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.
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.
This morning in the doctor's office waiting room, I leafed through a copy of Ladies' Home Journal and landed on an article called,"The Thinking Woman's Guide to Cleavage." The article pairs tips for covering up your cleavage with a sidebar of celebrity's "buzzworthy boobs."
This is a real article. And it would be perfect fodder for the new women's magazine parody website Reductress. Just launched last week, Reductress takes aim at media stuffed with "buzzworthy boob" profiles the way The Onion spoofs 24-hour newspapers.
Among all the comedy online, Reductress stands out as genuinely fresh and funny. Just look at these headlines:
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.
Though I wouldn't admit it to just anyone, I really like Judd Apatow. Sure, he's partially responsible for comedy's obnoxiously named Frat Pack, and with it the continued celebration of adult men who act like bratty adolescents—but he also brought us Freaks and Geeks and Bridesmaids, and he appears to share my hardcore crush on Paul Rudd. Plus, Apatow is the rare sort of dude's dude who puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to supporting women in comedy. He's not batting a thousand by any means, but he's produced a fair share of work by women, and he generally seems like a pretty smart guy. That's why I was excited when Apatow was announced as the guest editor of this month's Vanity Fair. That excitement was a little premature.
"For those of you who don't know me, I'm not wasted, but the doctor who delivered me was." So begins the standup comedy set from Maysoon Zayid: disabled comic, actor, humanitarian, and "Arab Gone Wild."
Defying nondisabled persons outdated notions of what disability is like is difficult enough; making people laugh while doing so is a feat of its own. Thankfully, there are some badasses taking that immense challenge head on and succeeding.
Tig Notaro has been getting a heaping dose of publicity lately. It's well-deserved. You may already recognize the charming comedian from her standup, or watched her play the feather-haired policewoman who briefly (and understandably) lesbianizes Sarah Silverman on the latter's eponymous "Program," or listened to her discuss her frequent run-ins with 80s pop star Taylor "Tell it to my heart" Dayne on This American Life. Maybe you've also read that earlier this month Tig released a half-hour standup comedy set (care of friend/comic superstar Louis C.K.), recorded after a diagnosis of breast cancer (in both breasts) only a few days prior. The performance was instantly touted as legendary, with audience member Louis C.K. calling it "one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can't really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life."