In many ways, being a comedian is great. It’s fun, exciting, and offers a chance to get your voice heard and to actually provoke a real, physical reaction from strangers in the form of laughter. It also sucks and can result in terrible self-doubt, feelings of abject failure, and crippling insecurity. That’s true for anybody who does comedy, no matter who you are nor what identity you bring onstage with you. That said, there are undeniably some issues that are specific to being a woman in comedy, and as a woman in comedy, I feel reasonably well-equipped to talk about some of them.
I’m a comedian-author, or an author-comedian, depending on who’s asking. I started out in stand-up and segued into radio, eventually landing on my current career as a writer of books and composer of funny and serious articles for such fine publications as this one. I do podcasts, including my own; I tell stories and jokes onstage; I occasionally do radio or TV appearances to say silly things about the events of the day. Like many comedy people, I do a lot of different humor-related things in order to pay the bills. I’m not famous, but I make money doing what I love, and that feels pretty good. I’m grateful. But as with any gig, there are some downsides to being a comedy person who also happens to be a lady. Inevitably, I am going to hear one of the following things from a family member, an interviewer, or even a fellow comic.
“What do you have to say to people who think women aren’t funny?”
This question sometimes comes from well-meaning individuals who want to write a nice thinkpiece about the state of gender in comedy in the United States of America today. On other occasions, this question comes from anus-burgers who genuinely think it is impossible for a lady to stimulate any bone other than the one in his nether region (which isn't even an actual bone, if we’re being technical). I don’t know what I’d say to someone who truly believes no woman in existence is funny. “You’re wrong” is one potential answer. “Get away from me, you boring garbage compactor of a human” is another one. The options are endless! Have fun with it! The worst thing is when women say that they never find women funny. Listen, I get that you have mommy issues and you compensate for a lack of father-love by deluding yourself into thinking that statements like this make you “one of the boys,” but you are not one of the boys. You are a chick. And a stupid one, apparently. Or just one without a sense of humor, which—gonna go out on a limb here—probably means you're stupid.
“Our next comic is a GIRL.”
Okay. Yes, that is true. Our next comic is a girl, if our next comic is me, or another girl (or woman, if you will, and I wish you would, for the love of all that is infantilizing). You have stated a fact that is true, Comedy Show Host. Good for you! But when you state it in such a fashion, it comes off like a carnival barker drawing attention to the next FREAK OF NATURE he’s about to reveal. “Folks, line up for this one – you’re not gonna wanna miss it! This LADY thinks she’s FUNNY! Can you believe it? This CREATURE with a VAGINA and two potentially lactating BREASTS believes SHE can elicit LAUGHTER from REAL PEOPLE, aka, MEN!” Trust me, it feels great to be introduced this way. Keep doing that, hosts. We love it!
“I just don’t know how anyone can be a wife and mother and a comedian.”
Um, well. There are a few ways in which this can be possible: One is that the comedian in question has a supportive spouse or partner who can provide childcare and who understands that the comedian will need to be out and about at all hours of the night. The comedian may also have a trusted relative or babysitter who looks after her kiddos. I’m not saying it’s easy, and I don’t covet the responsibility of balancing motherhood with a comedy career. But women in comedy do it all the time. Also, this question presumes that men are incapable of participating in child-rearing. And no one ever asks men in comedy this question. Ever. It does not happen. And don’t even get me started on the fact that some women – gasp! – actually find contentment in the idea of a life without kids or even – the horror! – a husband.
"Aren't all of you lesbians?"
Yes. Yes, we are. When we aren't telling jokes about our periods or what it's like to be single in [fill in the blank city], we're just eating box for, like, ever. We love it. It's actually the only reason any of us gets into comedy: all the sweet, sweet poon. Mmmm.
I could go on, but I won't, because I am a woman and I don't want to bother anyone by taking up more time or space than I should. Instead, here is a photograph of me and the person who should be the next host of The Daily Show . Thank you. I'm sorry.
Images: Sara Benincasa(2); Giphy(3)