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Where are all the funny ladies? - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Where are all the funny ladies? [Jul. 14th, 2012|07:15 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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Over the years I've watched a lot of stand-up comedy online. I can't help but notice that there aren't many women doing it, and the ones that do, well, frankly, kinda suck.

One problem is the limited topic selection. On ChickComedy [1], for instance, the majority of monologues seem to be about relationships. But here's a bigger problem: to be funny you have to do the work of writing jokes rather than just go on stage and talk about your life in a humorous or exaggerated way. The latter might work when you're telling your besties about your day over dinner, but for stand-up the bar is higher since you're talking to strangers who don't care about your life. While there are unfunny male comics and unfunny female comics, it seems to me that women fail more often at meeting the basic requirement of coming up with good material.

The best comedians are two steps ahead: not only are their bits fabricated (even if inspired by something that happened), they expect their audience to be aware of and comfortable with this fact. For example, Louis CK once went, "So I was in a bar the other night. [Pause]. Doesn't matter where, cuz I'm lying. [Roar of laughter.]"

To be sure, there are several women whose standup I've enjoyed watching tremendously — Ellen, Sarah Silverman, and Chelsea Handler come to mind — but they always seem to go on to bigger things. Where are the female George Carlins and Russell Peterses?

I suspect there are evolutionary and/or cultural reasons why we laugh more at jokes told by men than women, so it's definitely going to be an uphill battle. But I don't think it explains the level of discrepancy that exists. Any theories?

[I realize it's easy to be an armchair critic, especially of things you've never tried doing yourself. That said, I'm spending more money on stand-up these days, and if this post leads to suggestions of funny women I wasn't aware of, and I pay to go see them, that will have been a constructive outcome.]

[1] ChickComedy on Youtube. Warning: autoplay.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: paper_crystals
2012-07-15 03:13 am (UTC)
Comedy being a sausage fest is kind of an ongoing issue. Surprisingly, comedy also isn't too diverse either. (Lots of white ex lawyers.) It may also be a critical mass problem (when there are more women in comedy there will be more women in comedy sort of problem).

I really like Amy Sedaris (who does a lot of things but not much stand up) and Charlyne Yi (who has retired from stand up). Margaret Cho has some funny stuff. I like Vanessa Williams on The Daily Show although I haven't seen any of her stand up as well as Samantha Bee but I haven't seen any of her stand up either. I am sooo glad The Daily Show got rid of Oliva Munn. OMG I hated her. Sorry, that sort of turned into a ramble. I wish I could be more helpful.
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[User Picture]From: paper_crystals
2012-07-15 03:17 am (UTC)
Also, when you move to NYC Three of Cups has free comedy open mic on Sunday evenings or they used to.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2012-07-15 04:39 am (UTC)
Thanks for all the suggestions!
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[User Picture]From: patrickwonders
2012-07-15 04:19 am (UTC)
These are all a bit dated, but I've enjoyed most of what I've heard from Margaret Cho, Maria Bamford, Laura Kightlinger, Kristen Schaal, and Wendy Liebman (took me 10 minutes of poking around Google/YouTube to find her name again).
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2012-07-15 04:39 am (UTC)
Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: patrickwonders
2012-07-15 05:41 am (UTC)
Oh, man... I seriously hurt myself laughing at the second half of this bit: http://youtu.be/MOtTl0UWsZM
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From: fixious
2012-07-15 05:25 am (UTC)
I like what I've seen of Sarah Haskins. And in the Second City comedy club, which has an ensemble cast, the women are on par with the men (though the shows overall can be a hit or miss).
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2012-07-15 05:53 am (UTC)
Cool, thanks.
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From: fixious
2012-07-15 05:29 am (UTC)
Also, Ursula Martinez -- very NSFW, but undoubtedly funny.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2012-07-15 05:56 am (UTC)
I've seen that act. I didn't quite get it — it was neither funny enough for stand-up, nor innovative enough for magic, nor (nearly) hot enough for porn.
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[User Picture]From: Adam Bossy
2012-07-15 08:12 am (UTC)

It's possible that men are more tolerant of constant rejection. This, coupled with the idea that comedy is a fairly unorthodox career path, probably weeds out a lot of women from making it to stardom.

A comedian I've enjoyed a lot lately on Pandora is Amy Schumer. She makes jokes that are entirely possible only because she is a woman, which I think makes her stand out. A good example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8dCk1mj3N0

I also like Anjelah Johnson a lot, but she definitely relies more on racial and gender stereotypes than I typically fancy these days:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsWrY77o77o
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[User Picture]From: theswede
2012-07-16 02:16 pm (UTC)
I'm a big fan of Aisha Tyler, although mostly of her TV work and her Girl On Guy podcast. If I have a current celebrity crush it's probably of her.
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