Apparently the question of female humor has shifted significantly from Christopher Hitchens’ days – I guess we’ve stopped asking if women are funny and now are saying, “Sure, they are – as long as they’re hot.” At least according to Fox News reporter, Hollie Mckay. Channeling a fratboy, Mckay’s article, “New Crop of Comediennes Combine Funny Bones with Banging Bodies” reports on this “trend” of model-pretty women who are now becoming comic darlings – she highlights Olivia Munn and Anna Faris among others in her argument. Because she’s from Fox News, she has to write something shitty about Rosie O’Donnell and Janeane Garofalo, quoting an entertainment “expert” who says they will be “relegated to playing female versions of Chris Farley.”
So because a number of screen comediennes and female stand up comics look good in bikinis, we can safely say that plain janes, unconventional lookers and women of size should step aside? HuffPo correctly highlighted the success of recent Emmy-winner, and personal new-fav of this blogger, Melissa McCarthy, who not only killed it on Saturday Night Live but was the best thing in Bridesmaids, stealing scenes from conventionally pretty funny ladies, Kirstin Wiig and Maya Rudolph.
But a big mistake Mckay is making is the assumption that frump is the sole appeal of comediennes like Roseanne Barr, O’Donnell, Bette Midler, etc. which is just not the case – granted these comics – especially Midler – have gotten comic mileage from their lack of Elle-level looks, but comediennes like Marilyn Monroe, Goldie Hawn and Kirstie Alley have all used their beauty as only part of their schtick as well – it’s a combo of things that makes these ladies funny. Barr is a great example because the bulk of her comedy doesn’t really come from her looks or weight, but more from her perspective on gender roles and politics. And of course, Lucille Ball, the greatest comedienne of all time, was successful because of her work and her great beauty was really beside the point (on I Love Lucy her model looks were never an issue).
And the idea that in this age of post-mono culturalism, that there is a “comic landscape” is just laughable. I mean, how else can we explain the successes of Howie Mandel or Gallagher? There’s an audience for all kinds of (alleged) funny. So there’s room for the brilliant (Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle) and the mediocre (Mandel, Gallagher). There’s room for the Maxim hot girl like Munn to be celebrated, but a lady like Garafalo or McCarthy still have room as well. That’s what’s so great about humor: it’s subjective and diverse.
What I’m saying is that it’s okay to be sexy and funny – it’s done. But I guess my issue with Mckay’s article and the sexist premise is that there is only one kind of sexy and one kind of funny, and therefore if someone is not ascribing to these arbitrary attributes, then she is not funny. It’s not only damaging and very anti-feminist, but it’s also untrue.
At the end of the day, a comic’s job is to make someone laugh and think. It doesn’t matter if she could double as a Playboy covergirl as long as she’s got the (comedic) goods.