For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved making people laugh and smile. I can hardly remember a time when I wouldn’t tell jokes to friends, family members, or basically anyone who would listen in hopes of making their day better. Comedy is something that has this intense power to bring other people joy, and through that, it has brought me joy as well.
Throughout my life, I have not only enjoyed telling jokes that would hopefully land— I’ve also fallen in love with watching people who are experts in the field of making jokes actually land. I love consuming comedy through sketches, stand-up, television shows, movies, podcasts, and much more. Watching other people be creative has always made me happy and pushed me to create content myself.
I love comedy. I hope it continues to be a part of my life for a very long time because of how happy it’s made me. But beyond that, it has also taught me things. And as I’ve started to consider career options, I’ve thought about how some of my idols have turned their passions into occupations. There are so many wonderful success stories, but there’s no denying certain injustices and challenges.
Unfortunately, women in comedy can sometimes have it rough.
At the risk of simply regurgitating my gender studies lectures at you, I’ll keep the foundations of this short. We all know that women are at an inherent disadvantage in the workforce, and even as they rise to the top in their respective fields they are still subject to sexism and invalidation. They are often pigeon-holed by the patriarchy into achieving their success in a certain way and behaving following a certain script after they get it. They are told to not be “too much” and are systematically conditioned to not do what is “meant for men.”
These yucky injustices pop up in all sorts of occupations, and as I explore the field of comedy I have been rudely awakened to that it is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many talented and amazing women in comedy. But many of them have had to fight hard to be respected for where they are and what they do. Many of these women are the ones I idealize the most, like Kaitlin Olson of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson of Broad City.
Comedy is certainly subjective, but these women have always been my favorites. This is not only because of the content they put out, but also it is because of the ambition and sometimes bravery that surrounds taking the comedic risks that they do.
Kaitlin Olson, for example, is no stranger to pushing the limits of comedy and going beyond what is expected of her as a woman in comedy. In an interview, Kaitlin once talked about how playing a token straight woman for a group of men who were central to the plot “really was the landscape for women in comedy then, across the board. You had Elaine from Seinfeld, who I loved, and is still a big motivator for me, but mostly the women in comedies were the wives or the ones who were like, ‘Honey, you’re being crazy!’” In her role as Dee in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Kaitlin Olson helped pave the way for a more unapologetically raunchy and goofy group of female comics. She unabashedly and hilariously took a central role in the sometimes vulgar sitcom, engaging in “unladylike” jokes and refusing to shy away from the occasional physical gag. Beyond that, Kaitlin had creative control over her own show on Fox called The Mick, which exhibited a similar sense of humor.
Unfortunately, The Mick was canceled after two seasons. Some see this as exemplary of the challenges women face in comedy and when carrying their own programs as a creator, leading actor, or both. Regardless, The Mick, and many other examples of women in comedy taking on an unconventional (and therefore, pretty revolutionary) role, have done wonders paving the way for young women who dream of breaking into the industry.
For someone like me, who grew up watching Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live sketches religiously, it is still clear that comedy can sometimes be male-dominated. However, that makes the talented women that rise to the top that much stronger and more impressive. There is still much work to be done, but so many lovely ladies have already worked wonders to pave the way—all the while making audiences laugh hysterically.