I want to work in comedy. There, I said it. But what I don’t want is to have my comedy fit within a checklist of expectations just because I have a vagina. When I first read on Splitsider that NBC is thinking about adding a female centric comedy block into next season’s programming, I was at first super excited. My idols, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, are both currently leading characters on NBC comedy shows, and hey, they’re women! This bodes well for me; more people like them would be awesome. But then the reality of the situation set in, and I came to realize that centering anyone’s comedy on their gender doesn’t really do any good.
I have a couple of fears that could be realized through this block of funny lady time programming idea. First of all, if these shows aren’t funny (and if Outsourced is any indication, NBC can miss the mark) then it would be all too easy to analyze this as women + jokes = not working. For those out there that don’t think women have the ability to be funny (cough, Christopher Hitchens, cough) this will only add what seems like validity to that statement. I don’t want people to be able to point to Wednesday nights and say “see, right there, not funny.” This would erase the fact that the Thursday night shows, the comedy block, currently has two critically acclaimed shows piloted by women and a handful of other strong lady joke makers on their other shows. People would forget about these shows and have a clear point of reference for their anti girl-joke ideas.
Secondly, I am terrified (appropriate amount of anxiety? Probably not if I was a normal person) of the blatant backlash that this idea would receive from the types of people I mentioned above. Even before the shows debut there would be groups of people refusing to watch based on the idea that the kind of humor that these shows are “sure to explore” doesn’t apply to them. Let’s dissect that sentence for a second. I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that people think that women only make jokes about female topics. This idea was explored in this season’s 30 Rock episode “TGS Hates Women” when it’s shown that Liz can only write jokes about women getting their periods. There are people who genuinely think that women can only make jokes about tampons, shoes, and preferred penis size (thanks for helping break those stereotypes Sex and The City). Now, I’m not saying that these shows won’t make jokes about these things or that jokes on these subjects can’t be funny, but I want to live in a world where this isn’t the automatic assumption.
Now, to the other part of the sentence, the part where I used the word “apply” (yes, I did just quote myself). There are men who think that any comedy that comes from a woman is automatically inapplicable to their life. Or that any show that revolves around the life of a female main character can’t possibly add any relevance to their own lives. THIS ISN’T TRUE! Sorry I had to yell. But it’s not. It’s just plain not. Do you know how much comedy is male centric? Have you ever seen a Judd Apatow movie? Do you think that women stay away from these movies? We don’t, or at least I don’t, and my uterus qualifies me to speak for all women everywhere all the time (this is one of those jokes, it’s not funny, don’t blame all the women for it).
This paragraph isn’t my third point, it’s just a little thing I want to talk about, so please don’t think it’s that third point, trust me, I’ll get there soon. If you already got the point of my last paragraph feel free to skip right on over this one, but this is the paragraph where I talk about the secret prize I’m giving away so you might want to stick around. I’m nervous to see the Facebook statuses that I feel are inevitable after people go to see the movie Bridesmaids. I could be completely wrong here, and I really hope that I am, but I have this overwhelming (did I mention that I definitely have some anxiety issues to work out?) fear that people are going to automatically compare Bridesmaids to The Hangover. Maybe it’s because I’m in college (for the next twelve days…oh no, there’s the anxiety again) that I have a lot of Facebook friends who don’t know what the eff they’re talking about half the fucking time. But I can just see it now “Dude-Bro McGee says ‘What’s the difference between Bridesmaids and The Hangover? Go make me a sandwich’”. Ok, maybe I haven’t really honed in on my ladies make sandwiches jokes skills yet, but you get the idea. I do not want this please. If the movie’s bad, the movie’s bad, but it’s not because it’s got people without penises (penii?) making the jokes. Oh, also, I’m not giving away a secret prize.
Okay, so third of all, why does it matter? I’m the first to say that it’s awesome to see more women in the field that I want to go into. I want to build little shrines to them and compose fan mail to them in my head (I might not really do this, but I probably do) but that doesn’t mean that we should call them out for being women. Comedy should be able to stand on its own as comedy and the source should come second to that. If we continually put a gender before the word comedy, we’re just alienating people. I don’t want to watch comedy that says “Hey girl part havers, I’m the comedy for you! Flirty girly wink!” as much as I don’t want to watch comedy that says “Men that aren’t pussy faced girls, I make you laugh now! Manly muscle flex!” I want to watch comedy that makes me laugh and makes me think. Period (ewww she just made a period joke, gross, women can’t write comedy).
I’ll leave you all with a brilliant quote from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants “My dream for the future is that sketch comedy shows become a gender-blind meritocracy of whoever is really the funniest. You might see four women and two men, you might see five men and a YouTube video of a kitten sneezing. Once we know we’re really open to all the options, we can proceed with Whatever’s the Funniest…which will probably involve farts.”