THE FEAR OF MEN
The rise of women. And the whining of boys.
by Jaydi Samuels
Because Jerry Lewis, the late Christopher Hitchens, Two and a Half Men co-creator Lee Aronsohn, and Adam Carolla not getting it wasn’t enough, Esquire columnist Stephen Marche has decided to join the conversation on women in comedy. For those new to the discussion, the underlying argument (as presented by Marche) is twofold: 1) Expressing contempt for the male gender is rarely funny, and 2) As a whole, women are not as funny as men. Before I point out the fallacy in this logic or judge Marche’s unabashed ignorance, I should admit that I, too, once shared these sentiments. But the more these men spoke out, the more I was forced to weigh the verisimilitude of it all, and my shameful acquiescence quickly transformed into awareness. Men are not funnier than women; we are just funny in a different way than they are, and we have finally stopped suppressing our differences.
Marche bashes Lena Dunham’s Emmy-nominated Girls for portraying men as “pitiable and grotesque”, but based on his article, he would applaud women for feeling that way about themselves. Sarah Silverman (a woman I find exceptionally funny) told Newsweek, “Women who get offended when people say that women aren’t funny probably aren’t funny, you know?” Why does this quote elicit laughter? When demonstrating a sense of humor, women often try emulating the traditional standards of comedy — which were established by men — in order to appear more relatable… to men. Silverman recognizes this, and her contempt for her own gender makes her especially appealing to a male audience. In 2005 she told The New Yorker, “People say I’m a nice girl saying terrible things. I tend to say the opposite of what I think.” But what about what she actually thinks, and why is she less comfortable expressing it?
In 2009, Vanity Fair published a brilliant article by former late-night writer Nell Scovell. At the time, more women were serving on the U.S. Supreme Court than writing for Letterman, Leno, and Conan combined. While the numbers have improved since then, women are still the minority (by far) in most writers’ rooms where showrunners are typically men, and the pressure to alter their sense of humor to fit in with the men must be huge. Similarly, comediennes have taken the stage for years to prove that they can sell the same types of jokes that men can, but men and women are different, and it’s time we celebrate that.
Since the success of Bridesmaids in May 2011, and the premiere of Girls in April 2012, networks have sought out more comedies with female leads than ever before, such as The Mindy Project, How to Live with Parents for the Rest of Your Life, Malibu Country, Save Me, The Carrie Diaries, Emily Owens, M.D. and more. Women are not the only ones interested in tuning in either. If existing shows like New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 are any indication, the developing ones will be viewed as successful because they are funny, and not the other way around. As women have always been interested in shows featuring male leads, men are equally interested in investing in Parks and Recreation and Veep for the female perspective. And who better to provide insight into the minds of these funny female protagonists than other funny females?
This is not to say that men and women can only write thoughtfully about their own genders, or that all comedy itself is gender based, but to ignore the fundamental differences between the way a man’s mind works versus the way a woman’s does would be to do us all a disservice. Every human being grows up with a unique perspective, and there is humor to be derived from all of it. Men may be funnier when commenting on the world through a man’s eyes, but when struggling to convey a woman’s truth, a man will rarely emerge victorious intellectually, emotionally, or comedically (the same way an able-bodied person would struggle to convey the intellectual, emotional, or comedic truth of being handicapped). To suggest otherwise is ignorant.
Comedy is about the human condition, and men only represent half of it. That women are embracing the concept of appealing to other women, coupled with our blatant disregard for man’s approval of this, scares people like Marche. Adam Carolla mentioned to The New York Post this past June that, at best, his daughter will grow up to have a mediocre sense of humor. And she may– Not because it’s all she’s capable of, but because she will grow up conditioned to think she’s only funny if she acts like him. For this reason, and all the others mentioned above, I encourage people like Marche to revisit their position. Check out For a Good Time, Call… in August, or anything by the late Nora Ephron. Follow Megan Amram and Ali Waller on Twitter. See Morgan Murphy‘s stand up. Watch a show featuring Tina Fey or Amy Poehler. Listen to a Garfunkel and Oats song. Or don’t. There are plenty out there who are already doing it, and laughing.