In February, I celebrated my 20th anniversary of making a living by being funny — as a comedy writer, humorous motivational speaker, stand-up comedian, radio host, comedy event planner and comedy teacher. The traditional 20th anniversary gift is china, so I had Chinese food on a paper plate and called it good.
Today on my radio show, The Giggle Spot, a comedian friend with whom I’ll be performing tonight called in to promote our show. Within three or four minutes, he started on a rant about how “comediennes” can only be successful if they behave like men and talk about men’s stuff. His example were Kathleen Madigan and Sarah Silverman. In between trying to grow a goatee and willing my testosterone to come in, I mentioned women such as Rita Rudner who had a theater built for her in Vegas, Natasha Leggero, Garfunkel & Oates, and Maria Bamford as examples of women who are successful and “womanly,” whatever that means.
Do we really still have to have this debate? Do male comics still think that they own comedy and that the only way women can succeed is to emulate them on-stage (and off, if you’re Kathleen Madigan whose deep voice sounds like a guy’s). I am old enough to remember when women were told to dress like men for the business world–we put shoulder pads in our blouses and wore bow ties to work. It did not help us move on up.
I know it’s hard to give up the mic guys, especially considering how it is shaped. But the fact of the matter is that women have been taking the stage and making people laugh in this country for a CENTURY or more (since Vaudeville, if not earlier). We’ve been making people laugh at home and in offices for MILENNIA. Whether we wear jeans and a t-shirt or a formal gown with a tiara, whether we talk about our families or detail our sexual exploits, whether we coyly bat our mascaraed eyelashes or take down hecklers with a unholy stare, we are just as much as home on the stage as you are. And our comedy is just as funny as yours. And, no, Freud, we don’t have to have a body part that looks like a microphone to be accepted.
There are a lot of male comedians who are just fine sharing the spotlight with the wimmin folk. But to those of you who think that we must pass some additional tests, that we have to follow your rules, or that when we do comedy that is not for drunk people in a bar it doesn’t count, please pull your dinosaur into the slow lane–we’ve got places to go.