It feels like every couple of years, I’ll accidentally encounter a radio phone-in or daytime television debate about whether or not women can be funny. And let’s have it right the statistics don’t look good. The truth is that there aren’t very many successful female comics, and those that exist are either wildly self-deprecating, or hated. Often, both.
“Ooo, look at me, I’m dead old/ thick/ fat” she says, and the rest of the world either laugh along, or pour scorn on their over reliance on self-hate.
Yes, yes there are notable exceptions and – in the US especially – women comics are afforded occasional notable success, but this usually dissipates and is still infused with the idea that they’re working on a “token” ticket. So, is the truth that women aren’t funny?
Well, no. Of course, not.
Women are very funny. And if the political faux pas of people like Roseanne Barr and Joan Rivers are something you can’t get past; Victoria Wood, Mae West, Lucille Ball and a host of comic female actors could probably sway you.
However; in order to make people laugh, an audience has to entrust you with a certain degree of power. You as the comic are the architect of an audience’s response (that they believe is instinctive, but is in actual fact much more about conditioning) and audiences don’t trust women. I don’t just mean male audiences either, although to a certain degree we’re all a male audience.
There is an extra dimension to this, too. This idea that a woman cannot fall within the narrow parameters of sexual attractiveness, and be funny, at the same time.
We have to put women into various social categories, because the sexually desirable must not be allowed to be more than fuckable, and the less sexually desirable (measured against narrow aesthetic parameters that very few women can attain for very long) must make up for it. If a woman is more than just attractive or funny, then they are too powerful.
We can afford the Sarah Millicans, Jo Brands, and Miranda Harts of this world their own television shows and National Treasure titles, as long as they are constantly reminded of how intrinsically unfuckable they are and as long as they don’t get ideas above their station, or hope to make narcissistic, pathos-laden comedic “art” like Bill Hicks, Stewart Lee, or Daniel Kitson.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Kitson & co. live and to bathe in their comedic majesty, but do I think women aren’t capable of reaching existential conclusions about humanity, enriched with humour and passion? Women eject humans out of their genitals, lads. You don’t know the meaning of nihilism and existential angst.
But I digress.
The point is that women can either be worth shagging, or funny. Sometimes neither, never both. Either we accept that this is because less attractive women (by ridiculous Western, socially imposed standards) are born funny, and those who adhere to those very narrow aesthetic standards lack wit (but somehow manage to acquire it as they age and begin to edge outside of those aesthetic parameters), or we agree this is about power and not about how funny women are, but how funny we (as an audience/ society) allow them to be.
With that in mind, I think about beautiful men.
Being honest, I needn’t have that in mind, because I’m always thinking about beautiful men.
I think about dicks and thighs and wrists and faces and stomachs and I think about all of these things with an intense sexual desire.
And here’s something else: so do most other heterosexual women.
I say this because, along with the compartmentalizing of women, and this unspoken societal understanding that women are either fit or funny, there is this prevailing sense that all women want is someone who will make them laugh or take care of them, or any list of other attributes that aren’t about physical attraction.
The idea that men – in direct contrast to the fit or funny women model previously outlined – could be purely lusted over for nothing more than their physical attributes is something we don’t entertain.
Do we recognize beautiful men, like Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp? Yes, we do.
But we allow them the freedom to also be actors, to wear shit clothes, to have tabloid pictures taken of them with guts hanging out over bath towels. We allow them to grow ridiculous facial hair, get old or fuck women decades younger than them without so much as a raised eyebrow. Because – and I reiterate this – there’s this sense that women are much more worthy in their desires.
I’m not. I’m not worthy at all.
I’ll pretend to laugh at your jokes to fuck you, and if you’re extraordinarily attractive I’ll fuck you, even if you bore me.
Something that all men should know is that they’re probably never going to be as beautiful as Elvis Presley or Marlon Brando and that everyone you’ve ever fucked is likely to wish you looked better, at some point. Unless of course you do look like Elvis Presley, or Marlon Brando, in which case – call me.
Know that women aren’t less shallow and that sex isn’t less important to us than you. Also know that women do not have a more generous understanding of physical attractiveness.
Marlon Brando was a beautiful man, made fitter by a ridiculous talent. A talent he was allowed to explore, because he wasn’t reduced to his frankly perfect physicality. Similarly, Elvis Presley had the sort of face that Michelangelo himself could not have sculpted, but he was also allowed to sing and be a bit of a knob.
But the most interesting thing about these stunningly handsome men, and similarly spectacularly attractive men like James Dean, Mohammed Ali, Paul Newman – is that their physical beauty is not the legacy they have left or will leave the world. Conversely, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall… it’s all about how fit they were and which men they fucked.
Nowhere is there a better example of how insidious and all-consuming patriarchal objectification is than those very examples. You don’t even need to see coked-up, close-ups of unhappy-looking women in hardcore porn flicks, to see how little society values us.
So here’s what the truth is; women can be both, neither or a combination of socially attractive and funny. Some of the funniest people you know are probably women. The reason we don’t allow funny women to be successful is because we (I’m still using the royal we here) don’t trust women with too much power. But, much like women not being funny is a mythical social construct to subjugate and disempower women, also know that women really don’t have a greater capacity to overlook the physical imperfections of men. Contrary to the socially constructed myth (which affords men the freedom to not be constrained by the same aesthetic pressures they impress on women) that we’re working on a higher spiritual plane to men; in actual fact, we lust over the veiny dick of the object of our desire, in much the same way as you think about our cunts.
Chin up, knobhead. I’ve got some Spanx you can borrow…