This past weekend I took a break from my movie marathon and went to see Frankly Scarlett, a new Pittsburgh comedy troupe whose side-splitting mix of skits, improv games, short video clips, and musical interludes was more than worth the price of admission. Satirical scenes about dating, pregnancy, and catty female behavior were mixed in with good-natured jabs at homeschooling, vegetarianism, pop culture, and other topics for a solid hour of hilarity. I’m actually still giggling over some of the jokes, and hoping that they will not only have another show soon, but also make a t-shirt I can buy and wear proudly.
Afterwards, my friends and I were discussing the relative lack of women in comedy; I say “relative” because, at first blush, it seems to me like there ARE a lot of funny ladies out there, as well as a long tradition of grand dames from which they sprung. Five minutes thought brings plenty of names to mind: Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Totie Fields, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Roseanne Barr, Wanda Sykes, and Margaret Cho are just the tip of the iceberg…aren’t they? Clearly, further research was required.
A little catalog sleuthing turned up a great book called Funny Women: American Comediennes 1860-1985, which contains brief biographies of some of the most amusing women you might never have heard of, including May Irwin, Trixie Friganza, Sally Marr, and Jean Carroll. I slapped my forehead when I saw how many greats had somehow slipped my mind, famous names like Lily Tomlin(!), Imogene Coca(!!), Martha Raye(!!!), and, of course, Carol Burnett (!!!!!). The book also has chapters called “Funny Women of Radio” (which reminded me that I’d completely forgotten about the hilarious Gracie Allen) and “Writers and Directors,” which pays tribute to women who were as witty with the pen as in person (including Selma Diamond, for whom Night Court was just one in a series of comedic achievements). Between this book and the world wide web, you can get a gold mine of information on some of the most snickerworthy sisters to strut the stage. And if you’re looking for more, well, we have a few more resources up our sleeves here at the library.
So is it that there aren’t a lot of women in comedy, or just that we don’t know much about some of them, and take for granted the ones we do know? Who do you personally find hilarious, and did I mention her? Why do you suppose more women aren’t drawn to comedy as a pursuit? And, most importantly, who’s coming with me to the next Frankly Scarlett show?
who gives a damn