She's pretty funny...for a woman: The changing face of ladies and laughter
“It's always been the time for women in comedy.”
—Jenny Slate, actress, comedian, writer (Obvious Child, Parks and Recreation)
The year 2015 has been a big one for women in comedy. Amy Schumer’s smash hit "Trainwreck" upended the traditional rules of the rom-com. Former “Daily Show” correspondent Samantha Bee’s been building excitement for her own late-night show on TBS, while "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "Grace and Frankie" showed funny women of all ages could makes us laugh out loud. You could say "We've come a long way, baby!" But have we?
We still don't have a female network late-night talk show host. Women are still a minority in most writers’ rooms. Some female comics still find certain topics too taboo to tackle. But why? And what can we do to change that?
On September 14, Take Two's Alex Cohen convened some of the funniest ladies working in film and television today to talk about the state of women in comedy at the Crawford Family Forum.
There were three big questions asked, and we’ve rounded up their answers for you here:
Does gender play a role in comedy?
Responses were diverse. Kristina Wong, performance artist and comedian (Comedy Central), said male comedians never acknowledge her or think she's part of the show lineup, but instead often think she is an intern or an assistant.
Frances Callier, of the Los Angeles-based comedy duo Frangela responded to Wong’s statement saying, “I refuse to be ignored. I refuse to walk into a room and let anyone mistreat me.”
"The Frangela train is leaving the station, either you get on or you get run over,” added her comedy partner, Angela V. Shelton. "I think of my gender as a part of my complex humanity. I like dressing like I'm going on a date when I'm on stage," said Jenny Slate."'How do you feel about being a male performer?' I'd love to hear that some time."
"The Frangela train is leaving the station, either you get on or you get run over.”
Size. Looks. Comedy. Do the first two have an effect on the third?
"There is something to grace and deportment, but you determine that for yourself. That's something you own," said Slate.
When asked about “Obvious Child”'s success, Slate said, "Men and women just liked seeing a normal person being herself. It gave them relief."
Being women of color brought up a whole set of different issues for Shelton, Callier, and Wong.
“As far expectations of being a ‘proper girl’ go, being an Asian woman is a really good disguise,” said Wong.
“When you go on stage, you're making a political statement before opening your mouth when you're a person of color,” said Shelton. She went on to say, "We once had producers who told us, ‘You two should be the hosts on the show. But we're going to hire a model. Can you teach her to be funny for us?’"
“As far expectations of being a ‘proper girl’ go, being an Asian woman is a really good disguise”
What would be a sign that the comedy playing field is level?
"When we don't have to be a 'woman' comedian or director. We shouldn't be in a category because of our sex," said Laraine Newman, original cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and founding member of the Groundlings.
If women were allowed into late night and were not immediately shuffled into Oxygen, that would mean a level playing field for women, said Callier.
"The day I'm not angry. The day I get to be a dumb girl thinking about birds. Then I'll know the field is level,” said Shelton on the typecasting she faces as a black woman.
"I always feel like I'm waiting for a white woman to open the door and let me in," said Wong. "I talk about being scared, but I will constantly make shows and I'm not going to wait for them to be put on TV."