Humans like to laugh. It’s a universal form of entertainment that has been a cornerstone of the industry since the silent film era. But there’s another thing that’s been a cornerstone of entertainment, especially in comedy —⎯ men.
Although there has been a significant increase of women in humor and entertainment, the overwhelming perception still remains that women can’t be funny. Being funny requires that all boundaries of social propriety be torn down either to make fun of their existence or simply for slapstick humor. But why can’t women be funny?
The problem is that it would require a woman to contradict the conventional ideal of womanhood: demure, coy, quiet and, dare I say, ladylike. Comedians are none of these things. They are brash, loud, in most cases uncouth, all whilst trying to make a point.
Take Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon character on her hit show “30 Rock,” or even more extreme Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Comedy Central’s “Broad City.” All of these women are not what is traditionally thought of as feminine.
They are brusque and messy, but these ladies are also what many would consider to be “real” women. The characters that these writers and actresses have created are not fodder for the sexualizing of women, instead they are most often the opposite. Though they are still parodies and comedic tools, they are a more accurate representation of women than the traditionally sylphlike starlet we’ve all come to envy.
This is not to say that all women behave in such a manner, but rather that we should accept that behavior regardless of gender stereotypes. It is not a matter of what should be socially acceptable, but it is a matter of equality.
There are women and there are comedians, and over time there have been comedians who are women. The entertainment world has seen more women comedians and writers now than ever before. However, there is one facet of the industry that has a gaping hole right where its vagina should be, and that is late night talk shows. Jon Stewart was lauded in a New York Times editorial for having 4 female writers out of 11 (high numbers when looking at Stewart’s competitors).
This is a new conversation that has most recently taken form after “Daily Show” host Stewart’s announcement that he will no longer be greeting America from his iconic chair sometime before the end of 2015. Stewart’s departure has reignited the flames of women (and men) calling for a woman to host a major late night talk show.
Unfortunately, the phenomenon taking over the Internet has yet to take over the airwaves. With the bevy of late night hosts leaving their posts, that has left room for another wave of mostly white (Larry Wilmore is an exception) men to take the place of their white, male predecessors.
The proliferation of caucasian males in the big seats on late night television stands in direct contradiction to the calls being cried out on blogs, social media and in the media for that matter. The fact that after all of the social upheaval and disappointment that has gone along with filling these vacant seats there could be yet another host completely unrepresentative of the audience they strive to relate to is maddening.
Some political issues and the jokes and satire that follows them, like those of abortion, should be able to be voiced by women. Unfortunately for that to happen, it requires the opportunity to exist.
Luckily the optimist would say that the tides are changing, and in this case I do consider myself an optimist. There is a conversation being had. Women are being recognized as funny, and my goodness is there quite an array of hilariously irreverent females out there as whip-smart as any man.
In fact, I consider myself to be surrounded by funny females. As the next generation of women begins to infiltrate the realms of comedy even further, it is important that we as a society stop telling women that they can’t be funny.
It’s OK to make that dirty joke. It’s OK to be a satirist. It’s OK to have an opinion and voice that opinion in a humorous way. It is OK to throw off the shackles of what is portrayed in the media as conventional womanhood.
The days of damsels in distress and ditzy, beautiful women are long behind us. Now is the time for smart, capable women who like politics as much as they like shoes to take the reigns and represent what it means to be a 21st century woman.
That starts with taking your own reins. Women are funny, and it’s high time that they are given a chance to prove it in the big leagues of late night television.
Alexa Solis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @thealexasolis.