What Everyone Ought To Know About Comedy And Sexism

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Sexism in the workplace is not new, but female comedians have a very interesting story to tell about the intersection between sexism, feminism, and comedy.

feminist comedy

Every Woman Needs To Hear What Feminist Comedians Have To Say

Sexism in the workplace has long been known as a feminist issue, but not every workplace has been given an equal spotlight for feminist discussion. On VProud there is an uber interesting video and conversation about female comedians and the joke time they give to men. For someone who is not on stage, this topic feels new. But for all of us who give purposeful thought to giving women equal opportunities, air, story, byline, and quote time as men, the feminist comedy issue is suddenly all too familiar. Below, comedian, actor, and author, Suzy Soro tackles this issue in a poignant, not-to-be missed essay that places the issue of sexism in comedy right smack in the middle of every feminist's lap. Suzy's searing take on this issue is woven with her personal story of being a comedian for more than three decades and it is an absolute must read. What we know about feminism is that it's all of our issue and while the details of our experiences differ, the gut-honest truth about them is the same.

—The VProud Team

female comedians

Blendering In

By Suzy Soro for VProud

The only time I auditioned at The Comic Strip in New York City, I did jokes on how hard it was to date, to find a good man, and why not to move onto a ledge while waiting for Mr. Right. After my set, the booker of the club said, “No audience member is going to believe a girl as attractive as you are has trouble with men.” I thought he was kidding because: 

A. I’m not Angelina Jolie and 
B. Even she had trouble with men and 
C. He was an idiot.

“Every woman in the world has trouble with men,” I said, fighting back. It was 1983.

Fast forward and I’m on Long Island doing a set at a bar where they don’t turn the blenders off while you perform. So relaxing. The booker of that venue came up to me after my set and said, “It’s too bad you’re not a man because you’d work all the time.”

“I know,” I said, not fighting back. It was 1990.

There are fools everywhere still propagating the negative stereotype that women aren’t funny. As proof, no women were offered late night slots when David Letterman, Jon Stewart, and Craig Ferguson abandoned ship. The networks brought in men from England and South Africa to take over those slots. When the suits go all the way to South Africa to find a male TV host rather than pick a woman from their own country, the message is loud and clear: Unplug the blenders; men talking!

We are often called “comediennes,” and to make matters worse, it’s mispronounced as comediANNES. Until the day female doctors and lawyers are known as doctoriennes and lawyeriennes, referring to us as comediennes is sexist. That suffix shunts us to the sidelines, like in junior high, where the perceived least coordinated among us was the last one chosen to play on a dodge ball team.

Many male comedians have told me they don’t think Mindy Kaling is funny, or Lena Dunham, or Amy Schumer. They mistakenly think audiences will find male-centric humor more appealing. 

A few years ago, I was on tour in Anchorage, Alaska with a male comic. I asked him what female comedians he thought were funny and he mentioned two. I asked why only those two and he replied, “Because, you know, they don’t talk about what’s wrong with their husbands, their boyfriends, girl stuff.”

“So men don’t want to listen to anyone putting their gender down?” I asked

“Exactly," he responded.

Pot. Kettle. Black, gentlemen.

Mindy, Lena, and Amy, along with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Melissa McCarthy have changed the face of women in comedy and frankly, we no longer care what the men think about us. 

Why? Because it’s 2015.

suzy soro vproud
About the author: Suzy Soro is a comedian, actor, and author. She toured the world entertaining the troops and for eight years performed in the US with her own standup group, Single, Married & Divorced. She’s best known as the girl who got the last chocolate babka on Seinfeld and appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm, An Evening at the Improv, Star Search, and other standup comedy shows. Her first memoir, Celebrity sTalker, was published in 2012 and her second one, Mommy Tried to Kill Me, is due the end of 2015. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook. Join Suzy's honest conversations on VProud.

Join This Honest Conversation

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