Author Topic: Feminism in comedy  (Read 3561 times)

The Mollusk

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Feminism in comedy
« on: September 12, 2020, 03:50:03 PM »
Do you reckon they just do it to excuse the fact they're not funny?

Only joking.

I've been really enjoying Jena Friedman's work recently. I'd forgotten all about the brilliant Soft Focus, and after revisiting that I watched a bunch of her other stuff, including both her standup appearances on Conan - Treat Nazis Like You Treat Woman and Women Don't Watch True Crime, We Study It - and then managing to find a copy of her full standup special American Cunt. She's fucking excellent, and unflinchingly vicious. Her talent for completely demolishing patriarchal standards in such a calm, measured and thorough fashion is awesome, as is her ability to make the (male members of the) audience feel deeply uncomfortable. In American Cunt she asks the audience if there are any male feminists in, and when they call out she says "I love it when men take credit for our work" which I think is a good example of how she's able to immediately and sharply make people reexamine how they think about feminism or women in general. Ditto with the above Conan set about Nazis.

I'd never watched anything by Sarah Millican before but my friend and I randomly decided to watch her Outsider set last week. I largely found it pleasantly enjoyable and thought her method of being both sweetly accessible and overtly crass was entertaining, but what struck me as odd was the more feminist-oriented bits and how they were received. She made some solid points but when she told a couple of anecdotes about how she had been harassed or demeaned by men, the audience collectively went "Awww!" like it was a fucking pantomime or something! I assumed the show must have been about 10-15 years old and was quite taken aback that it was actually 2016. Have we really progressed that much in 4 years or is that just the type of crowd she attracts? It was very weird.

And lastly, something else I wanted to address: Are shows like Kath & Kim and French & Saunders feminist? I'd argue that they are, to some extent, in that the time in which they were created still required comedy written by women depicting themselves as distinctly unfeminine by traditional standards. That is to say, in an ideal world, this stuff shouldn't be received as feminist because in truth it's just absurdism and it shouldn't matter if it was made by a man or a woman, but as it stands, both shows project a very strong female voice and I think they're really important.

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2020, 04:37:04 PM »
There is something inherently 'feminist' about female stand up, isnt there? I cant see many 'trad wife' types taking up such a 'male' profession.

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2020, 05:35:14 PM »
Following on from the thread in Oscillations in which white men discuss the N-word... I can imagine Millican's audience going "aww" but I certainly don't think that would happen with a lot of woman comedians. There is something cosy about the atmosphere she creates (for all its sex and bodily functions) and the audience she attracts where feminist anger doesn't quite fit - going from an atmosphere of shared secrets and a fatalism about life and relationships, to one of direct politics where you're suddenly saying "actually this isn't the way life is, this is something we can change!", it's a tonal shift that maybe she or the audience can't make.

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2020, 07:07:30 AM »
Do you reckon they just do it to excuse the fact they're not funny?

Only joking.

I've been really enjoying Jena Friedman's work recently. I'd forgotten all about the brilliant Soft Focus, and after revisiting that I watched a bunch of her other stuff, including both her standup appearances on Conan - Treat Nazis Like You Treat Woman and Women Don't Watch True Crime, We Study It - and then managing to find a copy of her full standup special American Cunt. She's fucking excellent, and unflinchingly vicious. Her talent for completely demolishing patriarchal standards in such a calm, measured and thorough fashion is awesome, as is her ability to make the (male members of the) audience feel deeply uncomfortable. In American Cunt she asks the audience if there are any male feminists in, and when they call out she says "I love it when men take credit for our work" which I think is a good example of how she's able to immediately and sharply make people reexamine how they think about feminism or women in general. Ditto with the above Conan set about Nazis.

I'd never watched anything by Sarah Millican before but my friend and I randomly decided to watch her Outsider set last week. I largely found it pleasantly enjoyable and thought her method of being both sweetly accessible and overtly crass was entertaining, but what struck me as odd was the more feminist-oriented bits and how they were received. She made some solid points but when she told a couple of anecdotes about how she had been harassed or demeaned by men, the audience collectively went "Awww!" like it was a fucking pantomime or something! I assumed the show must have been about 10-15 years old and was quite taken aback that it was actually 2016. Have we really progressed that much in 4 years or is that just the type of crowd she attracts? It was very weird.

And lastly, something else I wanted to address: Are shows like Kath & Kim and French & Saunders feminist? I'd argue that they are, to some extent, in that the time in which they were created still required comedy written by women depicting themselves as distinctly unfeminine by traditional standards. That is to say, in an ideal world, this stuff shouldn't be received as feminist because in truth it's just absurdism and it shouldn't matter if it was made by a man or a woman, but as it stands, both shows project a very strong female voice and I think they're really important.


Friedman is a neoliberal and takes hacky cheap shots at people to her left. Definitely not a critical feminist.


https://gothamist.com/arts-entertainment/comedian-jena-friedman-anyone-not-voting-for-hillary-at-this-point-is-an-idiot-misogynist-or-racist

'Anyone Not Voting For Hillary At This Point Is An Idiot, Misogynist, Or Racist'

http://nycitylens.com/blog/2016/04/18/young-stand-up-comedians-stand-up-for-hillary/

 “The Bernie slogan—feel the Bern—it makes sense, right? Because it makes him sound like an STD, and that’s fine because it’s catering to his target demographic of Bros under 25. Also, I want to know who his running mate will be—his dialysis machine? I mean, the slogan should be, ‘feel the urn.’”

"Maybe Susan Sarandon is just saying she won’t vote so that people will think she’s young."

Sarandon has repeatedly said she's actually voting for Biden but has pointed out the sorry state of his campaign and his politics. Of course Jena can't register any of that and continues with the same hacky jabs she trotted out 4 years ago about Sanders, Sarandon and anything to the left of the corporate attorney 'girlboss' type she loves and aspired to be herself.


Friedman worked as a fucking healthcare consultant for the fucking consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton:


"Booz Allen and parent company The Carlyle Group make significant political contributions to the Democratic Party and the Republican Party as well as individual politicians, including Barack Obama and John McCain. Journalist David Sirota concluded that "many of the politicians now publicly defending the surveillance state and slamming whistleblowers like Snowden have taken huge sums of money from these two firms", referring to Booz Allen and Carlyle, and that the political parties are "bankrolled by these firms"

Booz Allen helped the Government of the United Arab Emirates create an equivalent of the National Security Agency for that country. According to David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth of The New York Times, "one Arab official familiar with the effort" said that "They are teaching everything. Data mining, Web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection.Booz Allen has particularly come under scrutiny for its ties to the government of Saudi Arabia and the support it provides to the Saudi armed forces....Booz Allen are seen as important factors in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to consolidate power...On the military side, Booz Allen is employing dozens of retired American military personnel to train and advise the Royal Saudi Navy and provide logistics for the Saudi Army"



Hard, hard pass from me but in keeping with the topic, Bridget Christie and Maria Bamford deserve mentions.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 08:00:05 AM by tribalfusion »

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2020, 08:07:50 AM »
Booze Alan from Gary's local?

Autopsy Turvey

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2020, 10:23:40 AM »
Gert and Daisy

Petey Pate

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2020, 10:30:19 AM »
One of my favourite recent discoveries is Megan Koester.  A lot of her stand up is very insider baseball and meta-comedy, but also certainly fits the bill of feminist comedy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbWlMgiKi2k

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2020, 07:56:26 AM »
I vehemently challenge anyone who says that "women aren't funny" ("The Sarah Silverman Program" is one of the funniest sitcoms ever; just this year there have been "Dummy", "PEN15" and, just to mention it again, the underrated 2016 US show "Teachers") yet I wouldn't call any of my favorite female comedians/comedic actors "feminists" merely for writing/performing material based on female experiences and female problems, though: it's simply that which you would expect. If I might presume for the moment that there isn't a lot of explicit capital-F "Feminism" in comedy, I would say it was due to the fact that "isms", in general, are left-brained, and comedy is right-brained.

Seconding Friedman. I think "Soft Focus" is ace and I made a thread about her that died. I guess she does have a lot of explicit feminist messaging going on, but what I loved about the "Campus Rape" episode of "Soft Focus" is that it made fun of both sides.

I thought Koester (pronounced "Kiester") was really good on Office Hours and I wanted to get into her stuff but, as Petey Pate intimates, she seems to mainly write jokes about the comedy biz, or rather that's the only stuff I can lazily find on YouTube. She also has some explicit feminist messaging going on.

I only vaguely remember this, but the legendary Maria Bamford had a phase of more explicitly feminist bits in her standup, but later regarded that as being driven by a desire for belonging, the "sisterhood" etc, that didn't end up being her path.



Puce Moment

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2020, 08:33:49 AM »
I'm glad we've moved on from 'Are Women Funny' but I guess for me it is all about the person doing the jokes and the quality of the content. I mean, on the one hand you might have someone like Bridget Christie who has done sets with feminism as a main theme, and then you have Maria Bamford who is supremely silly, weird and surreal with little political content, but who also has a lot of subtle feminist content thrown in, or perhaps introduced stealthily within her work.

Both fantastic stand-ups and writers, both very funny, and both with some illuminating takes on feminism.

Then there are comedians with feminist content that are dreadfully unfunny. I don't know why - and I won't mention anyone by name - but I feel like any of their content is unfunny to me, and so the feminist stuff doesn't land at all. In fact, at its worst it can be lazy and tokenistic, like any political theme handled awkwardly by an inexperienced comedian. I love Mark Thomas' stand-up so I clearly enjoy a comedian diverting into almost pure political ranting (I will take that over centrist hand-wringing satire that currently pollutes our screens). So it doesn't even need to be folded carefully into the comedy like egg whites in a souffle.

I really enjoy Nikki Glaser's approach to feminist content in her comedy, the aforementioned Sarah Silverman, Sophie Willan. Tig Notaro is one the funniest comedians/stand-ups I can think of and her shows just have this air of strong feminism without her even needing to mention it by name.

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2020, 10:12:12 AM »
I don't know about explicit feminism but I think a lot of comedians and shows are implicitly feminist by utilising feminist values in the making of the show, or avoiding sexist/biased tropes in the writing. Given how male-centric comedy is and always has been I think that counts as feminism. Just having a comedy show that passes the Bechdel Test is a start

I would say I May Destroy You is explicitly feminist, though not an all-out comedy, and I have been watching and enjoying This Way Up with Aisling Bea and would say that has a fair bit of explicit feminism in it.

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2020, 10:57:24 AM »
I'm glad we've moved on from 'Are Women Funny' but I guess for me it is all about the person doing the jokes and the quality of the content. I mean, on the one hand you might have someone like Bridget Christie who has done sets with feminism as a main theme, and then you have Maria Bamford who is supremely silly, weird and surreal with little political content, but who also has a lot of subtle feminist content thrown in, or perhaps introduced stealthily within her work.

Both fantastic stand-ups and writers, both very funny, and both with some illuminating takes on feminism.

Then there are comedians with feminist content that are dreadfully unfunny. I don't know why - and I won't mention anyone by name - but I feel like any of their content is unfunny to me, and so the feminist stuff doesn't land at all. In fact, at its worst it can be lazy and tokenistic, like any political theme handled awkwardly by an inexperienced comedian. I love Mark Thomas' stand-up so I clearly enjoy a comedian diverting into almost pure political ranting (I will take that over centrist hand-wringing satire that currently pollutes our screens). So it doesn't even need to be folded carefully into the comedy like egg whites in a souffle.

I really enjoy Nikki Glaser's approach to feminist content in her comedy, the aforementioned Sarah Silverman, Sophie Willan. Tig Notaro is one the funniest comedians/stand-ups I can think of and her shows just have this air of strong feminism without her even needing to mention it by name.

That suggestion seemed right up my street. I love silly, smart women. Turns out some of her shows are free on Amazon and she's great. Thanks.

Ornlu

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2020, 03:31:32 PM »
Things make men feel bad = not Funny

Puce Moment

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2020, 04:50:24 PM »
That suggestion seemed right up my street. I love silly, smart women. Turns out some of her shows are free on Amazon and she's great. Thanks.

I don't think I would know about her without the help of this forum, so you can thank Baz, Horse and others who are good at spotting stong stand-ups early on.

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2020, 05:21:03 PM »
If people don't think women are funny, so be it... No right to an opinion? Laughter is an involuntarily action. I doubt anyone is going to deprive themselves of pleasure.

Better Midlands

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2020, 08:15:46 PM »
PEN15

Just to mention 'cos it's outside of it's own thread that this is a must watch.

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2020, 09:35:38 PM »
I thought Koester (pronounced "Kiester") was really good on Office Hours and I wanted to get into her stuff but, as Petey Pate intimates, she seems to mainly write jokes about the comedy biz, or rather that's the only stuff I can lazily find on YouTube. She also has some explicit feminist messaging going on.
She's great. I caught a few episodes of the Adult Swim online thing she did, called "The Perfect Women", where they did stuff like critique the dating profiles of people who volunteered them, bits of news, that sort of thing. Very good, and kudos to Adult Swim for letting them do pretty much whatever they wanted.

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2020, 09:44:42 PM »
If people don't think women are funny, so be it... No right to an opinion? Laughter is an involuntarily action. I doubt anyone is going to deprive themselves of pleasure.

No

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2020, 07:35:01 AM »
She's great. I caught a few episodes of the Adult Swim online thing she did, called "The Perfect Women", where they did stuff like critique the dating profiles of people who volunteered them, bits of news, that sort of thing. Very good, and kudos to Adult Swim for letting them do pretty much whatever they wanted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zstg9VDuheI is this clip from that show?

edit: oh man, after a promising start, even this is about the comedy bizzz

edit edit: I swear that that video didn't come up when I was searching for her on YouTube after her Office Hours appearance, nor other videos that are now coming up for me on YouTube. It's probably just me; was just laziness; but it seemed to me as if I had combed through and found half the results for her name that I have now. Out of the "new" ones, I just found this video, which, in the first few minutes, is true capital-F Feminist comedy: almost hostile! but I love that about her: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVxv90sdqyM

edit edit edit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHFDRbWViqE lmao I love this progression from the subversive to the absurd/horrific
« Last Edit: September 25, 2020, 08:21:35 AM by Retinend »

samadriel

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2020, 10:27:51 AM »
Damn edit bug

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2020, 10:39:13 AM »
If people don't think women are funny, so be it... No right to an opinion? Laughter is an involuntarily action. I doubt anyone is going to deprive themselves of pleasure.

It is usually evidence of something else though isn't it? Why else would someone not find a whole gender not funny? As if "female comedy" was a genre of itself and not a wide and varied selection of styles, perspectives etc. Would you feel the same about someone claiming to not find men funny?

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2020, 10:51:17 AM »
Taking the statement logically, a man saying that implies that, when in purely female company, humour that women share in never amounts to "funny"; perhaps that it is merely a form of bonding, or sisterliness, but not "funny". In other words, it implies ignorance of the opposite sex.

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2020, 11:00:03 AM »
Or that men and women have completely different and incompatible senses of humour, which is clearly nonsense

The Mollusk

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #22 on: September 25, 2020, 11:14:16 AM »
It is usually evidence of something else though isn't it?

Macho insecurity.

Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #23 on: September 25, 2020, 12:26:03 PM »
If people don't think black people are clever, so be it... No right to an opinion?


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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #24 on: September 25, 2020, 01:06:03 PM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zstg9VDuheI is this clip from that show?
Re: your question - maybe? Looks more like a short film, though. This is the sort of look "The Perfect Women" had - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1uzELkUI5Q


Retinend

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #25 on: September 25, 2020, 01:14:10 PM »
I'm a dumbass - I was searching for "woman" not "women": all the episodes are archived here https://www.adultswim.com/videos/the-perfect-women

This is exactly my kind of thing. Funny people arsing around. Thanks!

chveik

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2020, 03:10:56 PM »
She's great. I caught a few episodes of the Adult Swim online thing she did, called "The Perfect Women", where they did stuff like critique the dating profiles of people who volunteered them, bits of news, that sort of thing. Very good, and kudos to Adult Swim for letting them do pretty much whatever they wanted.

cheers man, this is really fun

Puce Moment

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2020, 03:28:22 PM »
I'm glad we've moved on from 'Are Women Funny' but I guess for me it is all about the person doing the jokes and the quality of the content.

I mean, I really shouldn't have even brought it up, but it is pretty dismaying that my comment elicited some of the views that I thought were long gone from this forum.


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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #28 on: September 25, 2020, 04:47:56 PM »
To be fair to MortSahlFan, I presumed he was standing up for people unimpressed with the offerings of professional female comedians they have seen in their lifetimes.

One could fairly generalize in saying that female-POV comedy proper is a 21st century thing. And so I wouldn't blame someone, especially someone who is a little older, for not having seen most of my female comedy heroes[1].

I would also stick my own neck out and say that standup comedy will probably always be a more male-dominated environment, and the perception of stand-up as the "purest" comedy plays into the logic that, if women aren't really at home shouting at the world through a microphone, then women just can't compete in comedy per se.

I think narrative comedy is in fact much purer than stand-up. And if you look there, right now, there's plenty of evidence that women can compete with men blow for blow, pound for pound, and will continue to do so until the relative absence of authentic female POVs in 20th century comedy will seem glaring.
 1. and I really don't want this to sound condescending - the point being simply that everyones' opinions are contingent full stop

chveik

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Re: Feminism in comedy
« Reply #29 on: September 25, 2020, 05:22:59 PM »
I would also stick my own neck out and say that standup comedy will probably always be a more male-dominated environment, and the perception of stand-up as the "purest" comedy plays into the logic that, if women aren't really at home shouting at the world through a microphone, then women just can't compete in comedy per se.

I think that's mostly caused by the sheer number of creeps in the industry.

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