So where are the funny women? That’s an easy question to answer today–they’re everywhere, they’re headlining shows like “Inside Amy Schumer“ and starring in sitcoms like “Broad City“ and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend“ and running publications like The Toast. They’re even, finally, hosting late-night talk shows after years of paying their dues for male hosts (even if, somehow, the Muppet universe broke that barrier before the real world did).
But not that long ago–by which I mean when I was in college, an eternity in Internet time but in reality about a decade ago–this was still a controversial question. Luminaries like Christopher Hitchens were giving pompous “scientific” explanations for why women just aren’t funny. Hell, in the long ago days of 2013 you had Norm MacDonald and Colin Quinn casually riffing on Sarah Silverman as the singular ur-female comic and all other women in comedy as imitations of her. Even though women have been behind some of the biggest comedy hits in history–going as far back, at least, as Gracie Allen and Lucille Ball in the Golden Age of TV–this question of “why aren’t women funny” is a persistent, undying meme.
The more I think about it, the more I think it’s the fault of people like Jerry Seinfeldwho talk about comedy and “safe spaces” to be opposed concepts–the obnoxious are misguided. Comedy is about safe spaces, it depends on safe spaces, which is exactly why comics have an unwritten code about treating workshopping material in small venues as a “safe space” and see taking that material out of context for a YouTube audience as a betrayal.