What does it take to be a female comic nowadays? Oh, I don’t know–a mouth like a chainsaw, a wit like a pickaxe, and no fear whatsoever of libel. The most prominent funny ladies in the business right now are political-correctness shatterers who dare to say outrageous things (Sarah Silverman, Lisa Lampanelli) or campy fashionplates who talk wicked trash about celebrities (Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler) while becoming one themselves. I like them all–even Janice Dickinson, who isn’t a comedian, but says stinging things for comic effect–but I wonder why no-holds-barred aggression seems to be the main way women can grab a comedy spotlight.
I guess it’s partly a sign of female strength, but it also reflects the fact that the guys in the locker room will only let the gals in if they mouth off and use their skills for whittling and insulting. This is nothing new–Joan Rivers mastered this domain decades ago and Sandra Bernhard continued it in her own inimitable way–but I wonder if a kinder, gentler female comic would get crushed on the way to the open-mic night?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 22, 2009