In 2006, British actress Jocelyn Jee Eisen made major history as the first black comedienne to star in a sketch comedy show.
"Little Miss Jocelyn," which she wrote and starred in brought her a New Talent Award at the Women in Film and Television Awards.
Have a great weekend!
Saturday, May 30, 2009
In 2006, British actress Jocelyn Jee Eisen made major history as the first black comedienne to star in a sketch comedy show.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Decider: Many female comedians consider “feminism” to be the other “f word.” Have you ever addressed feminism, explicitly or implicitly?
Sara Benincasa: On "Get In Bed," feminism is implicit in that we celebrate the female body and liberal and open sexuality. We celebrate “safer” sex: We say there's no such thing as safe sex, but there is such a thing as safer sex. Feminism definitely comes into play on stage. I make some jokes about it, but just the fact that I have that platform as a woman—to be up in front of people, in front of a live audience, on television, or YouTube—is one of the results of feminism. I feel privileged to have been born in a generation that followed generations of women who fought so hard for us. That's not to say that it's perfect. But I feel my grandmother had it a lot harder as a woman than I do.
D: A lot of people still think women aren't funny—including women. How do you confront that stereotype?
SB: The best way is by actually being funny. I hear some people who go, “I don't usually think women comics are funny, but you're funny.” That's not a compliment. To me that just says you're stupid, and I don't really need another stupid person liking my comedy. If you're going to see my show or paying me to make something, that's great—I'll take your money. But I'll think you're stupid. To tell me that most people with the same genitalia as me aren't funny, but I'm the exception is just bullshit.
In our culture, men are still socialized to only find one another amusing. I'm not sure why that is, but part of me thinks it's because the person who makes you laugh has some degree of power over you—to provoke a reaction in you that's very definitive, spontaneous, and kind of remarkable—just as the person who prompts you to cry has power over you. So if you’re laughing at someone, you’re in some way subservient to them. For so many reasons, some men—and some women—don't necessarily want to give control to women.
But there are many women who are so fucking hysterical. I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and of course Margaret Cho, Amy Sedaris, and Kathy Griffin. Since the beginning of time, ladies have been hilarious. But it's always going to make some men uncomfortable—because if you're funny, it's not because you're hot. You might be hot to boot, which is great, but your prettiness doesn't make someone laugh. What makes someone laugh is your brain. And women with intense, strong, active brains can be frightening.
Comedy can be a sexist industry, but you know that getting into it. I'm not going to change that on my own. It's something you accept. Maria Bamford is a great example of a comedian who is able to mix it up with the boys, so to speak. You don't have to become an insult comic to mix it up with the boys, and you don't have to become an aggressive asshole, or swear all the time, or be the most crass person in the room. You can just be you.
This past Saturday you got a taste of Garfunkel and Oates.
As part of the duo, Micucci is well known on the West Coast for shows at the Steve Allen Theater and if you're a Scrubs fan, she was goofy lawyer Ted's girlfriend, Stephanie Gooch, this season. You can see her around town playing her ukulele or on the beach building sand sculptures (they're quite spectacular). I'm pleased to sit down and talk (via email) with Kate "Oates" Micucci.
LP: How does Garfunkel & Oates come up with the fun, true diddies, like Present Face?
Kate: Oftentimes Riki (Lindhome) says, "We should write a song about this." Then from there we sit with the piano and guitar and a tape recorder and just go.
LP: Do you consider yourself (or your duo) socially conscious humor?
Kate: I never think of my solo songs as socially conscious. I think my songs have pretty simple subject matter. But with Garfunkel and Oates, we touch on some social ideas. Our latest song is a pro gay marriage song called Sex With Ducks. With G and O, it is nice to be able to be more bold with both subject matter and melodies.
LP: What's your favorite experience or moment as a comedian?
Kate: I've only been performing for a little less than two years. But in that time I have a lot of favorite moments. Last month's Playin' With Micucci at the Steve Allen Theater was pretty special. It was the first time my mom and dad were seeing me perform. It was 420. And it also happened to be my mom's birthday. So it was the "Let's Get High With My Mom Birthday Show." Over 100 people sang happy birthday to my mom. It was pretty special. I'm not sure how many of those people then got high.
LP: Where did building sand castles come from? What's your inspiration behind this very cool hobby?
Kate: I studied sculpture in college and I always enjoyed sculpting in the sand. Then my brother told me that a fancy hotel in Santa Monica was looking for a sand castle building instructor. I got the job and spent every Sunday evening teaching kids how to build in the sand. The best part was, most of the time, nobody showed up for class so I got paid to go to the beach. I don't teach classes anymore but I do still go to the beach to sculpt when I have the time.
LP: Do you consider G&O the female version of Flight of the Conchords? Do you get that a lot?
Kate: We've been getting that a lot. I've actually never seen Flight of the Conchords although people tell me all of the time that I should check it out. That is the popular comedy band right now, so that is the automatic comparison. If it were ten years ago, we'd be the female Tenacious D. But it is all very flattering. I think as girls, we are able to get away with saying things that guys could never say. I don't think a guy could get away with singing Pregnant Women Are Smug. So I think it is new hearing songs like this from a female perspective.
LP: and lastly, do you think humor can be used as a tool for social change?
Kate: Absolutely. I wouldn't doubt Tina Fey's portrayal of Palin swung some votes Obama's way.
Hopefully she and her partner-in-crime, Riki Lindhome, will be able to swing some votes to overturn the Prop 8 decision in California with this:
If you're looking for Kate to come your way, she's thinking about it and would love to take her show on the road. Kate loves Chicago - maybe a Wisecrack event? I'm crossing my fingers.
Outside a handful of Facebook groups, online communities for female comedians (and their supporters) are hard to find. This week I caught up with Jacki Schklar, creator and publisher of one of the most established groups on the internet serving this purpose, www.funnynotslutty.com.
Since May 2008, FnS has been featuring videos, interviews and humor by women through monthly editions of the site. They also host a Ning community, a social network for comediennes and fans.
[Note: This interview was conducted via email.]
What was your motivation behind starting FnS?
I had to hunt and peck through tons of young male targeted humor to find humor geared for me, a mature female. Masturbation and tits don’t really make me laugh. It takes a lot more than that to entertain a woman in her sexual peak years, and if I want to see big breasts all I need to do is look down.
Do you run FnS entirely by yourself?
FnS is a growing community of networking and humor based creativity with dozens of contributors, becoming more expansive all the time. But I created the site and I am the webmaster/publisher.
What, would you say, are the ultimate goals of FnS?
Well, I’d love to be the chick’s cracked.com or Funny or Die.
It’s a funny haven for women to take a break and laugh. And it’s a catalyst for female artists and fans to converse and inspire one another.
As far as goals for the next few years, I’d like to incorporate a live streaming show and produce a video series concept I have that can incorporate content submitted by Funny not Slutties from all over. I hope to get the new collaborations started before the end of 2009. I need to finish up my productions How to Live and Eat like a Southern Jewish Princess and Footastic Theatre before I get the new series in gear.
How has FnS been received? Have any reactions surprised you?
It has been greatly received by the U.S. comedy population. Many comedians and comedy bloggers know about us and buzz around the site. The site is not comedy by women for female comedians though, it’s comedy by women for all women who want to laugh. So I have some work to do to get beyond “preaching to the choir.” But getting the attention of artists is a great start.
I don’t really know about surprises, but can say that I look at our metrics and enjoy it when we hit a “lottery,” get featured or listed somewhere and get hits from that. Or an awesome artist shows up in our membership. But the site is pretty much becoming what I am setting out for it. I guess the number of men who enjoy the site is a bit of a surprise.
I've got to ask about the title. Could you explain it a bit? Are you afraid it might be seen as "anti-woman," since calling sexually active women "sluts" is a way to stigmatize enjoying sex?
The name is a word play on the fact that when you get a bunch of ladies together on a site “showing off their stuff”, that might conjure up thoughts of porn. But we are not “slutty chicks,” we’re “funny chicks.” The word slutty has many meanings and it’s just a catchy and funny site name, not literal. If you don’t get it, the site is not for you.
I discovered the fabulous Jocelyn Jee through FnS- how do you find and decide which comedians to feature?
I get emails from producers, writers and talent asking me to consider their projects. I have a community called the Funny not Slutty Network on the site and will often find talent who has joined and like to give them priority. I have been delighted at many of the contributions and often pull from the community to post on the homepage. And sometimes I request a specific contribution and artists are happy to be included.
What's Atlanta and the South, in general, like for female comedians?
My background is corporate media production and journalism so I’m no expert on the entertainment industry. I know that in Atlanta the headlining female is extremely rare. But I can’t tell you why. I have interviewed Etta May and a few other female comics and they all have different opinions. I do feel that women need to concentrate on supporting one another before they point to the opposite sex at fault. The only reason why there is no “Old Girls Club” is because we have not created it. Women tend to be supportive of one another only when there is something in it for them. You don’t see much real altruistic bridge building between us. The top 4 referring private sites sending traffic to FnS, are all men’s. That is not a coincidence. The successful guys reach back to promote us, the a-lister women have not. Yet.
I ran across a comedy forum where people were mighty nasty about FnS- is that reaction common? How do you deal with disrespectful criticism?
I can count the incidences of negative criticism toward the site on one hand. But that forum was one of my top referrals that month. You have to have an antagonist to bond with the heroine. I wish my forums were a little more controversial, it would be great. So I have had little negative feedback but aspire to be big enough to attract more in the future.
Organizations like Bitch Magazine and the bloggers at Evil Slutopia have had certain difficulties and complications due to racy names- have you experienced this?
The first month or two I had over 50% smutty referring keywords, which I expected. But I’m pretty good with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so that is down to under 10% most days, which is probably not much worse than what any adult content comedy site would attract. Leaving the slutty keyword referrals is ultimately not good for your stats, because it may send more page views but it lowers your visit time and pages per visit.
There are some instances where I could not be listed in an automated system, etc. because of the name being filtered but I think all in all the name works and I’m ok with paying that price. If you think that is bad, I also bought the domain unfunnycunt.com. This should really be a doozey.
Lastly- I've got to ask- who are your favorite upcoming comedians?
Can’t touch that one with a ten foot pole, would leave someone out or piss someone off…But I have tons of great talent on the site to check out. The artists who have been most commended by readers are Alice Jankowski, The Retributioners, and Nicole Terry.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I know. You've been counting down the days. Designing Women is finally available on DVD. Rich Heldenfels interviews creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason about the state of feminism on TV, over at the Akron Beacon Journal. A few clips:
''There's such a lack of strong women in comedy,'' Bloodworth-Thomason lamented. ''I think the television culture has changed. The role models just aren't out there.''
Instead, she sees an entertainment world where the focus is on the likes of Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters, where attention goes to ''attractive young girls who are . . . vapid and empty.''
...''I knew that feminism had gotten a black eye,'' she said. ''I wanted to have really good-looking, smart, sophisticated women.'' Although they had their flaws and quirks (especially Suzanne and Charlene), any one could make a sharp point. Any one could make you laugh.
...Bloodworth-Thomason got a rough lesson in [the changing state of feminism on TV] not long ago. She made a deal with HBO for a series called 12 Miles of Bad Road, set among the Texas rich. Six episodes were made. It had a great cast, including Lily Tomlin, Mary Kay Place, Gary Cole and Kim Dickens; it had a lot of snap, and moments that felt like Designing Women at its best. But there was a regime change at HBO, and the show never aired.
Nooooo! Not a cancelled Lily Tomlin TV show! Gah.
Bloodworth-Thomason writes of fewer feminist comedian role models on TV... at a time when comediennes seem to be making progress on TV. I guess the element lacking is the intentionally feminist writing- although I'd argue that most shows comedically depicting women's lives might be inherently feminist, in bringing women's experiences into the mainstream culture.
Designing Women was a bit before my time- I vaguely remember the reruns. I guess my generation's experience of feminist comedy TV shows falls somewhere between Clarissa Explains It All and... Ally McBeal? What am I forgetting?
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Found on Feministing.
Coincidentally, David and I watched Ellen's coming out episode just yesterday and were surprised by 1) how dated it seems and 2) the classy writing.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
What say you? Is this a step towards acceptance of "that time of the month"? I don't have any answers but it's better than some lady in a green suit handing you a gift box on the beach (Thanks Tampax).
Also if you know the comedian in this commercial, let us know if she's done anything else. She's got great comedic timing!
We've already mentioned Mo'Nique's talk show on BET. It's just been announced that Wanda Sykes will be hosting her own Saturday night political talk show on... FOX (cue confusion).
From Stage Time:
The one-hour show will feature biting commentary on topical issues and heated panel discussions with recurring personalities. The series’ unique format will highlight Sykes’ outspoken comedic perspective on current events and will also allow her to leave the studio to shoot segments in the field.
Also, Stage Time notes that Aisha Tyler will be hosting a comedic daytime talk show on ABC, and Sherri Shepard (notorious for her input on The View) has landed a Lifetime comedy pilot.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sloane Crosley's essay collection "I Was Told There Would be Cake" was a New York Times bestseller. Here's a reading she gave at Google in 2007.
Her book has been showered with complimentary reviews and comparisons to David Sedaris. HBO has purchased rights to the stories for a possible television adaption.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Psychology researchers have determined a new correlation between being attractive and funny.
Previous studies have shown that being funny increases one's attractiveness, but this study shows that it can go the other way, as well.
The general conclusion of the study is that humor is used as a relationship initiator. In other words, the academy has discovered flirting.
There was only one real reference to gender at play. They acknowledge that cracking a joke can be risky- if the joke flops, you're left with awkwardness and discomfort. They suggest that men may have less to lose than women in a botched attempt to hit on someone (evolutionarily speaking), so men are more likely to crack a joke first.
The authors also argue that Humor Studies has been neglected in the field of social psychology. Yes! Absolutely. The lack of study in this area has given rise to too many mediocre studies leading the pack (my personal favorite).
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
CR: What a weekend. Are you relaxed now that it's all over?KS: Yes! I think everybody in the troupe is now recuperating, since so much work went into it. [There] were so many people who did so much organization and planning, emailing, number-crunching and all of that kind of stuff to get it up and running, but now that it's done I think everyone is relieved but really happy with how it turned out.CR: That's great. What were the goals of LAFF?KS: We're trying to get bigger every year, to get known by people in other states and maybe eventually internationally as well. Also, giving a spotlight to women in comedy who do this because they love it and usually do this on their own and have things to say. Generally it's a male-oriented industry, not that there's anything wrong with guys, but we really try to honor and represent women who are out there doing it on their own.We're also trying to get bigger and better acts every year, and maybe eventually, we'll be able to extend it longer than just a weekend.CR: That's fantastic. By those goals, would you call this past weekend a success?KS: Totally a success. This weekend was thrilling, it was bigger than we thought it would be. We ended up selling out most nights, so that went really well. We had a really great line-up and audience participation was fantastic.I'm really excited about how it turned out this year. The first two years were hard because people don't really know about it and people don't want to apply to something they haven't heard of, but finally this year it took hold and had a snowballing momentum.
In case you missed it, here's a clip from Wanda Sykes performance on Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. It seems to be causing even more of a stir than Stephen Colbert in '06.
Why has greater offense been taken? Maybe Colbert got a few free passes by speaking in character. But I'm willing to guess that Sykes race, gender and sexual orientation add insult to injury for a predominantly white, male-dominated and anti-gay party. The general criticism seems to be that Sykes' tone was too mean-spirited, a criticism surely influenced by the fact that making aggressive jokes falls outside of the acceptable realm of behavior for women.
Here's what Feministing had to say.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
She joins the ranks of Chelsea Handler who hosts Chelsea Lately on the E! cable network.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The Guardian calls her "The Funniest Woman You've Never Heard Of."
While Sharon Horgan co-writes the BBC3's show "Pulling," it's been her outstanding acting on the show that landed her a British Comedy Award in 2008. (Yes, it's on Netflix.)
The show centers on three flatmates living in London. Sometimes cited as the antithesis to Sex and the City, this black comedy shows the less-than-glamourous realities of dating, sex and living with your friends.
Despite a large British following, "Pulling" has been canceled (upsetting many). Fortunately, we can expect an american version coming soon to ABC! Horgan is also rumored to be writing for a new HBO series.
Pulling's hour-long finale will air on May 17th on BBC3.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Last night, Carrie Callahan, Anna Hall and I had the pleasure of performing stand-up for University of Chicago students, at a show hosted by the Feminist Majority group.
The audience wasn't huge, but they were so receptive and fun to perform for. Entering that stage, I felt like a comedian, rather than a "female comedian". Did I mention there was free thai food? What else could we have asked for?
Of course, it didn't hurt that I was sandwiched between rockstars Carrie and Anna. They both worked wonders with the audience, and I had the joy of slipping in and "pretending" to be a real comedian (how I felt after my stand-up hiatus).
Here's a video of Carrie (not from last night), who performs at various showcases around Chicago, including Chicago Underground Comedy.