Us gals who did the Vancouver Comedy Festival were interviewed about being a girl in comedy! I didn’t even know I was a girl in comedy until it was all anyone would fucking talk about! I just naively thought I was a comedian! Anyway, I think the article does it justice. I just wish we could stop talking about it already and let us say FUNNY things in the article. After reading this, I wouldn’t neccessarily think we’re a laugh riot.
Laughs mixed up with looks
By guy macpherson
Publish Date: 21-Sep-2006
Hard to believe, I know, but even in 2006 there are still comedy fans who hold to the belief that women aren’t funny. Period. “Oh really?” you counter. “What about Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Silverman, Roseanne Barr, Wanda Sykes, Kathleen Madigan, Janeane Garofalo, Margaret Cho?” You get the picture. “Well, they’re exceptions to the rule,” they lamely reply.
All this week, at venues throughout town, there are plenty more of these “exceptions”. Some of the top female comics are playing the CanWest Comedy Fest (www.vancouvercomedyfest.com/), from high-profile names like Garofalo and Cho to lesser-known but equally respected names like Maria Bamford, Morgan Murphy, and Jen Kirkman, to Vancouver’s best and brightest, like Erica Sigurdson, Jen Grant, and Diana Frances. Outside of the festival, Barr is playing at the Red Robinson Show Theatre in Coquitlam on Friday (September 22).
Garofalo, who’s been doing standup for about 25 years, has heard this ugly canard about gender inequality when it comes to humour, but it doesn’t phase her. “Well, that would just be their particular problem,” she says. “Those people that say that are labouring under a falsehood. But I’m sure they labour under many other falsehoods besides that one.”
The youthful 41-year-old thinks things are better now for female comics. “When I first started it was more annoying,” she says. “Back in 1985 there was a myth that you couldn’t have two women back-to-back because they’d lose the audience. And if you booked a woman headliner in a club one week, you had to wait a month. I don’t think that still exists.”
But ask around and you get different opinions. For Kirkman, an eight-year vet based in Los Angeles, progress isn’t necessarily being made. “I feel like we saw more women on television in the ’80s and more different types,” she says. “I think it’s gotten worse because now there’s this thing where you have to be hot. There are some attractive female comedians and they get crap for that. It’s like, ‘Why are you a comedian if you’re attractive?’ And if you’re not, no one will look at you.”
She has a point. Today’s funnywomen all seem to be more conventionally eye-catching than the comediennes of yesteryear. “Not that I’m a hot, hot superstar,” says the 36-year-old Bamford, one of the original Comedians of Comedy tour (which appears tonight [September 21] at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre) and a star in the Best of the Fest show Saturday (September 23) at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. “But I feel like I’ve gotten enough comments where people have said, ‘Oh, it’s so great that you’re both funny and pretty.'”
Murphy, a 24-year-old who’s appearing with the Comedians of Comedy after writing stints on both Crank Yankers and Jimmy Kimmel Live, sees more of a problem on TV-writing staffs, where she’s always been the lone female. But she doesn’t think the quota system is the answer. “Hiring women who aren’t qualified at the job, whatever it is, is going to shed a bad light on everybody else who is qualified,” she says.
That very system almost proved disastrous for Kirkman, whose appearances include a stint at Yuk Yuk’s on Friday (September 22). Six years ago she got a spot on the highly coveted Premium Blend, Comedy Central’s showcase for the hottest standups working. “I had maybe been doing standup about three years,” she says. “I was okay but really shaky, had never done TV. I bombed. It was terrible. I found out later that they had a woman quota to fill. And it was like, ‘Ugh, why did you do that?’ It just makes everyone look bad.”
Situations like these might give rise to the ugly stereotype that women aren’t funny. But Kirkman makes another point: all new comics start out struggling to find their voice and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. “I think for men, it’s, ‘Oh, he sucks, but he’ll get better. I’ll give him a chance,'” she says. “And when you’re a woman and you’re first starting out and you suck, it’s because you’re a girl.”
Murphy just goes about her job slaying audiences with dry one-liners, letting her work speak for itself. “As an artist,” she says, “you sort of have to take yourself out of all the politics of it [hiring practices]. I guess it’s not the wisest thing, but to try to ignore them and just do what you do and hope that someday somebody likes what you do and hires you because of it.”
Of course, it ain’t all roses and lollipops for male comics, either. “I think white men have the same issue because there are so many of them it’s hard for them to make themselves known,” Bamford says. “They just have a different issue. I think everybody has their own level of suffering.”