The other day I read the article “How Comedy Made Me a Feminist” on this site. It tells the story of Alison Channon’s journey from joining an improvisation group in college to becoming a feminist because of the sexism she saw in the way women were devalued through comedy. In some ways, I related to Alison. I’m also a college student that considers herself a feminist and a comedian. Or at least a comedy-fanatic. I watch stand-up regularly and love Louis C.K. and Mike Birbiglia. Ask me anything about Saturday Night Live. My feminism shows when I don’t let friends use the word “slut” (womens’ sex lives are a choice) and admire Samantha’s sexual confidence, despite her gender, on Sex and the City. However, I totally disagree with Alison’s view on the relationship between comedy and feminism. While she contends that women are “pigeon-holed and discounted” in the comedic sphere, I personally believe that women are, unfortunately, just less funny than men.
I know. I know. This sounds horrible. But believe me, I’m still a feminist. Stay with me. I’m not saying that every man is funnier than every woman. I think Kristin Wiig, star of Saturday Night Live and co-writer/star of Bridesmaids, defies the accepted norm of funny men, not-so-funny women. She’s way funnier than most men that have ever stepped foot into 30 Rockefeller. If you watched Bridesmaids and didn’t laugh at some point, I question not only sense of humor, but your character as a human being. But Wiig is just an exception.
I agree with Alison that most improv groups are male. Alison says that upon her improv group’s arrival at a comedy festival, she “was struck by how many of the groups were majority male, maybe two girls in a group of ten.” This fact doesn’t strike me. It’s blatantly obvious that comedy groups consist of a male majority, assuming the groups even have females! How many funny female comedians can you name? No matter what your number is, I assure you that you can think of a larger number of funny male ones.
The lack of female comedians, according to Alison, can be attributed to sexism — so let me get this straight. What she’s saying is that every casting director decides they don’t want funny women because they’re women. Alison’s claim implies that mean, misogynistic directors decide to ignore the talent of women standing before them and hire men instead, even if the men are less funny. Alison claims that before she even stepped on stage at her comedy festival she was “dismissed” because of her gender. Alison’s improv group consisted of mostly women, an anomaly at the festival. Regardless, according to Alison her group “killed it” with a show that was “energetic, clever, and awesome.” In her article she asked “But did the audience really notice?” Assuming her answer to this rhetorical answer is “no,” she is claiming that every single audience member thought to themselves, “Let’s not laugh because she’s female.” Anytime a female was on stage they thought, “She’s automatically not funny because of her vagina.” Either hordes of sexists attended the festival, or something else is happening.
I think women are less funny, but it’s not their fault. The audience at the festival didn’t laugh at jokes coming out of female mouths because those jokes were less funny. Being funny as a woman is harder than being funny as a man. I don’t think that everyone who sees and appreciates comedy also despises women. Women are less funny. It’s sad, but it’s true.
Another exception: Ellen DeGeneres. Hilarious woman. Her talk show guarantees a giggle. Of course, everyone’s comedic tastes are different, but I think everyone can agree that this lady’s got the comedic gifts of a humor Greek god (or something). But dearest Ellen is gay. She dresses like a man and does not act like a girly girl. And, like a man, she’s into women (gotta love Portia). Oftentimes on Ellen’s talk show, she’ll joke about how she’s a CoverGirl and it’s funny because her masculine qualities defy everything that is CoverGirl. Ellen’s universal comedic appeal, despite her gender, comes from these qualities.
Why are men funnier? Is it their ability to make dirty jokes because in doing so they don’t jeopardize their stereotypical role in society? Is it the confidence they get from being “the head of the house” and the ask-er out-er in relationships? Is it the confidence they get from the trail of men before them leading the way? Who knows…Somehow being born male is an automatic leg-up in comedy. Comedy fans and casting directors aren’t all sexist bigots. Hopefully Kristin and Ellen will lead the way for more funny ladies. But for now, men are just funnier.