Friday, August 5, 2011

Women in Comedy

Oklahoma is a little backwards - as you can imagine. The comedy scene is only 10 years old, and most people have a warped version of improvisation, mostly because they have only studied in Oklahoma. It's not a bad thing; it's a different thing.

Last weekend, I was at a festival where a woman asked, "Why aren't women funny?" to Zach Ward during his Q&A. This same woman asked the same question to Susan Messing the previous year.

I'm not going to go too far into this (I did that in college with my senior capstone complete with a youtube video), but I would like to say a few things.

1) First, I think it's a sign of personal insecurity on her part to believe this idea. As a woman asking why women aren't funny, she has to be believing that women aren't funny and then she must be curious why she isn't getting the laughs the guys on her team are getting.
2) I think it's the guys in her improv community. To be objective, they aren't solid improvisers, and the audience will tell you objectively (laughter or silence) whether you're funny. I have a hunch that the guys don't feel confident, and they're "keeping the women down."
3) I think Oklahoma is behind the times, and perhaps back awhile ago, women did have a small role in comedy, but it's not as much the case anymore.

Here's what Zach said:
1) He told her to look around at the class. There were 13 women and only 4 guys (Bryan and my 3 college guys).
2) He asked her who was headlining the festival. Jill Bernard. With a one woman show. One woman bringing all the comedy, all by her woman self.
3) He brought up Tina Fey as a comedic genius running 30 Rock with her writing and acting comedy skills. He brought up the fact that of all the 4 improvisers in the UCB, Amy Poehler is the only one who is a household name.
4) He remarked on our Red Letters show, saying that Bryan and I perform as equals because we are equals. (*blush*)

I mean, the more you think you aren't funny, the longer you won't be. Comedy - and improvisation, especially - is 90% confidence. There's no way I could do a good show if I kept thinking, I'm not funny. Hell, there's no way a man could do a good show if he thought to himself before he stepped out, I'm not funny.

So, directors: really focus on your players that are self-concious (for any reason, especially gender) and build up that confidence. Praise the good scenes. Point out the good choices they made. Laugh at your team when they're funny. And once a player does a good show, she can start to think she's funny, and the more good shows and scenes she does, the better she'll get and the more she'll *actually* believe she is funny.

And guys, don't hold women down - especially in comedy. Praise your team, both guys and ladies. Initiate scenes as equals and not that bullshit of "I'm gonna carry this scene. Here we go..."

And ladies, shut up about it. You're awesome. You're you. And while it may not be completely obvious to all, it's a myth that women aren't funny. Women are funny, and I'll punch you in the taco to prove it.

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