Week Five: Race, Gender and Class Politics in Comedy
In Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny‘, Hitchens takes a very close look at humor. He notes that humor is very stupid and men laugh at it because they are extremely stupid. Hitchens argues that men started being funny because they wanted to take shots at authoritative figures, in this case women. Women don’t care about being funny because they know it’s not a primary thing they should be concerned with. They’re vessels of life and they don’t consider being funny more important than other things. Hitchens’ contribution was that women aren’t funny because of their innate choosing. Men need humor so they get validate themselves to women and they view funniness as a top priority for courting mates.
Alessandra Stanley’s views on women and humor can be seen in her article for Vanity Fair, ‘Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?‘. Stanley states women got their huge chance from cable. Chances began sprouting up because “there were too many hours to fill up and not enough men”. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were absolute pioneers for female comedians. To be on television/cable, women had to be funny and attractive. She added a gem to my knowledge: funny women writers, such as Fey, have to tone down their sexist writers to make shows appeal to a broader audience.
In the blog post ‘Genderlicious: Dear Olivia Munn‘ by Thea Lim, Lim takes an angry stance against Munn and her ability to sell out her own race (and gender) so easily. Lim feels Munn doesn’t use the stage she was given as a Southeastern Asian woman to set a good example but instead uses it to give white people the ‘A-OK’ to laugh at (instead of with) Asians and women. On a segment on The Daily Show, Munn uses her stage to make fun of Vietnamese people and say Indians are “Asian-ish”, implying only Chinese and Japanse are true Asians. Lim taught me that audiences find it hard to take female comedians sorry because a select few would rather sell out to misogyny and racism than use their stage to show women of color can be funny and be laughed with.
Roseanne Barr’s ‘And I Should Know’ definitely exposes the sexism and classism in the television industry. Roseanne was told how to dress and was made to say sexist lines that she didn’t agree with. Roseanne received no credit from the beginning on a show that she created and when she got the number one television show, she was rewarded with chocolate ignoring the Porsches and Bentleys that were given to men previously. The worst thing was that she couldn’t quit because she knew there would be no other chance for her to create a feminist, working-class show in a male dominated world. Roseanne opened up my eyes to how incredibly sexist television actually is. She would just have to take the abuse and cry in her dressing room while men got all the credit.