Comedian or Comedienne? The Unfunny Misogyny of Comedy
Comedian or Comedienne? The Unfunny Misogyny of Comedy

Comedian or Comedienne? The Unfunny Misogyny of Comedy

The three most underrated women in comedy fight for relevance, while Adam Sandler continues to make movies.
June 6, 2016
8 mins read

The misogynistic idea that women are not funny, or, if they are funny, that they’re less likable, is of course not only false, but so ridiculously incorrect that it in and of itself is laughable—which is kind of funny.

I know full well that I am not the first person to write a column defending the female capacity for humor, but I cannot help but get peeved every time I see a comedienne I admire be asked repeatedly, “What’s it like being a woman in the world of comedy?”

With the recoil surrounding the all-female remake of the beloved film “Ghostbusters,” this particular brand of misogyny has had a moment in the spotlight recently. The movie stars Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

Three of the four women were longtime participants on comedy’s greatest stage: “Saturday Night Live.”

Despite their obvious talent and success in the industry, the backlash was furious. People who hide in the luxury of anonymity on the internet were apparently unable to wrap their minds around a comedy primarily involving women.

In my mind, there is no greater TV comedy actor—male or female—than Julia Louis Dreyfus.

Comedian or Comedienne? The Unfunny Misogyny of ComedyDreyfus excels in any role she plays. Her latest role in HBO’s “Veep” is just another reminder of her talent and prowess as a top player in the world of comedy. Her name posits recognition around the world, but she still doesn’t get nearly the recognition she deserves for her achievements in TV.

Her name, though recognizable, sits on a very long list of female comedians that do not get the recognition that male comedians receive so easily. Even the great Jerry Seinfeld has said that he does not see how women have it harder in comedy. As an affluent white male, it’s possible that Seinfeld lacks the perspective needed to be empathetic. He undoubtedly worked very hard to achieve his success, but if the standards for proving funniness were the same across the gender binary, it would be impossible that no woman has reached Mr. Seinfeld’s level of fame.

Because it is indeed much harder for women to break into the world comedy than it is for men, many phenomenal female comedians and comedic actresses fall by the wayside, and despite radiating talent, are often overlooked.

Jane Krakowski is a prime example of this. You may know her from NBC’s “30 Rock” where she played the outrageously funny Jenna Maroney.

Comedian or Comedienne? The Unfunny Misogyny of ComedyHer performance in that role is unlike anything I have ever seen, and the fact that she never received an Emmy for her acting is a shame, though she’s not the only woman who has been snubbed by the academy. Krakowski also stars in Fey’s newest masterpiece, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” as Jacqueline Voorhees. Though the roles are similar in the fact that they are both histrionic characters, Krakowski’s talent shines because she is able to separate the two. It doesn’t feel like she’s just playing the same role over again, and she manages to improve every season.

As many talented male actors have yet to win an Emmy, the fact that Krakowski has yet to win an award by no means proves the sexism of Hollywood, but the fact that her name garners less recognition than many less talented male counterparts says volumes.

Though she now has her own late night TV show, Samantha Bee is also overlooked. In my opinion, Bee is definitely just as funny as any male late night show host out there. While Trevor Noah is doing a good job taking over for Jon Stewart, I cannot help but think that the show would be doing better with someone else as host. In my eyes, there was no better replacement for the beloved Stewart than Samantha Bee.

She was the most tenured correspondent on the show and a fan favorite. Her new show “Full Frontal” proves that Bee has the ability to make a show so similar to “The Daily Show” her own, whereas with Noah it sometimes seems as if he is trying to emulate everything that Jon Stewart was. Bee brings a fresh voice to late night that isn’t heard anywhere else. Had she been hired as the host of “The Daily Show” it would have been an incredible moment for women, but even though she was the most qualified, the network still overlooked her.

Jessica Williams is also a key cog in “The Daily Show” machine, but despite her talent she has yet to receive even close to the amount of recognition that she so deserves.

Comedian or Comedienne? The Unfunny Misogyny of ComedyHer standing as a person of color too adds another voice that could be instrumental in the world of comedy, but she’s been denied any opportunity for a big break. Though she has gained traction, Williams has not become the household name that both Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert went on to be.

There are, of course, many more women snubbed in the world of comedy than just the three mentioned here. But for each and every one of them, there is a less talented male who has skyrocketed to fame. What’s wrong with the industry when talented female comedians have to fight for network recognition while Adam Sandler continues to roll out animated garbage every week?

Many people fail to understand that though the jobs remain the same, it is almost always more difficult for a woman to succeed in a role than it is for a man. The discrepancy is not a result of women being inherently less talented than men, but rather because societal perceptions anticipate women always being “less than.”

In the end, all of the women I’ve mentioned are incredibly talented. But time will tell if they are ever given the respect and adoration they deserve—the type that their male counterparts seem to find so easily.

Lauren Grimaldi, Roosevelt University

Political Science
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