Exploring The Gender Imbalance In Comedy

As an exclusive contributor for ITOL, Allie Loukas discusses the challenges women face in the world of comedy and how we all should be supporting each other in the face of adversity.

By Allie Loukas

“Women aren’t funny.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this ridiculous phrase uttered. How about “ugh, is that just another one of those stupid chick flicks?” As a female comedienne myself, (I’ll see if I can insert a trailer link to my feature comedy debut “Kathryn Upside Down” here) I have found it to be much, much more difficult than I had expected to market a film with a female comedic lead. It’s 2019 right? Do people really care about what gender the lead comedic actor is? I’m a woman so is this automatically just a ‘chick flick’? Why? Is there a male equivalent of a chick flick…a dick flick?

Funny is funny, right? Well, the answer to that I think can be boiled down to something along the lines of society has basically conditioned us to find reasons to think women are not funny. Females in comedy have been regarded with much harsher criticisms than men. Women’s experiences, in general, are just not normalized in the way mens are.

Kathryn-Upside-Down_Horizontal2-1

Additionally, many comedies starring women compartmentalize them into traditional female roles. Women searching for male partners, or women struggling with dating as a running theme. Something I specifically left out of my film. Kathryn does not date in the film. She does not search for a boyfriend. I wanted the film to be about her, an actual experience of a young girl navigating her life without the dating component, it is not important to the story I wanted to tell. We are women. We have funny stories to tell, and we don’t always have to have a date to tell them.

“Females in comedy have been regarded with much harsher criticisms than men. Women’s experiences in general are just not normalized in the way a man’s are.”

“Your film looks like some ‘Sex and the City’ ‘Real Housewives’ shit that I would never watch,” a comment I received from a man.

My film is, in actuality, nothing like Sex and the City Real Housewives shit but it gets branded as such exclusively based on my gender. Female comediennes also seem to be automatically associated with narcissism; it’s like we get docked 10 points for daring to show our face, and all are characters are branded “annoying,” just ask Amy Schumer.

trainwreck amy schumer

Let’s take, for example, the internet troll pitchfork campaign against the all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot. Trolls seemed to be very proud of the fact that it is the most disliked trailer ever on YouTube, despite having never seen the film. The same can go for most female-driven comedies that tend to be down-rated on IMDB. Check any well known comedic movie or show starring a woman or women on IMDB, then check a similar male counterpart; the averages with women are almost always down-rated which has little to do with quality and much more to do with gender disparity.

“In a world with over saturated content and online trolling at its apex, it’s really important that we dig deep and think for ourselves. Why is it that society has conditioned us to believe women aren’t funny?”

This may not look like a massive deal, but to female filmmakers and comediennes, it IS. In our current cancel culture, everyone’s a critic, unfortunately. Gone are the days of Blockbuster where we chose a title based on whether or not we liked the VHS or DVD sleeve, we didn’t take a stroll over to YouTube or some other platform that allows reviews and ratings and read the best troll.

In a world with over-saturated content and online trolling at its apex, it’s really important that we dig deep and think for ourselves. Why is it that society has conditioned us to believe women aren’t funny? Where did this inbred misogyny come from, how can we change it?

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The simple answer is we all need to support each other, believe each other, and realize that although being a woman is never easy, it can be funny. Instead of looking for fault, let’s give everyone an equal chance to simply make us laugh! I honestly think the more we begin to talk about these issues, the better it will be. There has never been a generation more aware of and fighting gender imbalance than the one we are currently in, which makes me believe we really can turn a corner and erase the existing unfair practices.

Women don’t need to enter comedy on the terms of the patriarchal ideal of what a funny woman is, we can tell our own stories in our own ways. Our experiences are valuable, funny, and relatable to not just women, but I believe everyone. The more we normalize this and show it on screen, the more it will spill over into not only film but society and life in general. I’ll leave us with a quote from the late, great Joan Rivers, “I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door, or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.”

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