As an avid Netflix binge-watcher, I have made my way through the extensive selection of sitcoms the site has to offer. Some of my favorites feature female protagonists, including Parks and Recreation, The Mindy Project, and Inside Amy. Each woman is witty, sharp, and most importantly, funny. When I watch these shows I think of how well these women carry the story and truly rival, if not outshine, their male counterparts.
Left: via Comedy Central. Right: via The Comic’s Comic.
As a woman, I am aware that these are female-centric shows, but assume that they are also relatable for men. Sadly, this tends not to be the case; when I speak to my brother about some of our favorite shows on Netflix, he rarely agrees that female comedians are funny. Mindy’s humor is “too girly”, but Amy is “too crude for a girl”. He finds no offense, however, in Daniel Tosh’s sitcom, Tosh.0, or Louis C.K.’s, Louis. I hoped that my brother’s opinion was a result of personal taste and not the popular male opinion, but the more I examine the subject the more I recognize how few men appreciate female comedians simply as comedians.
In many ways, female and male comedians satirize similar topics: casual sex, politics, and prescribed social roles. While male comedians often face criticism for their controversial standup, their actual “funniness” is rarely questioned. When female comedians make jokes that are too controversial or too feministic, the immediate response is that they are simply not funny. This creates a space in which female comedians have to tread lightly with their content, and those who choose to deviate from this are immediately labeled with negative stereotypes. Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Silverman are constantly berated in the media for their crude humor and are then labeled sluts, uneducated, racist, and overall, not funny. The backlash women receive is much more severe than men because they are not given the same benefit of comedy that their material is not meant to be taken seriously. Instead they are chastised for their insensitivity, because it is so unrealistic for a woman to use humor.
All criticism of female comedy is not this extreme; perhaps the most pervasive and problematic is the quick dismissal of female comedians. The overall opinion of viewers is that male comedians are funny, and female comedians just aren’t. Whether they are too feminine, too crude, too political, or too loud, funny women are not receiving the recognition they deserve from the majority of viewers.
This clip is a parody of the idea that “Women Just Aren’t Funny”, performed by successful female comedians.