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.