: Andrew George
A staple in hacky comedy is the old “women are different from men” premise, but this isn’t stopping the ladies from making a name for themselves in the standup world. Ever since Lucille Ball stumbled onto television sets in 1951 and started breaking things for half an hour at a time, America has been warming up to the idea that women are just as funny, and sometimes funnier, than men. This has allowed female standup comedians to explode into the comedy world in recent years and establish themselves as credible performers.
By simply turning on a television, which is what people used to watch before the internet came around, you can see that women are beginning to play an equal part in running the world of entertainment. With Kristin Wiig and her posse breaking box office records with Bridesmaids and primetime Neilson Ratings being dominated by Tina Fey, Amy Phoeler, Melissa McCarthy, and Betty White (again), it is impossible to deny that women are making a name for themselves in comedy.
On a smaller and more specific scale, the standup community is also seeing more and more women achieving success in what has been thought of as somewhat of a boy’s club for quite some time. The constantly evolving comedy culture now has quite a few women leading the pack of up and coming acts and established performers. Thanks to the internet, podcasts, and the current standup craze that has created more opportunities for people to get stage time, it is becoming much easier for comedians to get their names out there. This has allowed female comics to go up and show the world what they are capable of, and the world is responding in an extremely positive way. The constant search for the next great thing and the welcoming vibes of the progressive comedy community has helped the negative connotations associated with women in comedy disappear. The days of people saying that women aren’t as funny as men are coming to an end, thanks to female comics who aren’t afraid to take on the same topics as male comics and shine a new light on the subjects in a way that only they could pull off.
There are quite a few American standup comediennes who have reached a level of success that has implanted them as a part of our culture by being consistently funny and fearlessly throwing themselves into the public eye. This can be seen by looking at the careers of countless comics, from Sarah Silverman after etting her own program on Comedy Central, appearing in numerous films, and recording her own hour standup special, to Whitney Cummings, who has exploded into mainstream society since becoming a regular on Comedy Central’s roasts and after NBC accidentally gave her a sitcom last year.
According to Forbes Magazine, these comediennes are also reaching a great level of financial success. Among 2011’s top grossing comics who are not Jeff Dunham, Chelsea Handler came in third, bringing in over 19 million dollars in 2011 alone. This amount comes from a combination of her standup tours, book sales, movie roles, and her popular late night show Chelsea Lately on E!, in which she features her comedian friends on a nightly basis. This only goes to prove all of our mothers wrong when she told us that vibrater and midget jokes can’t be the basis for a fulfilling career.
One of our favorite female comedians, Bonnie McFarlane, just finished producing a documentary that follows this topic by interviewing and showcasing some of the biggest female names in comedy, along with her husband and friend of the Skull, Rich Vos. An inside source (Rich), said that the film follows the careers of the hottest female acts in modern day comedy, showcases selections of their material, stage performances, and includes exclusive interviews and interactions with Bonnie and Rich. Currently, there is no official release date or method of distribution for the documentary, but it has received various praises from the select few who have had the pleasure of seeing it early. Reportedly, Louis C.K. even commented on the film by saying, “Yeah, it was okay.”
In recent years, entire festivals have been dedicated to celebrating these funny females. In 2011, both Chicago and New York both independently held a Women in Comedy Festival, which featured up and coming female standups along side some of the biggest names in comedy. Among others, these festivals brought in 90’s “alternative heartthrob” Janeane Garofalo, musical duo Garfunkle and Oates, which is composed of Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome, Natasha Leggero, and Chelsea Peretti, who writes for Parks and Recreation on NBC and was recently named the number one podcast guest of the year by Podcasters Weekly, which is apparently a real thing. Currently, the Laughing Devil Comedy Club in New York is taking submissions for the 2012 She-Devil Comedy Festival, which will take place in late October.
After achieving success in standup comedy, it is natural in this industry that the next step for any popular performer transitions into television and film, and female comics are no exception. Everyone already knows the stories of female comedians like Roseanne Barr and Ellen DeGeneres who went on to find success in sitcoms and talk shows, but stories like this can also be seen in the modern day careers of women comics. Two prime examples are Iliza Sclesinger, who went from standup to hosting the daytime reality dating show, Excused, which is extremely popular amongst the unemployed, and Margaret Cho, the spirit animal of The Laughing Skull, who does literally everything.
While it can be argued that gender inequality exists in every aspect of modern day culture, it is obvious that the comedy world is taking leaps and bounds in the right direction towards equality. But it is not because we are all just becoming more accepting, it is because the females in the current class of comedians are virtually incomparable to any other generation of comics as far as dedication, persistence, and ballsiness are concerned.