January 18, 2012

Comedy

Sean O'Neal of The Onion's AV Club is angry that a David Letterman staffer was honest about that professional comedy is dominated by men and is happy that the Letterman staffer got in trouble for being honest:
Eddie Brill, longtime comedy booker for The Late Show With David Letterman, has been dismissed from his duties following a recent, controversial New York Times interview, in which Brill made certain statements regarding female comedians—statements that suggested female comics were not as funny as men, which is a debate we are still having despite Judd Apatow’s recent ideological victory over Jerry Lewis.

Huh? Because Judd Apatow got rich off female comedians?

What's the sex ratio among writers for The Onion, Sean? Why is the younger generation so boringly sanctimonious when they take off their funny hats and put on their serious thought hats? 

Most comedians are kind of screwed-up. There are a more guys with the the screwed-up comedian genes. 

77 comments:

Wes said...

"Why is the younger generation so boringly sanctimonious?"

I think it's related to the self-esteem movement. Since they get applause for saying anything, the easiest strategy is to just ape the conventional wisdom. At one time, originality was rewarded. I'm noticing a general lack of creativity among the young in many fields. Doesn't music seem like it stopped evolving a while back?

guest007 said...

Maybe the younger generation has seen what happens to people to do not conform to the conventional wisdom.

When every public statement can become a potential bomb, it is easiest to just go along with whatever the "cool" kids are saying.

dearieme said...

In Britain a funny female comedian seems to be a once-in-a-while phenomenon - Joyce Grenfell, Victoria Wood...

Most are dreadful. A few years ago there was a TV comedy show "The Vicar of Dibley" where the lead, the comedienne Dawn French, was a leaden presence, while the whole of the supporting cast was very funny - including two women. But those two were not comedians, rather comedy actors: women often do pretty well at that.

Daydream Believer said...

A little off-topic, but if the GOP field remains deadlocked through the spring, and if Sarah comes off the sidelines in a brokered convention, and if she wins in November, then please note that Hollyweird will now need to hold auditions for that role in the biopic because apparently Tina Fey has been stuffing her face with too damned many Krispy Kremes.

[Or maybe her Sarah-envy got so extreme that she decided to try for a baby? God forbid that it should have Down's Syndrome...]

Anonymous said...

My son is 'into' comedy. I do not encourage him. In fact he accuses me of crushing his dreams.

I like people being hilarious in the pub on a Friday night, but professionalism tends to spoil everything, and being funny is no different.

Male comedians are pathetic, but pathos at its best is a valid form of drama. Female comedians are boring.
Gilbert Pinfold

slumber_j said...

Wes's analysis sounds pretty true to me--that, and a heavy dose of indoctrination. The North Koreans don't create much these days either...

It strikes me as odd that hipsterish fashion has stagnated too: the average resident of Williamsburg (Brooklyn) in its latter-day decadence doesn't look far off what the average resident looked like a decade ago. They did add facial hair a couple of years ago, but otherwise it reminds me of Colonial Williamsburg in how faithfully it hearkens back to its own past.

Anonymous said...

Christopher Hitchens nailed this years ago. The sanctimonious response from feminists, trying to be comedians, was comedy gold -- they were too serious to be anything but the butt of his joke. By engaging him, they'd already lost.

But as is typical of women -- but more specifically, liberal society and thus our sad zeitgeist -- they think every moment is Rosa Parks matched to Billie Jean King.

So women are supposed to be funny. Ugly women are supposed to be attractive. Fat women are now "voluptuous". I admit, the last two are pretty damned funny -- and are exactly the type of things that, when questioned or laughed at, May Get You Fired.

Basically emancipated women are proving the point of scholars such as Weininger and Schopenhauer.The real tragedy, is that so much of the societal structure is dictated by louche, loudmouth women PMS'ing and confusing that with a Major Social Cause.

We have, thus, a world that looks like Rosie O'Donnel with the brains of Brad Pitt.

"I was going to be a Marine Biologist, but I became an actress instead. To make up for that, I have adopted Asian and African children, whom I swap on outings like they're fall fashions. Also, I have a South African school that desperately needs YOUR HELP!!!

- signed, Angelina Jolie/Madonna/Any B/C-List Actress"

Actually, a John Callahan cartoon sums it up perfectly: This is a feminist bookstore. There is no humor section.

Which is to say, women are hilarious. In the same way The Chevy Chase Show was: pure ineptitude.

- kidk

Anonymous said...

I think it's related to the self-esteem movement.

Well, I just googled self esteem frankfurt school and got almost 1.7 million hits.

Just so you know who to thank for this state of affairs...

Anonymous said...

Why is the younger generation so boringly sanctimonious when they take off their funny hats and put on their serious thought hats?

One of the great tricks of the leftist establishment is to convince young people that its ideas are revolutionary and rebellious, who then waste their youthful energy shilling for The Man.

Ed said...

I agree with Wes about the lack of creativity in many fields, but there is a convincing explanation of diminishing returns.

In other words, there is no band like the Beatles (insert the band of your choice if you don't like the Beatles) today because all the songs the Beatles created have already been created, by the Beatles. This is probably particularly the case of music, where there is a (large) limit on certain combinations of notes and modalities. With literature, history at least keeps on throwing up new subjects and genres change, the novel emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries, was big in the 19th and 20th centuries, and now seems to be going away.

This has become way off subject. I also agree that there are other reasons the culture has become stagnant (and it has), but it could be that cultures naturally find ways to stagnate after an outburst of creativity.

Professor Hale said...

The guy should have been fired. he is bringing attention to a gender disparity and we all know what happens when that happens. Someone will have to correct that disparity and we will get lower quality commedy imposed on us.

DCThrowback said...

I disagree with Wes. The only way to keep about the gravy train is to be as inoffensive as possible when it comes to anyone who can possibly be offended. This doesn't count Republicans, of course - I follow a number of comedians (like the unfunny Rob Delaney, for example) who think it's edgy to make fun of Republicans like Gingrich, Palin, et al. Sadly, those pols have moved beyond parody!

I think the real issue is the right has lost the culture wars. There are topics that are off limits. There are things you can't say. This guy found this out yesterday. His crime was being too interesting and too funny. I am sure an apology will be coming today.

There are major exceptions to this rule; Opie & Anthony, Nick DiPaolo and Adam Carolla are delightfully un-PC and have made some good money tweaking the PC system.

An exception to the younger comedians being totally priggish is Daniel Tosh, who has made millions on with his funny clip show Tosh.0, where he makes fun of everyone, but most notably blacks. Of course, these clips usually get the most (guilt-filled) laughs by his SWPL audience.

Kathy Shaidle is an excellent resource at pjmedia for her take on the comedy scene.

Nadaav said...

I'm not sure about gender ratios at The Onion, but I do know their chief editor is a woman, which surprised the heck out of me. Somewhere on Youtube you can find a Charlie Rose interview with her and a few other (male) Onion staff.

It's not funny if you explain it said...

The typical comic profile on the OCEAN personality test is nearly the opposite of the stereotypical woman.

OPENNESS: different in type given typical female aversion to risk/danger

CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: very different wrt relationships, social rules and peoples' feeling

EXTROVERSION: very different in degree

AGREEABLENESS: nearly opposite

NEUROTICISM: Depending on comic, similar but of different degree

Perhaps this is why the more feminine women comics are not that funny and the funniest women comics are freakishly unfeminine.

Although a lesbian, Ellen developed a softer feminine style humor. She was never a very funny comic which is why she has become a talk show host appealing to middle aged mothers

The only funny popular feminine comic I can think of is Paula Poundstone. She is the exception that proves the rule.

Lisa Lampenelli can be funny in the narrow and excessively crude niche of women trying to out gross the boys. Needless to say, Lampenelli is the furthest from the average woman or notions of femininity outside a lesbian studies department.

Sarah Silverman, less successfully, tries to carve out a unique niche in appearing feminine while trying to out gross the guys with more than a dash of psycho-sexual taboo. She has failed to appeal to any mass audience and even Jimmy Kimmel lost interest.

Kylie said...

Female comics are every bit as funny as male comics.

You won't find any man funnier than
Madeleine Kahn, Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion.

jody said...

what judd apatow ideological victory.

do women write any of the funny cartoons which now appear to the main source of genuine television laughs for americans?

sabril said...

"Most comedians are kind of screwed-up. There are a more guys with the the screwed-up comedian genes. "

Or maybe it's just the old story of greater variation among men. Having the makeup to be a successful comedian is probably pretty rare.

It's also possible that having a sense of humor, like being physically imposing, was more of an evolutionary advantage for men.

Josh

Lucius said...

All this is true as far as it goes, but it takes comedy in isolation, when in fact men dominate in most any creative pursuit.

There is no female Moliere for the same reason there is no female Racine, as it were.

To make a feeble play on Paglia's infamous Jack the Ripper/Mozart epigram.

David said...

Paul over at SBPDL wrote a piece a few months ago about the Web Editor of The Onion crying because of Donald Trump's criticisms of Obama.

http://stuffblackpeopledontlike.blogspot.com/2011/04/tears-flow-from-onion-over-trumps.html

These guys are A1 status seekers. I think crying over alleged racism in public may get you a medal from the SPLC. Being a male-feminist, comedian who lynches other comedians is also valorous, brave and so on.

beowulf said...

Like the joke says:
when a woman's depressed she thinks God I'm fat. When a man's depressed he thinks, God my girlfriend is fat.

Men are self-loathing in more amusing ways, that's all.

Carol said...

I dunno, there was a school of thought years ago that black comics weren't funny, either, if you didn't like tomming..then Dick Gregory, Bill Cosby, Moms Mabley, TV Mama, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy burst on the scene.

Heard the same thing about women but I used to think Joan Rivers' show biz gossip shtick and Rosanne Barr's original shtick were funny, but their subject matter probably meant more to women (and gays) than to men. Maybe now they're too feminist to really be funny but I'm not up on all that. I think some of the SNL comic actresses are great even if I detest their politics.

In sheer numbers, though, yeah there are more men. You know what, there are more men doing just about everything, whether it's comedy or music or science, you name it. They're more driven, more anal, more persistent, whatever.

Anymore, girls just want to sing and shake their butts.

svigor said...

Leaving aside the "T" or "mystery" factor involved in so many of these pursuits, there's plain old extraversion; putting it out there and making an ass of yourself in public is waaaaay more of a guy thing.

rob said...

Humor is a perfect example of a trait under sexually selection. When a woman says a man has a good sense of humor, she means he makes her laugh. When a man says a woman has a good sense of humor, he also means he makes her laugh. Men are funnier, but women have a more discerning sense of humor: pretty important for figuring out whether some dude is funny, indicating (on average) that he's smarter, more creative, and more dominant than some other dude reciting memorized jokes.

In the broad swath of people, being funny correlates with mental and emotional health. Much like taller or more muscular men are (on average) healthier than shorter, fatter or scrawnier men. At the extreme enough to be famous end of comedy, the traits are sorta the personality equivalent of the parody musculature of bodybuilders: so exaggerated that being exceptional in the area doesn't leave room for much of a life, and probably reduces Darwinian fitness.

Given the personal lives of so many totes hilarious comedians (Kaufman, Belushi, Mitch Hedburg, the really fat guy who played fat and dumb characters, and I'm too lazy to think of more) I'm not sure many women want to famous enough to live like that.

Also, a big chunk of comedy is kinda mean: it's intrasexual competition. think of all the people, mostly dudes that John Stuart or talks shit about, or just think about your friends. Men use humor to climb the social hierarchy. A funny chick is just going to put a whole lot of dudes off because she's so mean and belittling, like Maureen Dowd.

Men have to perform and compete in so many areas because women want winners. Then women complain that all these fields are "the patriarchy" that oppress women. It's a bit annoying.

I'm sure there're some guys as un-funny as Amanda Marcotte, but they'd be too ashamed to shout it to the world like she does.

Anonymous said...

WTF is with Blogger's code today? WTF can't techies stop tinkering with shit that's already working? Go invent something new, eggheads, we're using this one now!


"Why is the younger generation so boringly sanctimonious?"

Kids don't seem to give a shit about anything. Hell, people in general seem to care about nothing. Nihilism means following the forms in public, not making waves.

You have to care about something beyond yourself to take a stand, make waves, etc. Or it helps anyway. I always tell people who seem to care about nothing that ethnopatriotism's not for them.

http://svigor.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

"Why is the younger generation so boringly sanctimonious?"

Oh, that's easy. For several decades now, the Left has been telling us that they were going to brainwash the younger generations.

And they made good on that promise.

James Kabala said...

I'm not sure how seriously we're supposed to take O'Neal's remark, since the the reference to Apatow and Lewis is meant to be sarcastic.

Apparently a few days earlier Apatow profanely attacked Lewis for having said many years ago that women weren't funny. O'Neal made fun of Apatow for posing as a righteous defender of women when he was really just attacking a harmless washed-up old man.

http://www.avclub.com/articles/judd-apatow-liberates-women-from-years-of-jerry-le,67663/

agnostic said...

For the past 20 years lots of comedians have been boringly sanctimonious even when they had their funny hats on.

They may try to disguise that with campy delivery and kabuki-face expressions, a la Jon Stewart, but it still comes off as a tongue-clucking 80 year-old nun.

The major exceptions seem to be Seinfeld and the '90s era Chris Rock.

Anonymous said...

he doesnt think eddie murphy was a great stand up comedian?

Anonymous said...

An awful lot of ink has been spilled on this topic (i.e., "What makes someone funny?"), but I think that the typical ways of explaining it--pain, being screwed-up, being a little crazy--are all variations on the same theme: being able to take an outsider's perspective while also being able to relate to the common culture. If you can't step outside of yourself (and the broader culture), it's hard to figure out what's funny/irrational/obtuse about yourself and/or the broader culture. I think that this outsider-insider dynamic goes a long way towards explaining the prevalence of Canadians, Jews, Italians, Nerds and Blacks in American comedy. Women, on the other hand, have to really work at "outsider" status in our society--if they relent even briefly, some dude will happily marry them. I can count on one hand the female comedians that actually make me laugh: Sarah Silverman, Lisa Lampanelli, and, occasionally, Maria Bamford. Notably, they are, respectively, a Jew, an overweight Italian and a Nerd.

Harry Baldwin said...

"Why is the younger generation so boringly sanctimonious when they take off their funny hats and put on their serious thought hats?"

Yes, indeed. I enjoyed a lot of the comedy of Sarah Silverman, but made the mistake of reading her autobiography, "Bedwetter," in which she goes on several sanctimonious rants. Fending off the criticism she has gotten for her own non-pc humor, she attacks the REAL racists out there: Fox News, Lou Dobbs, Republicans, etc., etc.

Comedians like Dave Chappelle and Sarah Silverman who venture into non-pc territory argue that they're mocking stereotypes and thereby showing the stupidity of their non-pc characters. But if there were not a lot of truth to those stereotypes, the jokes wouldn't be funny. The humor comes from the the release of the tension that those uncomfortable truths provoke. Did the average guy find Archie Bunker funny because he said ignorant things (as Silverman suggests), or because he said things that the average guy thinks but is not allowed to express?

Anonymous said...

Sarah Silverman milks her Askenazi pass for all it's worth.

Anonymous said...

the apatow/lewis line was a joke, btw



and maria bamford is the best female comic

Anonymous said...

amy sedaris is one of lettermans favorite guests.


i doubt he has anything against female comics

Fred said...

"Just so you know who to thank for this state of affairs..."

Yes, the Jews. We killed laughter right after we killed Jesus. Sorry.

eh said...

They can as "sanctimonious" -- or full of shit -- as they like.

Here is the important part of the story:

...has been dismissed...

So the problem obviously goes a lot deeper than mere 'sanctimony'.

eh said...

OT

From Brenda Walker in the Vdare blog:

In Germany, Thilo Sarrazin continues to focus the public’s attention about the danger of Muslim immigration...Sarrazin still speaks in terms of heredity and IQ, which weakens his arguments somewhat.

Anonymous said...

OT

A log of blogspot blogs are unavailable at present. I was surprised to find this one still here.

Maya said...

" Doesn't music seem like it stopped evolving a while back?"

Nope. The stuff that the music industry execs put on the radio is all the same. Meanwhile, more and more exciting new music is available from home studios across the globe, thanks to the internet.

Maya said...

"It strikes me as odd that hipsterish fashion has stagnated too: the average resident of Williamsburg (Brooklyn) in its latter-day decadence doesn't look far off what the average resident looked like a decade ago."

That's because a place can't stay truly "hip" for a decade. Those people are now closing in on middle age, or they are precisely the types who arrive late to the party, trying to grab onto something that has already passed by imitating it to a t. Williamsburg has gone the way of Haight-Ashbury. It's for history books.

Mitch said...

There have been a good number of very funny female actresses, both in TV and in movies. Females aren't particularly good at standup; probably for reasons of gender expectations (theirs and the audience).

Women are often at their funniest when they are reacting. (Jean Arthur, "Why don't you just go home!" and "Oh, why does everything happen to ME?")

And many women have one or two great funny performances in them (Hepburn, Bringing up Baby or Kidman, the one where she was killing everyone.)

So it's not that women can't be funny, but that their original humor just isn't as universal as men's is, and they aren't usually as interested in originating it.

Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and a few others are extremely funny professional comediennes, but they just weren't thought of as the originators. They sure put together amazing teams, though.

Mac said...

Remember that Simpsons episode where Krusty decides he needs to stage a comeback so he does some stand up? He then wins the press over by riffing on comediennes, saying no one wants to hear about their cats, period and PMS?

I think a lot of female stand up performers just come across as neurotic sluts.

I say this just of stand up performers. In everyday life, I find women can be just as funny as men.

Glaivester said...

The only funny popular feminine comic I can think of is Paula Poundstone. She is the exception that proves the rule.

Perhaps a lack of interest in sex has increased the amount of energy she can direct into being funny? (She has come out as asexual).

Anonymous said...

All in the Family aired from '71-'80. Sarah Silverman was born in 1970. I'm not certain her opinion of Archie Bunker, as she was under 10 years old, carries any weight on the topic.

Maya said...

Personally, I find plenty of women funny when they are acting in comedies. As a kid, I used to laugh out loud while watching "I Love Lucy" reruns, so I think that funny actresses go far back.

Yet, there's something that makes it impossible for me to enjoy women as stand up comedians. They aren't funny. I couldn't stand Sarah Silverman until I saw her TV series. The TV show's good. I've also had female friends in high school and college who made me laugh all the time. Yet, when one of them did stand up at a talent competition, I had to fake smiles and giggles. Perhaps women need social context to be at their best?

Anonymous said...

Anjelah Johnson is funny in this clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baDJ-ZIvYy0

Anonymous said...

Ben Elton killed off the comedy of Benny Hill and a few others to pave the way for Dawn French and Jo Brand so that no one would notice how utterly banal he was. (Still is but thankfully he has disappeared to his mans, er, sorrry, hupersonsion somewhere.)

whosit said...

There's some comedienne, red-haired, standup who was on Seinfeld once. I have seen her and she is very funny. Her send-up of Barbara Streisand (specifically the singer reacting in a cringing way toward a bedazzled fan striken with cancer, whose dream of meeting Barbara was realized on tv) was so perfect and dead-on, I'm still in awe of how funny and how honest it was. And I never thought of Streisand as comedy material. Really.
However, mostly this comedienne's routines made me a little sick, even as I laughed; I do think men get away with gross material that women can't, even in this day & age.
But I can't remember that comedienne's danged name.

agnostic said...

Women are designed for small groups, so they would get too self-conscious doing stand-up.

This only leaves the attention whores as stand-up comics. They never come across as really connecting with the crowd, being on the same wavelength. They just feel soothed from all the validation they're soaking up.

They can do better in movies since the crowd right around them is tiny and are not total strangers but familiar faces from the cast and crew.

But like someone else said, they do best in reaction shots where we empathize with their expressions that are caused by the funny male. Sigourney Weaver reacting to Rick Moranis and Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, for example.

Faye Dunaway delivered a great deadpan performance of her own all throughout Network, though. Only one that springs to mind that wasn't funny reactions to others.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about gender ratios at The Onion, but I do know their chief editor is a woman

Back when The Onion was at its peak of being the funniest publication ever, when it still resided where it began, in Madison, WI, it was 100% male affair. For years, no woman could be spotted in its offices.

Karen said...

Jane Austen was pretty hilarious, as well as Carole Lombard, Lucille Ball, Gracie Allen, and Ann Richards, just to list people off the top of my head. Tina Fey is a very successful comedienne. The only way this idiot's statement makes sense is to limit the category "comedy" to "people who tell jokes while standing in front of a microphone in a smoky bar."

Anonymous said...

One of the great tricks of the leftist establishment is to convince young people that its ideas are revolutionary and rebellious, who then waste their youthful energy shilling for The Man.

ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!

Immigration as in issue illustrates this perfectly.

edgy gurl said...

You're a little off on this one. I think there are fewer great female comics but I can also think of plenty of males whose appeal relates more to a fad than to an actual talent for comedy. Robin Williams, for instance, was widely popular in the early 80s but lately is just annoying.

Great female comics:

Mae West (caricature of a vamp)
Gracie Allen
Gilda Radner
Whoopi Goldberg

Good female comics:
the chick who does the Minnesota Swedish humor
the blonde off of Mad TV who does great physical schtick
Sherry O'Terry from SNL

When you start crossing off the men who only appeal to a certain generation or for a brief period of time, the gap between genders narrows somewhat. How many of you could stand to sit through a routine of any number of guys who were top comedians in the 80s? I can think of even more supposedly funny guys from previous generations who never made me laugh: Red Skelton, Benny Hill.

Women's biggest disadvantage is that so very few are going to be able to pull of the physical humor which I think is what gives the greats lasting appeal; Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy. This of course fails to explain why I don't get Mr. Bean in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Yet, there's something that makes it impossible for me to enjoy women as stand up comedians. They aren't funny.

Stand-up comedy itself is kind of weird -- I don't particularly enjoy it myself, to be frank -- in that it's basically a man ranting away in front of a microphone. Stripped of the cultural context that makes one read it as "funny," it's kind of sad actually. And I think that may be one thing that makes female stand-up comics less funny.

I think, though, that if you had a pair of women doing a comedic dialogue improv, it would work just fine. Like other commenters here, there's lots of female actresses I enjoy watching in comedic roles, and dialogue-style comedy gives similar opportunities in terms of set up and reaction and interplay. I still don't think you'd get an even balance of men and women, but I think that's less a result of any intrinsic gender difference in humorousness than that comedy usually requires someone to act goofy, dumb, or clueless, and Western women on average seem less willing to throw their amour-propre away in public like that than Western men. I think there's a strong cultural component in that, though.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of funny comic actresses. Most women "comics" just say things funny as opposed to saying funny things. Most of them just tell stories or tell jokes other people (aka Men) write for them.

How many witty women out there? Lets see Ann Coulter, Dorothy Parker, and ...

Women don't have equality in any artistic/intellectual field. Even the best Fashion designers and cooks are men.

S.Anonyia said...

"Stand-up comedy itself is kind of weird -- I don't particularly enjoy it myself, to be frank -- in that it's basically a man ranting away in front of a microphone. Stripped of the cultural context that makes one read it as "funny," it's kind of sad actually. And I think that may be one thing that makes female stand-up comics less funny."

Agreed. Stand-up makes me very uncomfortable; I think its the combination of aggressiveness and neuroticism that does it. Humor loses its spontaneity, context and absurdity (the very factors which make something funny in my perception) in stand up form.

beowulf said...

Anjelah Johnson is, in fact, hilarious.

"Bon Qui Qui at King Burger"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZkdcYlOn5M&feature=related

S.Anonyia said...

Also, I think the reason contemporary women aren't very funny is twofold: 1. humor has gotten a lot more crass over the years, and women just can't pull that act off very well, and 2. the current incarnation of feminism has made women take themselves far too seriously, and they aren't as willing to poke fun at their flaws (or even the flaws of others) and let loose.

agnostic said...

Another good source of female deadpan funniness is Heathers. Not really Winona Ryder, who isn't a callous caricature, but the Heathers themselves.

"Martha Dumptruck? Get crucial! She was dialing suicide hotlines in her diapers."

"That's the punchline. She's alive, and in stable condition. Just another case of a geek trying to imitate the popular people and failing miserably. Is that pate?"

Maya said...

"There are plenty of funny comic actresses. Most women "comics" just say things funny as opposed to saying funny things. Most of them just tell stories or tell jokes other people (aka Men) write for them."

No, that's not it. Women can't deliver stand up, for some reason. (At least from where I'm trying to enjoy it.) Sarah Silverman annoys me to no end when performing solo in front of a crowd, and yet I found her TV show really enjoyable, as I said before. She writes for both. In fact, she recycles the same material between her stand up and her series. Btw, "saying things funny" takes real talent. Coming up with witty material is important too, of course, but we are talking about performance here. Comic delivery is key in being funny. Women, in my humble opinion, can deliver while interacting, but not alone. As far as witty women go, there are plenty. I wouldn't be surprised if the ratio favors men dramatically, but if you can only think of two women who display sharp wit, you clearly don't get out enough. Of the top of my head, try Yasmina Reza, Dina Rubin or Carrie Brownstein. Enjoy!

Antioco Dascalon said...

i think the real gender disparities on comedy are the ones that should be the most free of discrimination: comedy writing. I'm fairly certain that the writing teams for the Daily Show, Letterman, Leno, Conan, etc are skewed very male. Acting has an intrinsic affirmative action component in that it tries to imitate life, which has about 50% females. One would think that women could act as well as men. If this is so, then why have separate acting categories for men and women? We don't have Best Male Director and Best Female Director or Best Male Sound Editor and Best Female Sound Editor. I think the reason is that an Actor and an Actress are so different as not even comparable.

Ray Sawhill said...

Put me down under the general heading of "while there aren't many terrific women standup comics, there are an awful lot of inspired comic actresses."

I suspect that the reasons are partly biological. Standup is like combat: it's confrontational and requires aggression. People doing it use phrases like "I killed them," or "I died out there." And jokes, gags and punchlines are things that males are much more prone to than women are. (We all know the guy who's a compulsive punster or joke teller even though he isn't any good at it. How many women are like that?) So standup is inherently a more male-friendly form. But it's unfair to conclude from this that women aren't funny. Women are more likely to lose themselves in character stuff, in the irrationality of feelings, in situations and relationships. Even when they're driven, they aren't likely to be as confrontational or aggressive, let alone as combative, as guys often are. And they generally slip into characters -- they feel 'em from the inside out -- more easily than guys do.

Men and women tend to do humor differently, to do different kinds of humor, and to express their humor in different forms and venues. I think all that can be reasonably asserted. I don't know how you can calculate which sex generates MORE humor, though.

To add some more names to the list: Sigourney Weaver was often a riot on stage, Julie Halston is a hoot, the young Bette Midler was often hysterical, Lisa Kudrow does amazing high-style daffiness ...

Hey, I'm married to a professional funnygirl. She's often hilarious but I don't think I've ever heard her tell a joke. Check her website out:

LINK

All that said, many women are terrible wet blankets, don't you find?

Anonymous said...

I watched about 10 minutes of that Lampenelli cow on an HBO special. Does she do any jokes that aren't about her banging black guys?

Anonymous said...

What is it with Steve and VoxDay posting on the same topics?

Charlotte said...

"All that said, many women are terrible wet blankets, don't you find?"

Have to be sometimes. A lot of blankets have cooties and need washing; women have been the traditional pounders of laundry on rocks.
Stand ups otoh don't mind being dirty.

Anyway, standing at attention awaiting public opinion does evoke a male metaphor.

Anonymous said...

Whosit,
Kathy Griffin.

Anonymous said...

Penn and Teller Babylon5 alien joke

Penn and Teller Babylon5 before and after the alien joke

Captain Lockley is the one remaining stoney faced in clip two unaware what is humourous.

Gene Berman said...

Carol:

Redd Fox may have only "burst on the scene" relatively recently insofar as TV might be concerned but he was making what were called "party records" a long, long, time ago (I wasn't yet 10 when I first heard him in 1945--on a number of records found while trash-picking).

Anonymous said...

“A group of sociologists did a poll in Arizona regarding the state’s new immigration law. Sixty percent said they were in favor, and 40 percent said, ‘No hablo Ingles.’”

Some student who did not understand the joke got her professor fired at Roosevelt University.

Kudzu Bob said...

There are plenty of funny comic actresses. Most women "comics" just say things funny as opposed to saying funny things.

Quite right. Here is an enjoyable example from one such performer; she isn't well-known but deserves to be.

Anonymous said...

"There are plenty of funny comic actresses. Most women "comics" just say things funny as opposed to saying funny things. Most of them just tell stories or tell jokes other people (aka Men) write for them."

Mae West wrote her own material and she is someone who can make people roar with laughter almost 100 years later.

Charlotte said...

"Quite right. Here is an enjoyable example from one such performer; she isn't well-known but deserves to be."

Thanks! And she writes her own material too.

Reminds me of my salad days and why girls goofing off among themselves appeared to be dying of terminal giggles. They really didn't need a stand up of either gender just for laughs.

Anonymous said...

(Cliff Arroyo)

Which sex gets more practice in trying to win over an audience by wit and quick thinking and self-deprecation? Modern stand up comedy seems a lot like a modern pick up scenario - trying to get approval from an audience.

Also traditionally female comics often played on their looks (Mae West, Totie Fields, Phyllis Diller) which is pretty much culturally verboten now.

Another traditional form of female authored humor revolved around domestic chaos, though these were more likely to be books or newspaper columns (Betty MacDonald thru Shirley Jackson, Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck) all of whose work was enjoyed by women and men. Even Roseanne's big break (on Johnny Carson) was in that same mode. Again, cultural changes seem to have eliminated this humor stream.

Anonymous said...

Kathy Griffin ;) ;)

Anonymous said...

I've generally found blacks to be funnier than Asians (Ken Jeong excepted). Maybe a testosterone thing?

I think Judd Apatow is not funny; he glorifies abject losers who should have committed ritual suicide years ago. The only movie of his that was somewhat decent was "Funny People" with an underrated Adam Sandler.

Truth said...

Bob, the SWPL guy could just take down his whole site, and put up a full page screenshot of you.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of people you don't expect to be funny, a German told me this one:

A princess is walking through the forest on a beautiful day. She spots a frog on a lily pad. Picking him up in her hand, she coos, "Oh, are you the frog who is going to turn into my handsome prince with a kiss?" The frog croaks, "No, that's my brother; you gotta blow me."

Huh? Huh?

Anonymous said...

Karma makes it HARD to laugh at a woman's little jokes