Pussies and World War II
June 17, 2017 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Comedian Iliza Shlesinger causes a stir when she makes some comments about the subject matter of fellow female comedians' acts: "I could walk into The Improv, close my eyes, and I can’t tell one girl’s act apart from another. That’s not saying that 30-something white guys don’t all sound the same sometimes, but I’m banging my head against the wall because women want to be treated as equals, and we want feminism to be a thing, but it’s really difficult when every woman makes the same point about her vagina, over and over. I think I’m the only woman out there that has a joke about World War II in my set." Summary on Splitsider, including some now-deleted tweets. Shlesinger also has declared herself finished with the debate: "Anyway, I'm done here. Enjoy your life" (Twitter)
posted by anothermug (82 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Schlesinger's shtick has always been basically a parody of a Cool Girl, but without the irony. She is, apparently, the real deal.

I haven't been able to sit all the way through one of her specials. They make me sad.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:47 PM on June 17 [21 favorites]


... we love to tear down women for the smallest thing to make ourselves feel better.

do tell
posted by Countess Elena at 8:06 PM on June 17 [47 favorites]


I liked this thread too.

What shows her internalized misogyny the most, to me, is her confidence that pissing off every female comic in the world will not affect her.
posted by little onion at 8:10 PM on June 17 [16 favorites]


No dog in the race, but... For someone who is decrying shock value in women's comedy, Shlesinger certainly seems to have no problem rolling it out.
posted by Samizdata at 8:19 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]




What schadenfrau said.
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:48 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Man, I saw that Chelsea Peretti tweet earlier today and had no context, so it just didn't make any sense. Now it makes sense, so thanks for the FPP.
posted by axiom at 8:58 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


"So I cite Tina Fey and a bring women on the road with me and I wrote about women and Feminism but the second you read one thing that someone tells you upset them, then you all decide I’m a bad feminist? Because I’ve spent my entire career noticing a trend? You are gonna sit there and disqualify my saying there are men who go for low hanging fruit to and just group think on how I said women do this too? You not only got the wrong girl, but the wrong feminist."

Relevant quote from her defense.

But, the internet hate machine slouches forward, eating its own and signaling infinite virtue.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 8:59 PM on June 17 [40 favorites]


Her complaints seem to boil down to "stop being shitty derivative hacks, comedians", a viewpoint which actually makes up roughly 90% of my favourite comedian's work, and one I have a fair bit of sympathy for, but in these trying times it's sad to see a comedian doing anything other than punching up, hard, and this is a sideswipe at best.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:02 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


Relevant quote from her defense.

Not if you've actually seen her act.

I doubt I'm the only woman who's tried to listen to her act and then put an internalized misogyny asterisk next to her name. She's making her argument, such as it is, in the context of a long and public career of making her own hack jokes, most of which accept what I'll call the Reddit Worldview and which often come at the expense of other women or women in general.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:08 PM on June 17 [42 favorites]


There's no better way to signal you're a superior feminist than to explain that you're just saying what no other women "had the balls to point out."
posted by bibliowench at 9:10 PM on June 17 [80 favorites]


"Anyway, I'm done here. Enjoy your life"

that would make a great MetaTalk flameout exit line
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:30 PM on June 17 [27 favorites]


What is that one pussy joke everyone tells ??
posted by KateViolet at 9:51 PM on June 17 [6 favorites]


I hope Tina Fey somewhere is like "take my name out of your mouth" but also knows she's too famous to get involved in this madness.

And when it comes down to Chelsea Peretti vs. Basically Anyone, I'm going to side with Peretti probably EVERY time.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:03 PM on June 17 [14 favorites]


You are gonna sit there and disqualify my saying there are men who go for low hanging fruit to and just group think on how I said women do this too?

To be fair, she didn't just say men do it too; so said men do it too but women should be held to a higher standard because they're letting the sisterhood down or something. I think the feminist position is that a mediocre female comic, like a mediocre female lawyer or doctor, should have exactly the same chances of success as a mediocre male in the same profession.

Saying that women have a moral duty to try harder than men, because their success represents all of us whereas men only have the burden of representing themselves as individuals, is one of those things that sounds vaguely feminist and fist-bumping but is actually the same old boring double standard. It's just another variation on the theme that female virtue = selflessness. Women must be successful for the sake of their sisters while men are free to be successful (or not) for the money, or the fun of it, or because they can get away with it. I'd love to see as many female mediocrities in all professions as there are male mediocrities.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:17 PM on June 17 [79 favorites]


What is that one pussy joke everyone tells ??

There are a lot of comedians who do bits almost entirely dependent on the shock value of saying the word vagina, or pussy, that really don't add much else. Not all of them are women.

On the other hand, while it can be lazy comedy, I think that until women in regular life are as comfortable talking about vaginas and pussies as men are talking about their dicks, there is some value to ladies on stage talking about their fancy bits. But it wouldn't kill anybody to be a little creative.
posted by msalt at 10:19 PM on June 17 [10 favorites]


Chelsea Peretti bottom-lines it.

Here's the full thing, it's hardly one-note shock value in the way she's criticizing. It's actually a pointed statement subverting that one-note vagina joke if anything.

What is that one pussy joke everyone tells ??

It's variations on "my pussy is fucking weird lol" from what I can tell. It's something like "if anyone is going to be vulgar and offensive about my genitalia, it's me, goddammit". I'm not qualified to evaluate it really, but I think Schlesinger is perfectly in her rights to call out her in-group and criticize their approach to something like this. I've had similar discussions with Indians on whether such-and-such Indian-American comedian is really doing good things with their spotlight or laughing at Indians' expense, and we know that discussions like this play out differently when you say such things in wider public spheres, because it sounds like overly negative criticism of people whom you should be supporting. If she's a woman comedian herself, add in a component of it sounding like sour grapes. I think lots of people say stuff like this privately in closed friendly groups and her biggest sin was not doing that.
posted by naju at 10:22 PM on June 17 [16 favorites]


(the racial caricatures in that linked video seem more concerning than anything I've seen so far, fwiw. Is she not particularly great at intersectionality?)
posted by naju at 10:59 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I recently encountered two female comedians on The Bugle who I really like.

Aparna Nancherla has a stage persona I really like.

Alice Fraser has great stand up, and her ted talk is amazing.

I haven't heard them talk about world wars or vaginas, but I'm pretty sure they would be pretty funny if they did.

In other news, The Bugle is back.
posted by poe at 11:08 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


Maybe it's just me, but "let's talk about sex parts OOH SHOCK AWE" is super lame whether women or men do it, every time, no matter what inventive spin they try to put on it. It's just as bad as "I am fatter than all fat people and louder than all loud people" as a comedic schtick. What are we, five?
posted by trackofalljades at 11:17 PM on June 17 [20 favorites]


Yeah, Shlesinger hasn't spent her entire career "noticing" this trend so much as being emblematic of it. Also, her later statement is very obviously an "I don't feel like I should publicly defend that thing I said so let me backpedal and pretend I meant something else that I think is a little safer" moment.

I think lots of people say stuff like this privately in closed friendly groups and her biggest sin was not doing that.
I think her biggest sin was claiming that the fact that other female comedians being hacks is somehow invalidating feminism and I certainly wouldn't expect any of my friends to say such a shitty, stupid thing in any setting, but I guess people's expectations differ.
posted by IAmUnaware at 11:28 PM on June 17 [8 favorites]




Shame about pussies abounds in our society, so I'm not down with someone adding to the shame quotient by insinuating that incorporating the lived experience of having a vagina into comedy is hacky.

Like damn, it can be a big deal for some of us to ask questions of doctors or friends we trustregarding pussy health. That sort of comedy helps normalize and destigmatize the topic. Sometimes vaginas have weird things going on--and dammit, it's healthy to be having that dialogue in private and (some) public spheres.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 11:34 PM on June 17 [17 favorites]


I'm honestly having trouble thinking of a woman comedian I like less than Schlesinger.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:37 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


That’s not saying that 30-something white guys don’t all sound the same sometimes, but I’m banging my head against the wall because women want to be treated as equals, and we want feminism to be a thing, but it’s really difficult when every woman makes the same point about her vagina, over and over

Difficult? Difficult? What she is saying right there is that men "sound the same" and women want to be treated as equals and women... sound the same? And that's somehow not okay for equality? It's right there. It's right in what she was saying right in that actual sentence. RIGHT THERE. How can you miss a point that badly?
posted by Sequence at 11:54 PM on June 17 [27 favorites]


She's calling out a huge cliche she sees as overplayed, misguided, imitative, and a route to success but not a route that leads to a real lasting comedy career, and calls for her peer group to up their game and get better because a lot of amazing unusual jokes are hiding behind this perceived need to do the same old provocative sex comedy to "make it", and she wants to see women comedians really bloom in a thousand ways rather than in one surefire way that has been run into the ground. That's how I took the statement anyway. It's kind of like when many black comedians for a while were thinking they had to do "white people drive like this, and black people drive like THIS" observational racial humor to make it, and sure it was successful and got crowds in seats, but after a while it wasn't innovating or saying anything new, audiences started rolling their eyes, and everyone had to up their game. Those jokes also just weren't as sociopolitically powerful or subversive as everyone pretended they were. The comedians we recognize as brilliant and enduring were playing on multiple levels and twisting those observations around into jokes that stabbed you in the heart while you were crying from laughter, or went in totally different directions that no one was expecting, and I think there's a good well-intentioned impulse behind a call to be conscious of these pitfalls in your humor and innovate and say interesting and new things and not just do what everyone else is doing. Could she have said this in a better way? Absolutely. Is she guilty of the very same things she's calling out? I'm not familiar with her comedy, but I'm sure she is because the ways in which your own art needs improvement is extra noticeable when you see it from other people day in and day out, and comedy moves very rapidly from innovative to cliche in a blink; if you're not lightning-fast in seeing what's fresh and what's not, you're not going to last past the current moment.
posted by naju at 12:47 AM on June 18 [58 favorites]


All the favorites for naju. Comedy is scary and a lot of comedians cling to what they see as safe, especially if it has a certain frisson from being a topic taboo in regular conversation. For example, almost every young male comic starts out talking about watching porn and masturbating (and, separately, weed), and the people who succeed are usually the ones who don't fall into that trap or jump out of it very quickly.

There's no point in women being "equal" to that kind of predictability with a different, female set of tropes. I doubt Schlesinger gives a crap about the male comics, it's fine with her if they fail. My sense is that she doesn't want the (many fewer) women comics to fail or be boring though. Like Naju, I know nothing about her act, but the problem she's describing is a real thing and a valid concern.
posted by msalt at 1:22 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]


But, the internet hate machine slouches forward, eating its own and signaling infinite virtue.

*This* is "the internet hate machine"? Not gamergate. Not r/the_donald. Not /pol/.

I'm so goddamn tired of the double standard for criticism where any time the people on the left speak up for their values they're a hate mob, but the actual hate mobs are just exercising their "free speech".
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 2:13 AM on June 18 [102 favorites]


There's no point in women being "equal" to that kind of predictability with a different, female set of tropes

I mean, the point of equal treatment is that it's something of an end in itself? If hundreds of women are earning a living making tired jokes, and hundreds of men are also earning a living making tired jokes, then that's a problem for comedy as a whole and both men and women need to up their game. It's still enormously preferable to a situation where ten women are earning a living making great jokes, and meanwhile hundreds of men are still earning a living making bad jokes. Such a situation is simply unfair to the less-talented women comics who are being held to a different standard than the men.

I just don't get what the aim of singling women out is, here. If your interest is in the welfare of women as a class, how do you think you benefit them by lecturing them about letting the side down when they are doing about as well as the men? Is it true that the major problem for women in comedy is just too much encouragement and, in the absence of more criticism, they will fail to reach the same standards as the men? That seems pretty unlikely to me. On the other hand, if your interest is in the welfare of comedy as an art form, why wouldn't you take an interest in the many, many ways in which male comics are also being boring and obvious? This choice would only make sense if comedy is a field where women get tons of affirmation and hardly any criticism, while men are constantly being brow-beaten and attacked for their boring jokes, so that the men are as chastened as they're going to get and the women need a stern separate talking-to to make comedy as a whole better.

If that's really the case, comedy is a pretty unusual field. In most other fields, where an oversupply of encouragement to women is not a big problem, I am going to continue to side-eye people - men or women - who single out "women in x profession" for special criticism as a class, even when they are just doing what men in their profession also do. See also every attack ever on female politicians for being calculating and chilly and openly personally ambitious, by people who never attack male politicians for exactly the same behaviour.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:26 AM on June 18 [38 favorites]


and we want feminism to be a thing...

Friend, I have good news for you!
posted by greermahoney at 2:38 AM on June 18 [11 favorites]


Surprised to see no mention of Amy Schumer yet in this context. I find I far prefer her in staged exploits like the 12 Angry men spoof than in her "normal" standup. These efforts allow her sharp-mindedness and comedic long game to really shine. To me that is the comedy currency that has far more value.

I also thought Ali Wong's "Baby Cobra" special crackled with energy. It was rife with "female shock" elements, not the least of which was the things she said were juxtaposed with her clearly pregnant self. Would the impact have been the same if she'd not been with child?

Which is more of a representation of whether a female Person of Comedy is actually talented? Must they be equally appealing as a standup as they are in filmed efforts, skits, etc.? Must they shock? Are they not "best serving" the profession and the art form if they stay in any sort of lane? What happens when shock/profanity/provoking-ness becomes the lane? (see: Griffin, Kathy)
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:59 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


If hundreds of women are earning a living making tired jokes, and hundreds of men are also earning a living making tired jokes, then that's a problem for comedy as a whole and both men and women need to up their game. It's still enormously preferable to a situation where ten women are earning a living making great jokes, and meanwhile hundreds of men are still earning a living making bad jokes.

Unfortunately, based on my comedy going and my spouse's years of experience in the industry, we are still very much in the latter situation. Someone who cared about this would be doing everything they can to support women in comedy, not tearing them down.

I don't care how much good Shlesinger thinks she has done for women in comedy in the past, this bullshit has erased all of that. She has now put herself right up there with the venue owner who protests if there is more than one woman or more than one POC on a show and is delighted to book a black woman because she's a twofer and then he can just have white guys for the next week.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:06 AM on June 18 [23 favorites]


I think we could have a productive discussion about how female comics can be pigeonholed into being "female comics", but you it would have to be nuanced, because female comics making jokes related to their experiences isn't actually, you know, bad.

You wouldn't do it like this:

I think I’m the only woman out there that has a joke about World War II in my set.

That is, you wouldn't do it by making yourself out to be the only "cool girl" female comic out there.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:20 AM on June 18 [29 favorites]


Isn’t it possible that other women are different and have knowledge you don’t and that you can separate opposing views from feelings?

So now I really want to know, what is this different knowledge that the rest of us don't know? Like, give me the full epistemology.

But if it's more of that "work ethic" bullshit, I'll file it under Kyriarchy. Nothing personal against Shlesinger, never seen her, but I liked Sarah Silverman a lot.
posted by polymodus at 4:30 AM on June 18


“If you take umbrage with my interview and it doesn’t pertain to you then you should be happy.”
“Because I’m the only one who gets to consider my female colleagues. All you other bitches MYOB and get me a sandwich. There's plenty of lettuce and tomatoes in the Victory garden."
"But if you look at what you are really upset about, it ain’t me."

"I won’t be doing anything other than explaining why what you read has offended you, whether you want to admit it or not.”
As a woman, I wonder if she has to mansplain backwards, in heels, for $0.80 on the dollar.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:11 AM on June 18 [10 favorites]


The first 30-45 minutes of her last special were all about being white girl drunk/crazy...so I'd like to know what the fuck she thinks is different, smarter, or better about her act than anyone else's.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:38 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]


The Bugle is back? It never left, it just got a bit carried-away with an extended pun-run.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:13 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


If you know nothing about Schlesinger or her act or, apparently, stand up in general, maybe you aren't super qualified to tell the rest of us what this all means.

I go to stand up shows at least weekly in NYC where the level of art is pretty interesting -- a good number of people who have regular tv gigs or who have Made It as a stand up and are working on their act, and then the tier below them who are still broke AF and trying to break into anything. Most of the time it's really pretty clear why the people who have broken through and made it, and the people who haven't...haven't.

An what defines a hack joke isn't defined by subject matter, it's what you do with it. Those comedians who are a head above and have made it? They talk about their dicks and sex and their vaginas and how women all go to the bathroom together etc etc, they just do something interesting with it. AND THAT IS HARD. And usually the way you get to be good is by being bad for a while and working at it. Honestly, most of the time the difference isn't the material; it's the delivery. Good stand ups have to be very, very good actors, and that also takes time. And male comics get this unbelievably long runway to be shitty because there are always guys who will laugh along and it's accepted that this is ok to do.

Meanwhile, as pointed out above, women still can't have frank conversations about their genitals with actual fucking doctors while at the same time being blasted for talking about those genitals on stage by a woman who's entire career has been about validating a straight white male view of women.

Sure.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:20 AM on June 18 [40 favorites]




Hahaha that Maria Bamford bit could actually be a parody of Schlesinger
posted by schadenfrau at 6:58 AM on June 18 [14 favorites]


Hackiness is a constantly moving target. For newer comics, hacky material is often a step toward more interesting material; older comics should recognize that what is now cutting edge will be the hack bits of next year. Comedy, like most fields of art and science, both prunes and builds on the work of others.

Take some of the big names of stand-up history as an example. Bob Newhart was funny, but his woman driver/driving instructor bit is now played-out bullshit. Bill Hicks was funny, but his anti-corporate schtick is the stuff of hundreds of boring political comic hacks. Richard Pryor was funny, but so many dudes have told masturbation jokes by now that the edge is lost.

The best bit I've seen in the last 5 years or so was Kristen Schaal as Emily Dickinson finding and reading poems she hid around the theater. The worst bit was from a Jim Jeffries set that I walked out of after the second bit* - it was about how his girlfriend's pussy was fucked up because she used to date NBA players. I walked out of that because, after Bill Burr and his great jokes about how kids use cell phones too much and how his wife spends all his money, I was all done with the tedium of big name, well-paid, headlining male comics.

But yeah, the real problem is probably that no-name female road comics are hacks.

*-literally the only comic whose set I have ever walked out on
posted by palindromic at 7:39 AM on June 18 [18 favorites]


ALSO not to comment a million times, but the people here and elsewhere who keep bringing up Amy Schumer...

I mean, Schumer didn't get to the A list through her stand up IIRC. She had a couple of (?) funny specials when that was what she was doing all the time (around the same time as Nikki Glaser, who's stand up act generally killed (again IIRC)), and from that she got the Amy Schumer show, which was explicitly feminist in a (somehow still) groundbreaking way and truly fucking funny -- with a team of writers. These are not the same things. I'm not sure their career trajectories are all that comparable. The thing that's struck me most about Schumer is when I've seen her adapt and change (not necessarily always for the better). I haven't seen the leather special yet so I won't comment on that, but the last special I did see I remember thinking, fuck, it's really hard to nail down an hour of good material while also doing your own show. (Louis CK, the philosopher king's issues with women aside, seems to have suffered the same thing.)

ANYWAY. I don't think Schumer and Schlesinger are all that similar, tbh, because while Schumer does play with what she can get away with, her best stuff had a deeper sense of awareness of the context within which she was trying to do that. Schumer had a sense of awareness, is what I'm saying, and there was irony there. Schlesinger, not so much.

And please no one compare Schlesinger to Sarah Silverman ever ever ever.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:46 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]


Ok one more: I'm secretly thrilled to discover other comedy nerds in this thread and I am waving at all of you.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:48 AM on June 18 [12 favorites]


Really, who cares if 90% of female comedians are hacks? Is that any more surprising than making the same comment about 90% of male comedians, or black comedians, or whomever? Restating Sturgeon's Law is not particularly original, daring, or relevant, and trying to elevate yourself above the rabble because you got a corker about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact or whatever that one time is just pasting a "Kick Me" sign to your own back. Lots of people start out doing covers of old themes before they develop their own voices. We as consumers of pop culture may wish that there was more truly original talent out there, of course.

In the meantime, Shlesinger's peak comedy days are probably behind her--she won Last Comic Standing in 2008--and she's got a talk show to promote on Freeform (CBN Satellite Service (1977–81), CBN Cable Network (1981–88), The CBN Family Channel (1988–90), The Family Channel (1990–98), Fox Family Channel (1998–2001), ABC Family (2001–16)). Just a coincidence, I'm sure.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:01 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Okay, but Maria Bamford parodied hacky female comics like 10 years ago and was much funnier while doing it , so who's the hack now, Iliza?

THE BAMMER FOREVER, no joke, she's hilarious, smart and has a biting wit with low key delivery that just kills. Plus she's a fantastic mimic and her mild demeanor can transform on a dime into a 400lb yelling drunk trunk driver to a creepy cult priest and so on. Her self made The Maria Bamford Show on YouTube is genius, you should watch.

Haven't seen a lot of Iliza Shlesinger. Her first Netflix special, War Paint, I couldn't finish watching, it was so common. Now Confirmed Kills was pretty funny, especially the party goblin bit and she had an explicitly feminist outlook that managed to biting and funny, from a certain "i'm a cool party girl" angle.

Otherwise all this comes off as internet drama and will blow over in to day once people find their next thing to get angry about.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:06 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]


Her self made The Maria Bamford Show on YouTube yt is genius, you should watch.

Let's please transition from yet another internet war about who has the right to say what about who and how everyone is wrong and women are doing women wrong into a wonderful discussion of Maria Bamford, the best comic working today. Her Paula Deen bit is one for the ages
posted by dis_integration at 9:29 AM on June 18 [13 favorites]


I love Maria, but I'm not always sure of what I'm watching with her. But she does manage you FEEL something- no small feat in a jaded world. More Maria Surreality plz!
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 10:20 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Otherwise all this comes off as internet drama and will blow over in to day once people find their next thing to get angry about.

Maybe it's just internet drama, but I personally find it helpful to see shitty, faulty arguements refuted. As Aravis76 mention, Schlesinger's comments are (at best) that annoying double standard, where a man half assing it is just that, one man. But a woman going after low hanging fruit (like some men) is somehow a mark against womankind and feminism. That women have to justify their "equal" treatment by elevating an entire profession, otherwise there's apparently no point.

I know that double standard is unreasonable. But that pressure is always hanging around in the background. So it's nice to have the occasional dose of collective "Yep, that is bullshit," to remind me I'm not crazy, that I deserve to have my mistakes be a mark against only me and not women in general.

But I'm also happy to read more recommendations for smart, funny comics as further evidence that Schlesinger's premise as a whole (women comics sound the same) is faulty. Funny vagina jokes accepted, but not required.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:26 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


But I'm also happy to read more recommendations for smart, funny comics as further evidence that Schlesinger's premise as a whole (women comics sound the same) is faulty.

You want spite recommendations, then I'm your huckleberry!

I'll omit the very famous, like women at the Wanda Sykes, Leslie Jones, and Sam Bee level of fame. To the aforementioned Maria Bamford and Kristen Schaal and others, there's Naomi Ekperigin, Cameron Esposito, Rhea Butcher, Sabrina Jalees, Jen Kirkman, Mary Mack, Marcella Arguello, Jo Firestone, 2 Dope Queens podcast w/Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson (both do stand-up too), Aparna Nancherla, Emily Heller, Charlyne Yi, Amanda Brooke Perrin, Natasha Leggero, Morgan Miller...

I have reached the top of my head limit, but there are definitely more out there.

Written comedy, I can't recommend anyone more highly than Samantha Irby, whose most recent post is 'summer beauty tips for the exhausted and situationally impoverished.' Maybe Alexandra Petri in a close second?
posted by palindromic at 11:00 AM on June 18 [21 favorites]


I can't recommend Tig Notaro Live nearly enough. I learned about her here at Mefi. That set is one of the most profoundly hilarious and gut wrenching stand up sets you'll ever hear.

Notaro is my favorite comedian working today.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:20 AM on June 18 [10 favorites]


(Bamford is a close second)
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:20 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Surprised nobody yet has pointed out the meta-ness of "Have you noticed how men do comedy like this but women do comedy like that?"
posted by splitpeasoup at 11:21 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]


Jackie Kashian is an excellent comic who alternates between headlining and featuring for Maria Bamford, her long-time friend as well as colleague. Highly recommended and both are very good people IRL as well. Go see the Bammer and you might get to see them both.

Amy Miller is a rising star. Laurie Kilmartin is a great comic (and comedy writer for various TV shows). Not a big name yet but Virginia Jones is a great LA comic. Bri Pruett just moved to LA. Andy Erikson has a very engaging update on the classic ditz character. Maggie Maye is a super sharp LA comic.

To bring this discussion full circle to gynecology, Bamford's current TV show Lady Dynamite has an entire episode about vaginismus, which is definitely not a topic any hacky comics of either genre have tackled AFAIK.
posted by msalt at 11:26 AM on June 18 [8 favorites]


On preview: Tig Notaro of course. MeFi favorite and all that.
posted by msalt at 11:27 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Aravis76: If hundreds of women are earning a living making tired jokes, and hundreds of men are also earning a living making tired jokes, then that's a problem for comedy as a whole and both men and women need to up their game. It's still enormously preferable to a situation where ten women are earning a living making great jokes, and meanwhile hundreds of men are still earning a living making bad jokes.

None of the people we're talking about are making a living. Very few people EVER make a living at comedy. The percent is probably lower even than rock band members. The question is, how do you get from here (struggling) to there (successful).

I just don't get what the aim of singling women out is, here. If your interest is in the welfare of women as a class, how do you think you benefit them by lecturing them about letting the side down when they are doing about as well as the men?

Are you addressing me? I haven't singled out anybody. If you mean Schlesinger, I dunno, I don't speak for her and I'm not entirely sure what she was trying to get at. Like I said, none of the people under discussion are doing well.

As for calling out male comics, it happens daily, to the point where the criticism of jokes about airline food or humping the comedian's stool being hacky is itself hacky. Anyway, who gives a shit about bad male comics who never succeed because they're hacky? Nobody that I know of.
posted by msalt at 11:41 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


There are criticisms to make of anyone or any work. Schumer, for instance, falls down very hard when it comes to intersectionality and is, to my mind, much more White Feminist than anything. I'm not a fan. Bamford will sometimes bring up "bisexual" in a way that suggests "bubonic plague." I am a fan, but not of that. I can't think of a big critique of Notaro, but I'm sure someone else could.

People are imperfect messengers, and sometimes what matters is how they respond to criticism. Do they grow past and apologize for past bigotries and faults? Do they double down on them? Sometimes you have to take what you can from someone while acknowledging and continually reminding others that, oh yeah, they're super bigoted when they get going on X Topic, but this bit they did on Y Topic is still pretty great. etc.

I don't have a larger point. I just read a lot of this thread as a back and forth where the original criticism got buried in criticisms of the critic, and then others brought up better examples but like they kind of also have histories of bigotry and awfulness. I am sure Shlesinger has plenty of issues (I'm not familiar), but there is something to be said for urging marginalized comics to move past reinforcing (frequently negative) stereotypes. You often see similar things with non-white comics making a choice to either talk about race or to reinforce white people's expectations about race with shallow racial caricatures. The former can be powerful, enlightening and speaks to a wider audience than affluent white people; the latter can honestly become a major contributor to social racism. Likewise, there are huge differences between discussing gender, sexuality and/or genitals in comedy with nuance, and making jokes that actually reinforce social misogyny.
posted by byanyothername at 11:52 AM on June 18 [7 favorites]


*This* is "the internet hate machine"? Not gamergate. Not r/the_donald. Not /pol/.

I'm so goddamn tired of the double standard for criticism where any time the people on the left speak up for their values they're a hate mob, but the actual hate mobs are just exercising their "free speech".


This "double standard" is a fairly recent phenomenon that has been used almost exclusively by alt-right neo-fascists. Please do not equate my criticism of a specific type of leftist discourse with a nazi strawman.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 12:00 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Schlesinger's shtick has always been basically a parody of a Cool Girl, but without the irony. She is, apparently, the real deal.

Yeah. When she was a competitor on "Last Comic Standing" all those years ago -- my introduction to her work -- I remember thinking, "Jesus Christ, how much of a hack do you have to be to steal Dane Cook's whole act?"

She won. My mind has never boggled harder.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:08 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


Please do not equate my criticism of a specific type of leftist discourse with a nazi strawman.

Please ask yourself whether you want to use the same rhetorical tactic that the Nazis are using.
posted by Etrigan at 12:17 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


Guys guys guys.

I wrote this great joke.

It goes

Iliza Shlesinger.
posted by saysthis at 12:57 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Here's a Medium post on women in comedy by Sara Schaefer that includes tons of female comedians to look up, some similar calling out of hackery but none of the cringey self-promotion that Schlesinger spouts. Excellent stuff.

"What I’m seeing in comedy right now is excellence from women. I’m seeing so much more than vagina jokes. [names about 150 women comics] ... But also, I’m seeing some boring shit too. Jokes with no point. Jokes that are virtue signaling just for clapter. ... Jokes that are cliche. I’m seeing some women mimic their elders. I’m seeing mini Sarah Silvermans, mini Amy Schumers. Mini Tigs. Mini Maria Bamfords. Mini everybody.

And you might think I’m upset about all of this but I’m not. I find it absolutely thrilling, because it means we’re just regular comics. There are more women to emulate and copy, there is more room to breathe and just exist in various stages of development. There are, more than there’s ever been, a crop of younger female comics hanging onto the ropes before clawing their way to their own voice. An organic process we now have more access to alongside the men."

posted by msalt at 12:57 PM on June 18 [16 favorites]


I've tried, and failed, to watch Iliza Schlesinger on Netflix and I couldn't sit through it. I think stand up is really hard and it astonishes me when anyone does it well. I'm rooting for more women to get into the still-very-male boys club that is comedy and I'm happy that it sounds like that is happening (too slowly, natch).
posted by Bella Donna at 1:04 PM on June 18


You know- if one of the outcomes of this is a whole bunch of funny new WWII jokes, I'm still going to treat it as a net positive.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:15 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]


It'd be nice to hear some jokes about more recent conflicts (like Grenada). Honestly, it's kind of astounding how absent jokes about the US's permanent wars are. I don't think I've heard a joke about Afghanistan or Iraq since 2006, and even then it was more of a anti-George Bush joke.

Bill Hicks recorded an album attacking Operation Desert Storm (aka Iraq War #1) that was so solid, it was reissued as "Shock and Awe" during Iraq War #2 -- after his death -- and still worked. To be fair it helped to have a new president with the same name.
posted by msalt at 1:25 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Jen Kirkman is my life.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:11 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


(Also awesome are Rhea Butcher and her lovely wife the aforementioned Cameron Esposito [although I prefer Rhea's comedy -- and their SeeSo TV series 'Take My Wife' is awesome], Emily Heller, BRIDGET EVERETT, Michelle Buteau, Aparna Nancherla, Jenny Slate, Charla Lauriston, Claudia O'Doherty, Martha Kelly, Fortune Feimster, Sara Schaefer, Natasha Leggero [I still don't know if I love her, but this Meltdown bit has never failed to make me die laughing], Sasheer Zamata, Natasha Muse, Janelle James, Brooke Van Poppelen, Phoebe Robinson, Michelle Wolf... I know some have been mentioned already and I'm forgetting people but I've had insomnia all week and my brain has dumb. And of course Tig and Sarah and Chelsea and Maria and Ali.)
posted by elsietheeel at 2:37 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


Belatedly, can we drop that "virtue signaling" garbage. It's just a way to say "white knighting" without tipping by your hat that you don't think any defense of women serves any unselfish function.
posted by maxsparber at 2:43 PM on June 18 [30 favorites]


Yeah. When she was a competitor on "Last Comic Standing" all those years ago -- my introduction to her work -- I remember thinking, "Jesus Christ, how much of a hack do you have to be to steal Dane Cook's whole act?"

She won. My mind has never boggled harder.


I thought Schlesinger was pretty good on Last Comic Standing, and the funniest comic to make it past the audition round (I preferred Mary Mack, but no one else did). It was impressive how she grabbed victory, despite the older contestants voting her up for elimination each episode because they resented having to compete with a chick straight out of college.

I thought I was going to be a fan of hers, but she never grew her skills much from that point. This thread is the first time I've thought of her in a while.
posted by riruro at 3:45 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I'm a standup comic in NYC myself - "working comic" is a weird term to me, but I'm currently on tour promoting my first album. And literally ZERO of the friends, respected colleagues and sad assholes I have to deal with on the regular have ever said Schlesinger's name out loud or online until this interview thing. If she were a sandwich, she'd be overpriced and sold only at the airport.

My take here is that if we never cared about anything she said on any of her specials, why give her the attention over six sentences in an interview now?
posted by chinese_fashion at 3:57 PM on June 18 [12 favorites]


From the linked article: This “use your platform” garbage when you are yelling at someone you know nothing about is self serving and is the reason that women are known for being catty- Bc we love to tear down women for the smallest thing to make ourselves feel better. Isn’t it possible that other women are different and have knowledge you don’t and that you can separate opposing views from feelings?

Er, yep, indeed it is... and thanks to this person for demonstrating that profound lack of self-awareness is not exclusive to any gender.
posted by rpfields at 5:08 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


To go outside the US for female comics for a moment, find Hannah Gadsby's stuff (YouTube for sure, maybe Netflix?) Here's a good example from her show Nanette and here's another good example of her work.
posted by rednikki at 5:45 PM on June 18


Hannah Gadsby is also an art historian and hybridizes her art history and comedy quite well.
posted by rednikki at 5:47 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I wish people didn't take position comics should be virtuous or even try to seem to be (virtue signaling?). Some of the best comedy is all about the absence of that. Solipsism, disdain, and spite are really funny in the right hands. Would the second coming of Sam Kinison be well-received on a weeknight at The Largo?
posted by MattD at 6:28 PM on June 18


I would love to see Sam Kinison again- he was hysterical. I love this little peanut- she's adorable. And I can say that because I am a million years older than her.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 6:45 PM on June 18


Are you addressing me? I haven't singled out anybody. If you mean Schlesinger, I dunno, I don't speak for her and I'm not entirely sure what she was trying to get at.

Very belatedly -- I meant her, not you, and I was reacting to a single element in her defensive ramble, the bit where she says she thinks men do the same thing but if women want feminism to be a thing they need to shape up. I was annoyed by the idea the women need to earn feminism -- that is, they need to earn an expectation of equal treatment -- by how brilliant they are. It may be true that there are elements in women's comedy that are bad or boring in ways that subtly differ from the bad or boring bits in male comedy, but couching a critique of that in the language of "and you people want feminism to be a thing" is pretty grating and, frankly, stupid.
posted by Aravis76 at 6:51 PM on June 18 [12 favorites]


Oh right, I used to be really into UK comedy but I haven't been for a while. I've always loved Josie Long though. She is my very definition of earnesty (earnest + honesty).
posted by elsietheeel at 7:59 PM on June 18


Judith Lucy is an Australian national treasure.
posted by h00py at 11:41 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Aravis76: thanks for clarifying. Yeah, whatever value Schlesinger's critique may potentially have had was definitely ruined by her cringey phrasing and oddly self-promoting air of superiority. As if she was some giant of deep dark feminist truth-telling, the female Richard Pryor or some such.
posted by msalt at 5:38 AM on June 19 [3 favorites]


I came in here to post Maria Bamford's Road Show bit (for myself, I prefer the version from the John Oliver Stand-Up Show to the YouTube clip above, because I think it's a little sharper and more polished in album form), but in the process of doing so, I discovered that apparently she released an album last year and I missed it somehow. So, thanks, Iliza, you did me a solid. The rest of your argument is kind of shit though.
posted by Errant at 3:02 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


Thanks! That is a better version of that bit. So freakin' savage.
posted by msalt at 10:11 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Anyway, who gives a shit about bad male comics who never succeed because they're hacky?

Andy Kindler. He cares enough about calling out hackery (almost all men) that he's actually known for it.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:45 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


And he's also famous for being basically the only comedian who does that (in public).
posted by msalt at 9:33 AM on June 21


« Older El cóndor abraza   |   He's the man, the man with the Midas touch Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments