What is so funny? Women are. We are hysterical, just ask us. The Film Fatales are in it for the laughs.
In 1998, [Jerry] Lewis famously said that watching women do comedy “sets me back a bit” and that he has trouble with the notion of would-be mothers as comedians. Asked Thursday if he had changed his mind at all because of performers like Melissa McCarthy and Sarah Silverman, the 87-year-old Lewis said of women performing broad comedy: “I can’t see women doing that. It bothers me.” … “I cannot sit and watch a lady diminish her qualities to the lowest common denominator,” he said. “I just can’t do that.” [HuffPost, May 23, 2013.]
elizabeth: Well, if you ask me, Jerry Lewis isn’t funny. Never was. Anyone who depends on mimicking people with disabilities and thought that was funny must have had their funny bone removed at birth. Too bad someone didn’t beat them with it. But, I digress. And Lewis is older than graveyard dirt, so I like to think that no one cares anymore. Hello France? But this post is about the women that tickled our funny bones and there are quite a few to pick from.
Nicole: I defer to Tina Fey in response to Lewis’ ridiculous notions: “Whenever someone says to me: `Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny,’ Do you have anything to say to that?’ “Yes. We don’t f—— care if you like it.” Well said, Ms. Fey. Well said.
So, enter laughing…
Lucille Ball. I think she was the first woman who made me laugh. Even though she made some corny movies, could anyone else have brought Lucy Ricardo to life on the I Love Lucy shows? She made me want to grow up to be just like her, living in the city with a hot husband. And a sign of comedic genius is that the I Love Lucy shows hold up 50 years later. The humor is still crisp. Her facial expressions were memorable and although I would demand my own money, Lucille Ball carried that show. With a little help from Ethel.
Candice Bergen. I think Candice Bergen proved that being stunning looking does not mean you can’t be funny. If you ask me, Candice had some of the sharpest comedic timing of any actress out there. Her career started nearly 50 years ago and I think she keeps getting better. Any woman who can proclaim, “I am fat” in her sixties with no apology is my hero. (Just for the record – I will never let those words slip out of my mouth). Murphy Brown was a lifeline to women from 1988 – 1999 – a time of constant change for women-personally and professionally with a little comic relief from Dan Quayle. (I jest about the latter). I think it had some of the best writing during the 90s, but would it have been as effective without Ms. Bergen. I think not. She was every woman even with that big hair and perennial suits. She was just so damn good at being Murphy Brown. I miss her.
Melissa McCarthy. I don’t remember the first time I saw her in anything, but she got my attention with a couple of movies that featured women in all the starring roles. Bridesmaids and The Heat are “classics in the making” with her antics and perfect timing. Any woman who will show up on screen looking her absolute worse can come to dinner at my house any time. I am not the type to laugh out loud, but she made a fool out of me twice and I hope she can do the same thing for me in her new movie, “Spy.”
Tina Fey. When I read “Bossypants,” I was staggered by how many of Fey’s autobiographical revelations, awkward moments and points of view were so similar to my own. It was like we were separated at birth or living parallel lives — except she’s driven and successful and I’m…well…very much not. But, long before I read her hilarious tell-all I was a fan. From her early on-screen days on SNL as co-anchor of Weekend Update to her riotously funny, edgy, and irreverent sitcom 30 Rock, Fey’s brand of comedy was and is not only humorous, but smart — and in the face of being smart, not afraid to also be crass, silly, and politically incorrect. Her shift into film, with Baby Mama proved she could translate funny from the small screen to the big screen. Not everyone can pull that off. But, Fey’s talents are boundless. Whatever she produces, stars in, directs, or writes — I’m forking over my hard-earned cash to support. Bring it, Tina!
Madeline Kahn. When people ask me where I earned my college degree, I’m wont to say: “Madeline Kahn’s Alma Mata.” I’m proud to share at least something, no matter how small, with this truly remarkable person. Kahn’s comedic genius wasn’t just in her delivery or performance — it was the subtle nuances… a look… a gesture… Zany, yet elegant. Demure, yet trashy. She had it all…and she left us entirely too soon. It’s hard for me to choose which of her roles I loved best — but as I’m also a huge Mel Brooks fan, it’s only natural I gravitate to the roles he wrote for her. Lili Von Shtupp…the Teutonic Titwillow in Blazing Saddles. Victoria Brisbane…the cocker’s daughter in High Anxiety. And, Elizabeth…7 or 8 quicks ones and you’re off to boast and brag with the boys…in Young Frankenstein. Just thinking about those roles sets me to snorting with laughter. No one does funny quite like Ms. Kahn. No one ever will.
Carol Burnett. I grew up watching The Carol Burnett Show. It was required viewing in my house; therefore, I learned early on what’s funny. And, over 30 years later that show is still funny. I know Burnett’s been in many films over the years…but for me, it’s all about that variety show with its wacky cast of characters, prone to break the fourth wall and crack up during live tapings; it’s over-the-top costumes; and crazy send-ups to old Hollywood…like Norma Desmond or Went with the Wind or As the Stomach Turns. Burnett has always been a very generous comic — not always having to steal the show, allowing her cast mates to get the bigger laughs and laughing right alongside them when truly outrageous lines were delivered and flubs were made. Burnett single handedly proves that women are funny. So, Jerry, stick that in your pipe, smoke it and blow it out your unfunny, hammy, hacky arse. Yea, I said it. And, I’d say it again.
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