The best cure for creative self-consciousness, creative jealousy, etc. from what I’ve read or what’s helped me — is creativity. So, I write 3 pages of nonsense a day, I’ll commit to a pal that I’m going to write 10 premises and then call them back, I’ll PAY somebody to just watch me practice … just so I can go through a whole bunch of stuff. Just do whatever it is and that seems to shut everything up. But I have a hard time too sometimes — I think everybody does.-Maria Bamford
Posts Tagged: Comedy
I’m typically late-to-the-game on most things. Best Friends Forever was no exception. Alex has been telling me to watch this show forever (as has the entire internet), but I was always like, “Whatever, I’m too cool for your recommendations!” Or something like that.
In celebration of my last day at my job, I decided to watch the pilot of Best Friends Forever (don’t ever say I don’t know how to party). Immediately, I loved this show and knew it was made for me. Unfortunately, it’s already been cancelled because television makes no sense.
The show was made by and stars the fabulous and hilarious Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. In the pilot alone, there’s an extended scene about Steel Magnolias that features an impression of Sally Field and my new favorite abbreviation, Steely Mags. And it only gets better from there! The show’s very funny, but it also has a lot to say about friendship, romantic relationships, and how the two co-exist. And, of course, there’s nothing I’d rather watch that an honest but funny portrayal of female friendships. Steely Mags has nothing on Best Friends Forever.
You can watch the show on NBC’s website, and I hope you go do so immediately. I’ve watched 4 of 6 episodes, and I’m already getting so sad there won’t be any more. My boyfriend (who loves New Girl, was iffy on The Mindy Project, and doesn’t like Happy Endings, to give you an idea of his taste) loves Best Friends Forever almost as much as I do, and he is, as you may have guessed, a dude. So please don’t think I’m recommending a show with only female appeal. Best Friends Forever is for all of us, and it’s exponentially better than any other comedies I like. Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham are actually comedians, not just “actresses who are hot and in a comedy,” and I laugh at just about everything they say.
Today I read an article by Amanda Sitko called Am I Right, Ladies? (No, You’re Crazy). While I definitely understood her point, I’ve gotta say I respectfully disagree with a lot of her article. This isn’t going to be some point-by-point takedown of Amanda Sitko’s opinion because I’m pretty sure we’re on the same side. We both like funny ladies. Also, Amanda Sitko clearly knows a lot more about comedy than I do, being that she’s a comedian. That being said, I still disagreed with her so strongly that I had to write about it on my blog that very few people read.
The article begins: “There’s an unnerving trend among female comedians right now. I call it “crying-in-the-shower humor” – women acting as if their world could come crumbling down at any second, and it often does, for our amusement. Guess what? When women joke about shame eating, or dying alone or “Plan B for breakfast… again!”, people aren’t laughing, they’re cringing. And then they end with: “Am I right, ladies?”
No, you’re not right. You’re clearly bananas and need to get your shit together.”
Sitko goes on to write about how she’s tired of the screwed up, can’t-stop-crying, I-just-can’t-get-my-life-together humor that she feels like so many women have adopted. She includes Zooey Deschanel’s Jess on New Girl and Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon as examples. She writes that we, as women, should be “grounded and responsible” and that the real comedy comes from a place of loving ourselves. Well, I certainly don’t disagree with that. Being responsible is awesome. I love paying my bills on time and eating vegetables. And totally, we should all love ourselves! Nothing is worse than someone with no self confidence!
But, I have to say, I really and truly do not understand where she’s coming from when she roundly denounces this “trend” of crazy gals in comedy. Wasn’t it just a couple a year or so ago that we were praising Kirsten Wiig in Bridesmaids for being an irresponsible, flawed character? Because remember when Knocked Up came out? We all said it played into that tired cliche of the man being crazy, fun, and irresponsible, while the woman is uptight, hardworking, and humorless. Or, in other words, the “straight man.” I don’t buy that a woman has to be responsible and make good decisions to be funny. That’s not only not funny, but it’s not even realistic. You know what’s not that funny? Someone who’s totally self-actualized, whether they’re male or female.
The women she uses as examples of this “crazy” trend are, as pictured: Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Eliza Coupe, Zooey Deschanel and Whitney Cummings. Most of these women are playing very flawed, weird, crazy characters in the company of other flawed, weird characters, male and female. Yes, Eliza Coupe’s character on Happy Endings is pretty spazzy and weird, but so is every other character. Yes, that first episode of New Girl did involve a lot of Jess crying, but it’s not like any of the dudes she lives with are very put together, either (Nick, for example, is the character who’s really a mess).
Even the women Sitko listed as “talented and on top of their game” comedians take part in many of the behaviors she hates. Julie Klausner, for example, makes a lot of jokes about emotional eating on her podcast. Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope eats massive amounts of waffles and gets two different DVD rental subscriptions so she can check out every season of Gossip Girl at the same time. And you know what? I love that. I think those kinds of jokes are really and truly hilarious.
The thing is, female comedians shouldn’t have to worry about “letting us all down.” I know I’m running a blog called Welcome to Ladyville over here, but I don’t think one woman is under the obligation to represent all women. Men don’t carry that burden of every man’s reputation on their shoulders. I don’t think women need to act like they’re “crazy” in order to be funny; many, many, many of my favorite female comedians don’t make that kind of joke. But the ones that do are still very funny to me. I think there’s room for a lot of different types of comedy, and even if some of us don’t find it funny, I don’t think it’s damaging.
I also don’t think it’s a trend, but to be honest, I kind of wish that it was. What I like about comedians who admit that they’re falling apart, that they can’t stop crying, that they’re emotionally eating or can’t maintain a relationship or are going to die alone or whatever is that I relate. While I think of myself as a pretty responsible person, I also feel like I’m falling apart sometimes. I cry a lot. I rarely sleep. I haven’t worked out in several days and I’m mentally beating myself up about it. I am nowhere near achieving my career goals and that keeps me up at night and pushes me to alternately work at a manic pace and try to avoid everything. I get very frustrated and then pick fights with my boyfriend because I’m in a terrible mood. That’s just how I feel sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes. I don’t have it all together, and when I see someone that does, yeah, sometimes it feels inspirational. But sometimes it just makes me feel like a miserable sack of shit. When I see a woman on stage (or screen) being vulnerable, admitting her flaws, being open, it feels (cliche alert!) refreshing. I literally feel lighter, like she’s taken some of heaviness and panic and stress off of my chest.
Last night I watched The Mindy Project after what was a very stressful day. Mindy got drunk and gave an inappropriate wedding toast, got arrested, and slept with someone she shouldn’t have. A guy told her she needed to lose 15 pounds, which actually made me gasp. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but when that episode was over, I actually felt better about myself. This thought appeared very clearly in my head: “See? Mindy’s kind of a mess, too.” I realize she’s playing a fictional character for a laugh, but at that moment, it didn’t matter. I saw myself, and all the stupid trivial embarrassments and setbacks I’d experienced that day, and I felt better.
So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s okay if Amanda Sitko doesn’t like that bumbling, irresponsible lady humor. We all find different things funny, and I’m certainly not saying she’s wrong. But personally, I find flaws and mistakes and craziness funny, and I think that every time a woman loudly says, “I’m not okay,” we all benefit. All of that emotional-eating and shower-crying might seem insane, and maybe it is, but it’s also vulnerable. And I don’t think there’s anything funnier than that.
This weekend, I saw Garfunkel and Oates at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, IN. They were hilarious and great! Here’s one of my favorite songs/videos by them, which features David Wain.
Also, I should note I was in Bloomington for a surprise bachelorette party for my college friend Liz. I got my first mani-pedi, you guys. A momentous occasion, indeed. Also, I watched about half of the Sex and the City movie, so I’m just learning how to become a woman, I guess.
Anyway, it was a great weekend, and here’s a picture of Liz in our hotel room holding the bachelorette party themed cupcakes I made:
I have a longstanding rule against meeting anyone “famous.” Ever since The Great Anton Newcombe Debacle of ’05, I’ve been understandably reticent (I realize his “fame” is debatable, but just humor me, please). There’s a lot that can go wrong when you meet someone you like. Maybe this person’s music helped you through a difficult time, or maybe you’ve read all of his or her books over and over, or maybe you’ve laughed until you’ve cried at his or her comedy. Either way, this person has a presence in your life. You know things about them, as weird as that sounds. And if you meet this person, and he/she’s a huge jerk? Yikes. You can never listen to that album/read that book/laugh at that joke again. Or there’s always the chance (if you’re me, anyway) that you’ll say something embarrassing and make yourself look like a complete idiot.
Also, I don’t really need a connection to a famous person. Autographs in and of themselves don’t mean a lot to me. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate an autograph on occassion. For example, Lauren gave me a signed copy of Emma Straub‘s Other People We Married, and I love that. But that’s because it’s a book I really enjoy by a person I like and it was a gift from one of my best friends. I wouldn’t, like, walk up to Tom Cruise and be all, “Sign this napkin so I can cherish it forever.” Mostly because I don’t often walk the same streets as Tom Cruise. I’m also not particularly interested in that brief moment of connection because, really, what does that get me? Some sort of bragging rights so I can be like, “Oh, no bigs, I met Tom Cruise once.” That impresses me about as much as most things impress Shania Twain. Also, I don’t know why I keep using Tom Cruise as an example.
I’ve been to a lot of small shows since TGAND of ’05, but I’ve never made any effort to meet the person I came to see. And at the sorts of places I prefer to go, it’s pretty easy to meet the acts. It’s not like I’m seeing Katy Perry in a stadium (although I certainly would not balk at the opportunity). Typically, if I’m at a show, it’s the kind of place where the opening band is standing beside you in the audience and you walk past the comedian selling their own CDs as you leave. And yet! I still had this mentality that actually saying something to the performer was a) weird for them, b)possibly annoying and c) unnecessary for me.
Last weekend, Chad suggested we see comedian Pete Holmes in Cleveland. I love Pete Holmes; he hosts the very funny podcast You Made it Weird, which I’ve mentioned before. But I was still kind of like, “Cleveland, ugh.” There are lots of things to like about Cleveland, but it’s also a labrynth of one ways streets and constant construction, and it both conforms to and defies its public perception. In short, it’s a strange place. I ended up being very glad I went, because Pete Holmes was hilarious and I had a great time with my friends. Also, I learned a Life Lesson, as I am wont to do: meeting the performer you came to see is actually the nice thing to do.
I had absolutely no intention of meeting Pete Holmes. I knew Chad wanted to, but I was like, “See you later, I’ll be in the bathroom.” Also, I had to go to the bathroom, so that was part of it. When Jayne and I came back out, Chad was talking to Pete Holmes, and I’m not enough of an asocial weirdo that I’d completely ignore someone when they’re in front of me, so I said hello. And guess what? He was totally nice! He was very friendly, he shook everyone’s hands, and he asked our names. The odd thing was, although the club was packed, hardly anyone was stopping to say hello to him. And you had to walk directly by him and his table of merch in order to leave.
I never thought about it before, but it’s totally weird to watch someone perform and then walk right by them without saying anything. And yet that’s the behavior I’ve observed (and been part of) at most shows. Why wouldn’t an artist want to say hello and hear a quick compliment (I’m assuming you’re not going to approach the performer to say, “I hated your set.”)? I thought about what I would want if I one day have a book signing. Actually, do you guys want to go full-on The Secret and do some manifestation with me? Let’s do this: someday when I have a book signing, I will totally want to say hi to people. After all, connecting with people is part of the point of performing or putting yourself out there in any way.
My experience at the Pete Holmes show changed the way I think of the relationship between audience and performer. Also I went to Taco Bell beforehand and tried something new, so yeah, I’d say it was a pretty big day.
Have you had any good or bad experiences with meeting celebrities? I would love to hear them. Once my friend Dan met Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond when she stopped by his church, and he said she was very nice. Good luck trying to top that juicy celeb story.