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Published on January 26th, 2011 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Lipschtick Jungle

When a hefty piece of comedy criticism begins with the lead “In a recent Vogue interview,” it’s time to reach for the Tylenol.

Or Midol. Would Midol have been a funnier reference? I suppose I should ask writer Leah McLaren, whose own publication touts her as “Canada’s Carrie Bradshaw”. She seems to have all the answers in her Globe and Mail piece, Why women aren’t as funny as men: Maybe it’s our material.

Haven’t we tread upon this ground multiple times? If you’re reading a comedy blog (and you are), you’re undoubtedly familiar with the infamous Vanity Fair piece on women in comedy, written by Christopher Hitchens. I don’t have to link it, I don’t have to summarize it, you just know it.

McLaren, though, “didn’t bother” with that pesky anti-female diatribe at the time, instead realizing only after seeing Baby Mama that female-driven comedies can “simply suck, for no apparent reason.”

Actually, despite good casts, good screenwriters, and good marketing, any movie can simply suck. Baby Mama included.

Since that argument’s fallen apart faster than a Canal Street Louis Vuitton, let’s move on.

McLaren goes on to fail the Bechdel Test in her own column. See, many women make a conscious decision not to be funny, in an effort to land a husband. Men, after all, don’t find funny to be sexy.

Let’s take a leap and assume that’s true. This is all about finding a man, now? In what world is a modern woman — OH, right, the Bradshaw thing. I suppose in a style-over-substance Sex and the City universe, the best way to land a man is to primp and preen and care only about men and the fashion crimes of the rich and famous.

And maybe get pregnant.

Which brings us to the next reason why 51% of the population is horrendously unfunny: fertility!

“I think, on average, women are less funny than men, and I think child-rearing might have something to do with it.”

Yes, those are quotation marks around that sentence. Yes, the Globe and Mail actually printed that.

McLaren preemptively mourns the loss of the now-pregnant Natalie Portman’s initiative to start making Hangover-style gross-out comedies targeted at women, implying that her (limited) comedic sensibilities will be flushed away along with her placenta.

In reality, that initiative is doomed to fail not because of estrogen levels, but because there’s no demand for those films. If there were, Hollywood would be making ’em already. Showbiz types enjoy making money. Strange, but true.

Why is there no demand for female gross-outs? It’s dawning on me now… Men and women are DIFFERENT! (Gosh, I wonder if anyone’s ever used that observation in their comedy. And if that’s the case, maybe dogs are different than cats! Holy smokes, I think I’ve just busted open something huge here, guys.)

Granted, if McLaren now sees the Hitchens piece (which she’s since read) as accurate, it’s hard to blame her for for these theories. Just imagine the kind of women she must surround herself with. If I had a husband who didn’t marry me for my brain, and I spent my days in the kitchen all Blahnik’d and pregnant, I’d be pretty fucking dour too.

It’s fair to say McLaren knows her Chanel better than she knows her comedy. She doesn’t understand the kind of comedy the public likes, and it seems she doesn’t even understand the kind of comedy she likes.

I’m not going to start listing famous funny women, as if to prove any exist. I’m not going to talk about how many women there are in the local Toronto scene. I’m not going to list the actual reasons why women are underrepresented in mainstream comedy.

Because frankly? I’m not going to do McLaren’s research for her. She’s free to take her own initiative and explore comedy beyond what the pages of fashion magazines promote.

I’m guessing she won’t, and I’m more likely to see her in the aisles of Holt Renfrew than at my local comedy club.

I can’t say I have a problem with that.

About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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