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.
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.
Recently I told some jokes a stand-up show and as I was getting off stage, the host said, "Go give her a hug after the show!" I shuddered back into my seat and pulled my beer in front of my chest like a protective shield.
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.
So here we go again with yet another UK comedy import. This time, Fox is adapting Absolutely Fabulous for American audiences starring Kathryn Hahn as Edina Monsoon (Revolutionary Road, Crossing Jordan) and Kristen Johnson as Patsy Stone (Third Rock from the Sun, Bride Wars).