Comedy is a very specific thing. It's a very aggressive, very masculine form. There's not a ton of straight female comedians that have been super successful because it's sorta like, "Hey, I'm the funniest one in the room! Everyone shut up and listen to me for an hour while I fucking tell you!" It's aggressive.
...and the "women aren't as funny as men" thing:
My theory: It's not that women aren't funny, it's that women get seen before they're ready. It takes a couple of years to get fucking good and to figure out what your point of view is. And I feel like the best managers of women just slow their women down. So [Cummings' manager] Barry [Katz], for the first three years I was doing comedy, he wouldn't let me showcase for anything. He wouldn't let me do anything. He said, "Just get good. When you kill 10 times in a row, I'll get you showcases."
Interesting take. Usually I hear women complaining about not getting opportunities because of their gender. But here's Cummings saying that gals get seen too quickly, which sounds like the opposite idea. (And can lead to negative comments from male comics when a gal does get something.)
Comedy ain't the only profession facing these issues. Gains, and Drawbacks, for Female Professors:
When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology acknowledged 12 years ago that it had discriminated against female professors in “subtle but pervasive” ways, it became a national model for addressing gender inequity...Now, an evaluation of those efforts shows substantial progress — and unintended consequences. Among other concerns, many female professors say that M.I.T.’s aggressive push to hire more women has created the sense that they are given an unfair advantage. Those who once bemoaned M.I.T.’s lag in recruiting women now worry about what one called “too much effort to recruit women.”
Back to comedy. According to a couple of writers who are ladies, part of the issue is that women focus on different things when it's time to make funny happen. Conan's Sole Female Writer Laurie Kilmartin Talks Monologue Jokes, Women In Late Night:
"Coming from stand-up, I think female comics get on stage for a very different reason than male comics do. This is a huge generalization, but I think guys get on stage to get laid, and women get on stage to get heard," Kilmartin explains. "For female comics, it's such a personal thing. I hardly know any female stand-ups who talk about generic stuff: It's always really what happened to you. It is sort of a big switch to go from that to writing for someone else. And I think that that stops a lot of female comics from making that jump over."
And Behind the Scenes at Community with Writer Megan Ganz:
It's incredible that the room is so balanced. There are four women, including myself, that work in the writers pool, which is only eight or nine people, maybe ten people tops, that you would call writers on our staff. And four of them are women. Those are insane numbers. But it works really well for sitcoms; I don't know if it would have worked as well at a place like The Onion. Because The Onion is more straight joke writing, where Community is more about telling stories and character dynamics and what do we want to say about these characters and how are they going to grow and evolve. And, not to generalize, but I can tell you this specifically about the Community writers room, it's really nice having women around to talk about that stuff. Because they're interested in being true, for instance, to Annie's feelings about Jeff and how she reacts as a girl who is nineteen years old and very headstrong, but hasn't had a lot of experience yet. So I feel like women really come in handy in that respect.
Back to other professions. And specifically, the idea that being the only woman in the room is a bitch. Designers, Women, and Hostility in Open Source:
After working in technology for 17 years now, I can assure you: constantly being the only woman in the room stinks. Since I usually am, one of my career goals is to surround myself with capable women technologists as well as men. It's not easy, but it's important—and not just because I'm lonely, but because I make stuff, and creations reflect their makers. The tech industry is by and large a boys' club, and that's a shame, because homogenous teams turn out one-dimensional products. Diverse teams are better-equipped to make things that shine because they serve a wide range of people.
At Lifehacker I learned something important about creating a productive online community: leaders set the tone by example. It's simple, really. When someone you don't know shows up on the mailing list or in IRC, you break out the welcome wagon, let them know you're happy they're here, show them around the place, help them with their question or problem, and let them know how they can give back to the community. Once you and your community leaders do that a few times, something magical happens: the newbie who you welcomed just a few weeks ago starts welcoming new folks, and the virtuous cycle continues.
So if ya wanna transfer that idea to comedy, it'd seemingly be important for lady comics to welcome newbie females into the fold. And by newbie, I mean new at comedy, not new at being female. (How best to welcome tranny comedians into standup will have to be dealt with in another post.)
And that reminds me of a time I was in Chicago and realized there is an all-female comedy class at Lincoln Lodge. Never heard of anything like that in NYC. Though a step in that direction seems to be Glennis McMurray's new GLOC site.
I admit it—I’ve been bitten by the bug of envy. I’ve looked at another lady and silently raged over her accomplishments. I’ve dogged, catted and birded my way through her wardrobe, hair, mannerisms and material. Somehow I thought doing so would make me feel better, but I always ended up feeling worse in the end. Not to get all after school special on your asses, but what really felt great was starting this blog to recognize the awesome in each and every one of us...
So look to the successes of the ladies around you and let it fuel your own. Because if we can’t bond over a shared comedic sensibility, can we at least get along because we’re all women fighting the good fight together? I think so.
What's the conclusion to all this? Dunno. But yeah, let's all get along. U-N-I-T-etc.
Permalink | 4/07/2011