Have you ever felt that the largest portion of joke stealing/comedic copy-catting is enacted by female performers? I don’t mean the actual gigs are swiped, but that many key women in comedy are modeling their joke-telling based on their male counterparts. Instead of offering a unique perspective by balancing social stigmas to make the other-half uncomfortable and feel ridiculous/induce hilarity in response, the rising laughing-ladies are simply perpetuating the same comedic deliveries that male comedians have used to prevent women from establishing their names on the scene years ago. Utilizing the three female-based comedians with most recent acclaim/prevalence, Chelsea Handler, Rebel Wilson, and Amy Schumer, I will more accurately portray how their gigs reinforce a male sense of comedic disposition through vulgar, physically demeaning, and passive- reactive evaluations rather than reinventing approaches to the same situations.
Let’s begin with the most established of the female comedians, Chelsea Handler, who has founded most of her success on being just as hardcore as her male competitors. On her talk show, “Chelsea Lately”, and in her popular autobiographies, “My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One Night Stands,’ “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang” and Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. She contemplates her sex-capades and boozy benders to prove that women can be just as edgy and open about the humorous aspects of their bad behavior as men can be. However, when she evaluates these situations, she gains laughs by reveling in her vices with the exact same explicit and offensive language/story -telling as her male counterparts; which keeps her potential under-the-thumb of these comedians rather than going head-to-head with them. Handler’s graphic approach has definitely set a place at the comedic table for unabashed female perspective, however by expanding her descriptions of sexual pleasure/experiences with female-coined phrases about the physical impacts that are not so matter-of-fact, or honing her boozy ventures with a more female-driven depth of these indulgences rather than re-hashing these superficial/heavily accepted realities to prove the other side acknowledges them as well; she could establish herself as a true forger of adverse comedy because she would actually be controversial.
Moving on to Rebel Wilson, she has had most of her fame develop due to undesirable response to her displeasing physical appearance and further exploitation of negative reactions to her body. In most of her films, such as “Bridesmaids” and “Pitch Perfect,” she is often scantily clad and enacts sexually provocative/ harassing behavior to create humor regarding the dichotomy of her looks vs. men’s reactions. I understand that the “fat comedian” is a staple in the world of laughter, as it is universally entertaining to witness the irony of a physically unattractive person acting with extreme confidence/sexual prowess; however when it comes to a male comedian it is just part of his gig, but with a female, it defines her since society evaluates total worth on her looks. A better way for Wilson to embrace her figure and further establish her comedic niche would be to continue portraying sexually suggestive characters, but actually have her targets respond favorably towards her! Imagine the hilarity that ensues when an attractive counterpart actually gives in to her will, that she can be un-apologetically real and men fall for her games. When every other females is following strict codes of conduct to establish broad appeal, Wilson can be the vessel to prove that following your own guidelines lands a man and start turning social stigma on its head by offering something thought-provoking after the laugh is over.
Lastly, with the start of her new comedic series tonight at 10:30/9:30c, “Inside Amy Schumer” on “Comedy Central,” I wanted to mention Amy Schumer in the mix as she is a shooting-comedic star who landed a gig on this comedic-broadcast cornerstone. Within her stand-up acts, and during her upcoming sketch-comedy show, she describes everyday sexual, social, and emotional experiences between men/woman through a female voice that flips that laughter in each situation towards the opposite perspective. She often takes a scenario that has been re-imagined by thousands of male comedians before, and simply validates these understandings by giving affirmation of the laugh-ability of the female response to each situation. Although it is highly beneficial for women to confirm the ridiculousness of common comedic sketches, Schumer’s success would be driven further by removing her passive approach and inventing sketches that enact female-dominated situations, and how these create hilarity through controlling male response, rather than simply recycling the pre-created, laughable scenarios male comedians have identified. If Schumer adds this element to her comedic approach, she won’t have to volley for the same audience as her male peers, but instead create a new loyal following of viewers who intrinsically relate to her jokes/starve for a new angle of laughter.
When analyzing Chelsea Handler’s, Rebel Wilson’s, and Amy Schumer’s comedic styles, it is easy to understand their influences when peeling back the mask of female-relevant humor that they attempt to wear. Although their insights are spot-on in the manner women perceive the various scenarios or experiences they describe in their acts, their message is still delivered in terms of the crude, physically degrading, and reactive-situational revelations that restrict them from securing a separate but equal place in comedy. Unless these female laugh-tycoons start using more controversially progressive lingo, reverse physical exploitation, and a more first-handed approach to their acts; their potential will be lost in an effort to play the game rather than become game-changers.