifically is an important way to show that comedy belongs to everyone, we can also draw attention to comedians who tell jokes that embrace women's lives and experiences--rather than reducing them to blank canvasses for punchlines--showcasing the fact that comedy embraces women far more often than it acts shitty and hostile to us.
For the first time, many of the biggest, mainstream names in comedy are women. From titans like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to rising stars like Mindy Kaling and Kristen Schaal, funny women are headlining the biggest summer comedies, starring in top network sitcoms, and—judging by the gigantic line of people I saw waiting outside a recent Kristen Wiig-hosted episode of "Saturday Night Live'—inspiring a Beatlemania-level of devotion in their fans.
Despite all of this, comedy often still has as a reputation as a "boy's club" where women are just not taken seriously.
How do female comedians make space for themselves in the comedy world? For an increasing number of comedians, the answer has been to form women-only comedy classes, troupes, and shows.
Pop culture made me a feminist. As a suburban girl in the early 90s, I picked up my beliefs about equality from some books at the library and a copy of Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusal." After no one at my elementary school opted to join my "Gender Equality Club," I looked back to pop culture to find others of my kind—and I found the most feminists were on network TV.
Though I Can Barely Take Care of Myself covers Kirkman's entire life—including her Boston childhood and long comedy career—and zeroes in with especially sharp wit on the experience of being an adult without children.
Kirkman took a moment out of her current tour in support of the book to discuss what inspired her book, why some people think child-free women will change their minds, and what happens when an elementary schooler attends a sleepover party while dressed like Groucho Marx.
When I first heard about a book called Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women, it could be conservatively stated that I just about lost my frickin' mind.
Published in 1976—smack in the middle of the both the height of second wave feminism and the golden years of "Saturday Night Live"-- Titters collected parodies, comics, and humorous writing from some of the biggest female humorists of the era, like "Saturday Night Live" performers Radner and Laraine Newman, "Saturday Night Live" writers Rosie Shuster and Anne Beatts (who also served as the book's co-editor), satirist (and other co-editor) Deanne Stillman, comic artist Aline Kaminsky, comedian Phyllis Diller, columnist Erma Bombeck…the list went on and on.
As long as there have been jokes, there have been people saying that women can't tell them.
It can be tempting to dismiss recent "women aren't funny" firestorms as yet another by-product of our internet era, where we are instantly alerted the second that anyone—from Adam Carolla to some yahoo with a Reddit account—makes an inflammatory statement about anything.
But the claim that women aren't funny isn't just new to our times. Here I've compiled a brief, totally incomplete history of people publicly peddling this line bull. Though the idea that women aren't funny hasn't changed much, public reactions to it have steadily changed.