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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Time to laugh at critics of female comedians

This past summer was a positive one for the public conception of the female comedian. Amy Schumer, amidst continued acclaim for her Comedy Central show “Inside Amy Schumer” and stand-up in general, wrote and starred in “Trainwreck,” one of the summer’s top-rated comedies. With a budget of $35 million and a current box office gross of $105.1 million, the film is an undoubted commercial success.

Tig Notaro, long-time comedian who has only recently broken into the broader public eye, had two major releases this summer, with the Netflix documentary “Tig” chronicling her attempts at becoming pregnant and the HBO comedy special “Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted”, bringing her particular brand of humor to a larger audience than ever before.

Indeed, it was difficult to drive around Los Angeles this summer without encountering a 14-foot-tall image of one or both of these hilarious women, advertising one of their many upcoming projects.

Such massive accomplishments make feminist concerns over the banal, but ever-present question, “Why aren’t women funny?” seem a now-unnecessary preponderance.

After all, we now have empirical evidence to the contrary — or as close to empirical as one can get when speaking of as illusive a subject as comedy.

And yet, that question, asked most infamously in a 2008 Vanity Fair article by the otherwise sagacious — and unfortunately deceased — Christopher Hitchens, continues to rear its ugly head in many well-traveled corners of the Internet.

Reddit threads with titles along the lines of, “Am I the only one who doesn’t find [blank female comedian] funny?” remain common, usually devolving from their already shaky premises into personal attacks on the comic in question.

The darkest of these threads will even go so far as to bring up conspiracy, such as one particularly bizarre comments section that accused Tig Notaro of actually making up her battle with breast cancer to fuel her career.

Presumably, Tig’s topless performance during “Boyish Girl Interrupted,” in which she bears the scars of her double mastectomy for all to see, dispels such theories (as if they even needed to be dispelled), though the lengths of self-deception misogynists will go to in order to continue to deny female comedic ability apparently know no bounds.

The Media Research Center’s Katie Yoder penned an inexorably condescending opinion on the matter of female comedy for Fox News in July, writing, “[Amy Schumer’s] ‘Brilliance’ is really just an endless parade of four-letter skits Schumer delivers as the host of Comedy Central’s ‘Inside Amy Schumer.’” She later wrote, “It’s not [Schumer’s] fault … her parents divorced when she was 12.”

Apparently then, the question is no longer whether or not women are funny, it’s whether or not they’re the right kind of funny. Their jokes are too sexual, too honest, too personal. In essence, they’re all the things that only male comedy was previously allowed to be.

Local Tucson comedienne Brooke Hartnett provides a counterpoint to Yoder’s point of view: “What I grew to love about Amy Schumer is that she represents a particular kind of woman — brash, confident, messy, loud. That is a real kind of woman, and not one that always is represented in comedy or in the media at all.”

When Lucille Ball used her seminal 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy” to point out the inherent silliness in the domestic housewife life of that period, misogynists could still laugh because this was subject matter they felt women should be discussing — all the while not realizing it was actually Ball who was laughing at them.

Now that the likes of Amy Schumer, Tig Notaro, Mindy Kaling and Jenny Slate are using their own works as a platform from which to discuss their bodies, sexualities and frustrations in relation to both, misogynists aren’t laughing.

Rather, they’re scared. They’re recognizing that if these very visible, very popular women feel comfortable being honest when it comes to sex, then the everyday women, the ones the misogynists are trying to take home on a Saturday night, might start speaking their own truth.

And maybe, once that happens, the misogynists won’t like what they hear. For there truly can be no other rational reason that men might want to pursue the anti-comedienne argument any further. To all men: Let it go. If even Hitchens couldn’t make a proper go of it, then neither can you.

Follow Greg Castro on Twitter.

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