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Can Men See Pretty Women As Funny?

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Ben Stiller had some interesting things to say about funny women while promoting Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. When asked if he thought that women comedians face prejudice, Stiller replied:

I do think there is and I think it comes from men. I’m surrounded by funny women in my life: my mother (Anne Meara), my sister and my wife. My wife Christine is hilarious. I don’t think it’s true that men are funnier than women. There have been funny women for years like Gilda Radner and Catherine O’Hara. There is no one as funny as Tina Fey just now, male or female. I think that in general, though, there’s a certain ‘men’s club’ sort of attitude about comedy in terms of how men see women. But it goes deeper than that. I think men want to see women in a certain light, it’s subconscious and they’re not even aware of it. It has to do with men’s outlook on women. Hopefully that will change.

This goes back to an article in Marie Claire about women in comedy, which talked about the importance of looks in comedy when it came to women. There seems to be some conflicting ideas about how beauty or lack thereof affects women who are funny. But at the end of the day, the problem seems to be that men are unable to see women as both "fuckable" and funny.

Just yesterday I was reading Rob Thomas's Twitter (by the way, Thomas wrote a beautiful pro-gay marriage piece for the Huffington Post that you all should read), and one of his tweets read: "Things that rock about mari #9 – hot girls aren't supposed to be funny. She is."

ben-stillerSusie Essman from Curb Your Enthusiasm said, "I always wondered if Roseanne would have been accepted by the country, being as strong as she was, if she weren’t fat. Lucy was beautiful. But she played dumb, dumb, dumb."

It's strange. Normally good looks are exactly what you need to get your foot in the door in Hollywood, especially as a women. But ironically once you get there, people don't take you seriously and they don't find you funny. So you're basically supposed to be eye candy or plot devices for the male actors who have complex roles and funny lines. Charlize Theron is an incredible actress who wasn't given the time of day until she "got ugly." A pretty comedian like Sarah Silverman has become successful because she's an attractive woman who talks in a baby voice but juxtaposes that with incredibly crude humor that shocks people.

What it boils down to is the idea that men generally don't think women are funny. Even a lot of women don't think women are funny. Which is odd to me because most of the people that make me laugh — in real life or in the media — are women. But the problem is that many of the male directors and screenwriters in Hollywood all too often give the male characters all the jokes while the women are supposed to be the "straight man" that they bounce their punchlines off of. A movie like Knocked Up is a perfect example of this. The only ways in which women are allowed to be funny is by being dumb (any role Anna Faris has ever played) or by being slutty (Edie Britt on Desperate Housewives) or by being annoying harpies.

While I think the bromance genre is killing the one area where funny women dominate (romantic comedies), I can at least say Paul Rudd's latest film I Love You Man had great female characters. They were human, they were hilarious, and they were relatable. Rashida Jones and Jaime Pressly had me cracking up all through the movie, and about ten minutes in, when I saw the female characters weren't annoying stereotypes with no sense of humor, I immediately knew it wasn't a Judd Apatow flick.

Hopefully as more female screenwriters come to the forefront (yes I mean you, Diablo Cody) Hollywood can start to convince America what I've always known — that women are funny too.

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About Chris Evans

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos-/ Christine Lakatos

    Great article, especially when we all need a good laugh. I love Ben Stiller and most of the movies he does, however, some of the comedy today I find way to crude. I prefer the clean comedy back when I was much younger, like Saturday Night LIve (Gilda Radner was a favorite) , In Living Color, and even Monty Python. Wish we had more of that!