Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wisecrack at WAM!

That's right! I'm representing Wisecrack at "Women, Action & Media: A Conference for Journalists, Activists & Everyone," held this weekend at MIT (hosted by the Center for New Words).

There are too many incredible sessions to choose from. This will be my second WAM. Besides the awe-inspiring presenters, I was blown away by the energy and accomplishments of the other attendees last year.

Did I mention Sarah Haskins will be performing? If you're new to Haskins, check out her thoughts on yogurt marketing.

If any WAMmers have stumbled upon this website, seek me out if you'd like to talk gender and comedy!

-Caitlin Rogers, Editor-in-Chief

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Defining Humor, Excluding Women: The Media Debate

By Anna Piontek

Why aren’t women funny?

This question ricochets off the walls of the media echo chamber every few years or so, prompting public intellectuals to come up with some ridiculous theories and also generally reinforcing the idea that women are a bunch of humorless sods.

To fully respond to all the hullabaloo, it would take chapters, maybe volumes.

So let us focus on the most notable responses to this vexed question.

In 2007, Christopher Hitchens famously responded with a pseudo-anthropological theory. Humor is derived from knowing that life is absurd, he says, and women cannot find life absurd because women bring life into the world. That’s right. We’re not funny because we have babies.

To be fair, I’ll let Hitchens use his own words. He wrote:

“Humor, if we are to be serious about it, arises from the ineluctable fact that we are all born into a losing struggle. Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can’t afford to be too frivolous.”

Hitchens is an opportunist who defends any and all controversial opinions; we needn’t mistake his willingness to defend unpopular agendas for intellectual courage, as he certainly does. Furthermore, like so many others, Hitchens espouses pseudo-science and invokes half-hearted biological theories to explain what he sees as inequities in women.

The article was published in Vanity Fair in January of ‘07. About a year later, Alessandra Stanley wrote a rebuttal piece for the same magazine, showcasing the talents of successful female comedians such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and others. The article basically waves a taunting finger under Hitchens’ splotchy, bloated nose and says, “Nah-nuh-nah-nuh-boo-boo, look at all these wonderful women who are funny.”

The obvious response to Hitchens and anyone of a similar opinion is the very college-y sounding idea that, whoa, what is considered funny is socially constructed.

As feminist theorists have observed, masculine creation is generally considered “the norm,” while feminine creation is “marked,” and different. The social construction of humor, as we know it, is male. The definition of humor, then, is a biased one, based on the social standards created in a male-dominated art form.

Geez, I feel like we’re in Gender Studies 101 here. Hitchens apparently hasn’t yet cracked open that volume of Judith Butler his wife bought him last Christmas. (Oh, that’s right, he probably hates Christmas.) Hell, he hasn’t even looked at Foucault yet, too busy was he gazing at himself in a reflective pool to read the words of another.

More recently, Germaine Greer, a feminist and scholar, said on television that women are not as funny as men. She later revised the statement in a column that appeared earlier this March in the Guardian, saying that though women are “at least as intelligent as men,” we have not “developed the arts of fooling, clowning, badinage, repartee, burlesque and innuendo into a semi-continuous performance as so many men have.”

Greer’s idea is trickier, as it doesn’t point to an inherent lack in women, like Hitchens’ theory does. Her theory is sociological. But instead of wondering aloud if women are less willing to make a fool of ourselves in front on an audience (she did this), she should have seen the glaring institutional inequities that still prevent women from dominating, or even rivaling, the presence of men in comedy.

Discovering why women are not as prominent as men in comedy requires examining the intersections of sociological, psychological and institutional phenomena. But try to untangle the web of causes for why people think women aren’t funny, and why women sometimes don’t find themselves funny, and what you’ve got is a big headache.

The easiest solution to allow for more women into the realm of comedy is to explode both Hitchens and Greer’s idea that humor is somehow objective and definable. There is no hard and fast rule for what is funny; there is no universal comedic code. Women have our own language for humor, but it has rarely seen the light of day. The world has been so long exposed to men’s witty one-liners and penis jokes that it’s now time for some good old-fashioned long-winded story telling, à la women in my life.

But luckily there’s hope: loads of it. Our humor landscape is dotted with talented women who have made it in a male-dominated genre. With more women in the biz, brands of previously “marked” humor are getting more exposure. Furthermore, young women are growing up with female comedian icons in high profile positions (some even have their own shows!), such as the afore mentioned Fey, but also Sarah Silverman, Amy Sedaris, Ellen, Sarah Haskins, Samantha Bee and Chealsea Handler, for starters.

One day, there will be room for men’s humor, women’s humor, and, I can only hope, crossbreeds of the two.

Powered by WebRing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Seeking Campus Liaisons

Wisecrack is looking for Student Liaisons to help our publication reach interested audiences.

If you're a college student and would like to volunteer with Wisecrack, please shoot Sara, our Campus Communications Director an email at: sara.wisecrackzine AT gmail dot com.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Show Tonight

From the Center on Halsted:

Solar Powered: An evening of luminous comedy with Jessica Halem, Marlene Moore, Cameron Esposito and Tamale

March 20. 2009
8pm - 10pm

At Center on Halsted
Hoover-Leppen Theatre
3656 N. Halsted, Chicago

Lesbian comic Jessica Halem (nominated, Best Female Comic-CHICAGO COMEDY AWARDS) brings a little sunshine and a few more comedians to Center on Halsted for "Solar Powered: An evening of luminous comedy"!

Join Chicago comedy favorites Jessica Halem, Cameron Esposito, Marlene Moore and Tamale for one hilarious night.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mark Your Calendars

3rd Annual Ladies Are Funny Festival "LAFF"
May 7-9
Austin, TX

LAFF is hosted by Austin improv troupe Girls Girls Girls. From the LAFF site:

"LAFF is bigger and better this year. We are expanding the festival to a bigger venue and including more funny female stand up comedians, one woman shows, a cabaret night, and more. This year also features bigger names and a new venue, The Salvage Vanguard Theater."

They've just announced Jill Bernard and Sara Benincasa as a headliners!

Here's the complete list of performers:

Selena Coppock (Stand Up, New York)
Delilah Dix (Cabaret Act, New York)
Holly Lorka (Stand Up, Austin)
Virginia Jones (Stand Up, Portland)
Luna Tart (Cabaret Act, Austin)
Kerri Lendo (Stand Up, Austin)
Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting (Sketch Comedy, New York)
Firth and Arjet (Improv, Austin)
Adventure Squad (Improv, Austin)
FOCUS (Improv, New York)
Megan Grano in Obliged (One Woman Show, Los Angeles)
Sara Benincasa in Agorafabulus (One Woman Show, New York)
Mocha Jean Herrup (One Woman Show, Austin)
Massive Ladies (Improv, Houston)
Girls Girls Girls Improvised Musicals (Improv, Austin)
Jill Bernard (Improv, Minneapolis)

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Do submissions need to be funny?"

When we talk about Wisecrack, we're commonly asked, "Do submissions need to be funny?"

The answer is no!

Wisecrack is a space for discussion about comedy. We'll be including a few humorous pieces, but the majority of Wisecrack will be devoted to reviews, opinion pieces, narrative essays and informative articles.

Here are a few questions to get you started on the right track:

Do you have experiences, opinions, announcements about gender and comedy to share with the world?

Are you a comedian who'd like to talk about your work?

Would you like to share how gender politics affect what you do?

Or observations about comedy as a tool for social change?

Is there a comedian/writer/project doing incredible things that must be shared?

Put that pen to paper, push those 'puter keys, pump out a piece! We're accepting submissions for our first issue until March 23rd. We're open to republishing material, as well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Call for Art

We're looking for art to grace the pages of Wisecrack, including cover art.  Please send submissions to

With your submission please include:

1. Name
2. Telephone
3. Titles of works submitted
4. Mailing address
5. A brief bio about yourself and a note about your submission

Only submissions received before March 23rd will be considered for our Spring issue, although we will collect submissions on a rolling basis for future issues.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

comedy + social change

By far, the best part of this project has been connecting with people from all around the world who care about comedy's impact on social change.  People keep coming out of the woodwork (granted, we are based in Chicago, improv and sketch mecca of the midwest!).  It's incredibly exciting, especially because we'd like to get as many voices featured as possible.  Like Margaret Mead declared, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can... make a magazine..."

We hope Wisecrack can be a place where these people can connect to share ideas, experiences, and opinions, resulting in more informed, inspired and empowered comedians, feminists, feminist comedians, feminist comedian fans, people with names beginning with vowels, 'tweenagers, boating enthusiasts, freegans ... you get the picture.  

Si, se puede.  

Status Update

Great news! Things are happening. We've got writers. We've got supporters.  We've even got a sizable facebook group (an infallible indicator of success, we're sure!).

Without wanting to give away our columnists... we've got some fantastic contributors and comedians involved. And the outstanding Anna P. has graciously stepped in as an editor. Rockstar Dani will be helping with layout design.

Thanks to everyone who has already pitched in (not to mention Courtney, our Tech Mistress, Katie G., our citizen journalism maven, and Carrie, our catalyst for bringing this project to reality).

Also, the search is on for an art director and business manager. If you're interested, send us a resume (and of course, until we secure some stable funding, this is pro bono work- we do it for the love of the game!).

And of course, we're still seeking submissions (or pitches).

Thank you for your support.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Call for Submissions

We are now accepting submissions for our inaugural issue!  

Submissions may be emailed to by March 23rd, with the following information:

1) Name
2) Telephone number
3) Title of work(s) submitted
4) Previous publishing- has this work been published elsewhere?
5) Current mailing address
6) Biography- please include one paragraph which may include life history, background, current work, reasons you got interested in what you wrote about, or any other facts that might be relevant or interesting.

Please spread the good word!
Submissions may take any form, including personal narrative, essay, comic strip, poetry, review, etc.