Why Do So Many Pretty Female Comedians Pretend They’re Ugly

This is an Atlantic piece from 2012, which, as you might know, was about four years ago. It’s interesting to see how this piece has a lot of relevance today and might have even garnered more attention today. In fact, it reminds me of another very similar Atlantic piece, Plight of the Funny Female, which came out this fall and I think even comments on some of the same research. I wrote an article about that one, which you can find here.

I think this one is subtly different, but it’s equally as interesting. Throughout the history of comedy, women have been putting themselves down in various ways. Physically making themselves appear less pretty is just one of them. One thing I will point out, that I don’t think the article addressed is that, pretty obviously, men comics put themselves down too. So many times I’ve heard a female comic get up on stage and say, “Wow there are a lot of good-looking guys here!” (referring to other comics) and then a guy will get up and say something like, “I look like a rapist! Haaaa! I’m gross!”

My point isn’t to de-emphasize how women comics have unfortunately had to put themselves down over the years in an attempt to seem funnier. It’s just to show that self-deprecation is a common tool in comedy that women have used to break their way into a formerly male-dominated profession. If people don’t identify with you, you can always make fun of yourself. It’s fascinating how easily people will get on board when you’re pointing your finger at yourself and going, “Look at me, I’m an idiot!” Sometimes it’s even a little unnerving.

Women In Comedy: A Documentary

Usually, I’m not a huge fan of separating men and women comedians. And that’s why I actually really enjoyed this documentary. Usually, the point of a documentary like this would be to go: “Oh wow, look how much of a path woman have blazed for other women in comedy.” But this documentary isn’t like that.

Yes, it’s all about women comedians and what they’ve accomplished in comedy. But what I enjoyed about it the most is the ending. The documentary gradually moves towards saying something to the effect of: “There is no difference between men and women in comedy anymore.” Which, I think, is really healthy. Sure, there are still some slight differences between men and women in comedy today, as there are always bound to be. But, those differences just aren’t worth bringing up anymore for the sake of moving past them. And that’s pretty much the consensus among every woman who is interviewed in the documentary.

Sarah Silverman, one of the last to share her two cents at the end, pretty much sums it up.

“The last relic of it being hard for women in comedy is the question – is the question: ‘What’s it like being a woman in a man’s world?’ And you go, ‘Oh, that question is the last thing left of it, because women run comedy.'”

The documentary was produced by Makers and you can watch it here. Sorry, I can’t find a way to embed it here because they used some weird format – probably precisely for that reason.

 

If you found this interesting, you can read more about my thoughts on women in comedy here.

Why Don’t People Think Women Are Funny?

I was at a small comedy show recently where a panel of eight or so comedians discussed who they thought would be on the “Mount Rushmore of Comedy.” I listened as all the comics listed their top four comics of all time and only one woman, Maria Bamford, was listed. And she was picked by the host, who went last, who might have thought “Hey, maybe I should throw a woman in there.” (and I only say that because everyone vehemently disagreed with Bamford’s right to be on the Mountain) That’s 8×4=24+ “best comedians of all time” listed and only one female comic came up. Isn’t that weird?

Continue reading “Why Don’t People Think Women Are Funny?”