It’s hard being a woman, and it’s even harder being a woman in the all-boys’ club of comedy. Women who go into comedy are a rare breed - they must be tough as the men of comedy, twice as funny and work much harder. It takes more than just having two X chromosomes to be a female comedian. Their jokes must be personal enough so they can be convincing, yet, appeal to both women AND men. They often must play different roles - the girl next door and the sexy seducer, the ditzy blonde and the smart girl with glasses, the single girl who’s tired of men and the exasperated mother who’s tired of her kids. Whatever part they play, the comedienne must perform it with skill, talent, conviction, while keeping audiences roaring with laughter. And here are some of today’s best female comedians that are can’t miss:
Funny women probably have been around as long as their male counterparts, but aren’t as recognized as men. Many women have become famous (and infamous) throughout history - Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Indira Ghandi, but very few are know for being funny. Mabel Normand, Norma Tamaldge, Dorothy Gish, Edna Purvience - these are some names not many people recognize these days, but these silent film female comedians paved the way for future funny women to break into the stage. However, early female comedic roles were sidekicks, idiotic man-chasers who never “got the guy” or rode off into the sunset with the hero. The golden age of movies (not to mention sound) allowed women like Mae West, Judy Holliday, Lucille Ball, and Phyllis Diller, to name a few, to really break out into starring roles - quite rare for female comedians, who were not considered as appealing as their dramatic/romantic counterparts. However, perhaps it is vaudeville which today’s modern stand-ups (both male and female comedians) should be thankful for - although generally women comedians had their roots in burlesque, and genre-crossing Gypsy Rose Lee was one of the first “stripper-female comic” to grace the stage not only for her striptease act, but her wit.
With women’s lib burgeoning in the 60s, it’s notwonder more female stand-up comedians have been given the spotlight. Throughout the next decade, more and more female comics were entering the stand-up world, though not quite warmly received (as they were considered “hostile” or “too masculine” if their jokes went too “out of bounds”) and women comedians were still struggling to be recognized. However, like with many things in America, the television became the great equalizer, and these female comics were sharing equal screen time with the men, in such shows as SCTV and Saturday Night Live, both of which showcased some of the best female comedians of their generation, such as Gilda Radner, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Jane Curtin. And so even in the clubs, more female stand-up comedians were being accepted by audiences and no topic was off-limits - dating, men, other women, sex, relationships, fashion, hygiene, weight - female comics tackled them all, and much like with most things women do - with style, grace and wit. Women like Sandra Bernhardt, Rita Rudner and Roseanne Barr, were known first as funny women, rather than just performers or actors. The female comics of today (and future women comedians of tomorrow) owe what they have currently to their fore-mothers, who only wanted a chance to make people laugh.
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