Professor Linda Mizejewski from Ohio State University has penned the latest book, Pretty/Funny, on feminism and comedy. She graciously took the time to answer a few questions for your reading delight:
|Professor Linda Mizejewski|
What inspired you to write Pretty/Funny?
Comedy has become THE place where feminism is alive and well in pop culture! But very little has been written about this. Because it's "only comedy," there's a reluctance to talk about the real-life effects it has. Laughter is a bonding device--that's why racist, sexist, homophobic jokes are so dangerous. But if people are laughing together AGAINST racism, sexism, homophobia--that's a powerful thing.
How do you think conversations on women in comedy have changed or evolved since the infamous Hitchens article?
Hitchens knew very well that things had already changed by the time he wrote that article. But I think a clue is the huge success of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler--arguably, among the most famous feminists today!--at the Golden Globes two years in a row. That's a prime spot for our very top comedians. Giving that spot to two feminists is quite a coup.
Do you think what the mainstream considers "acceptable" narratives of female comedians is changing? If so, how?
"Girls" on HBO is a measure of that change, as is the success of Kathy Griffin, who openly claims she has nothing to say to straight men. She's willing to blow off the very part of the audience that's traditionally been considered most important. I'd use those two examples to argue that we now have a space for different comic narratives for women--certainly way different than the standard romantic comedy, which is where we thought of funny women in the past.
You've probably heard that the BBC recently banned all male comedy panels on their shows. Why is diverse representation important in comedy?
Minorities have always used humor as a source of self-empowerment. It's the reason some scholars say modern American comedy is based on Jewish and then African-American comedians post-1945. Comedy is a place where you can talk back, speak up, make yourself heard--and make it entertaining enough for people to want to tune in.
Have you come across any lesser-known comedians in your work that you think are doing exciting work whom our readers might like to check out?
I hope everyone knows about The MisAdventures of Awkward Black Girl on the internet! And it's hard to say who's well-known these days, but Janeane Garofolo has been doing amazing feminist work for years and years, and she doesn't get the attention she deserves. I also hope Tig Notaro as become well-known following that stunning monologue on breast cancer that's available on the Louis CK website.
As a professor, how do your students respond to conversations on feminism and comedy?
They love it! My next project is an anthology on this topic for college students because it's a prime topic for classes in pop culture, women's studies, American Studies, media studies, etc.
I know our many of our readers can't wait to read Pretty/Funny. Any plans for a paperback release?
The press has said they'll go to paperback if they see a lot of interest and response, so I'm hoping that happens soon.
Related: Here's a link to her essay, "Queen Latifah, Unruly Women, and the Bodies of Romantic Comedy."