Must women act undesirable to be funny?
Short answer, No. Long answer?
The question is the headline of a National Post (Canada) article that is part of a “week-long series (that) showcases some of the most interesting research” presented at the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, a gathering of “7,000 academics.”
Uh oh… whenever 7,000 academics gather, you had better wear your hip waders, because the horseshit is going to be deep and wide. And when they turn their attention to standup comedy, the tsunami of tshit will swamp everything in its path!
Successful Canadian comedian Deb DiGiovanni, it is posited, “has no choice but to cast herself… as unattractive, sexually unappealing and self-deprecating… in order to achieve that success.”
Actually, that is wrong. She has plenty of choices. Casting herself as unattractive is but one. We know of a few female comedians (and a few male comedians) who might be considered “unattractive” (whatever that means) but who have chosen to cast themselves as sexual beings, in some cases hypersexual beings. And it works.
Conversely, not every attractive female comic casts herself as sexually appealing.
We suppose if you’re an academic, you can find all kinds of wacky “research” to bolster their theories. In this case, the article hinges on Danielle Deveau’s PhD dissertation on stand up comedians in Canada. We don’t disagree for one minute that Deb DiGiovanni has apporoached standup in a certain way and that it has resulted in a degree of success for her. But we disagree with the conclusions made by Deveau who says, “this performative strategy of unattractiveness is especially prominent in stand-up comedy because the stand-up comedy club is a very challenging venue and is very male-dominated.” It matters not if the club is a very challenging venue. It also matters not if the standup milieu is very male-dominated. We counter that the audience is usually 50 per cent female. Are the comedians performing for the folks in the seats or the boys standing in the back of the room?
Deveau attempts to bolster her proposition by citing a (possibly flawed) study that suggests that men don’t dig funny chicks.
“There’s a lot of social and cultural resistance to women being funny and that speaks to why performers like Joan Rivers had to use self-deprecation and cast themselves as undesirable to pull themselves out of that [idea],” Ms. Deveau, of Simon Fraser University’s Communication school, said Wednesday. Again, we take issue with the phrase “had to.” Self-deprecation is but one choice, one tool at a comedian’s disposal, used by both men and women, both attractive and unattractive.
We’re disappointed that the egghead (in this case a woman egghead) contends that a comedian has so few choices when it comes to “framing.” And so few skills when it comes to performing. And it’s disappointing that the female reporter goes along with the gag.
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