Women in comedy: Are we fair to funny females?

From left, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya 
Rudolph and Kristen Wiig star in “Bridesmaids,” which opens Friday.

Six women on a movie poster is not a typical product of Hollywood marketing. But with “Bridesmaids” opening Friday, the women of comedy are hoping that this rarity will become the norm.

It’s no secret that men tend to dominate the comedy world, despite the presence of multitalented juggernauts like Tina Fey on the rise. One TV producer theorizes that mass audiences don’t like seeing women do risque humor.

“Men and women aren’t as comfortable watching women joke about bodily functions, masturbating, sex,” says comedian and television producer Marianne Schaberg. “It ‘creeps’ them out.”

While that may be true, many funny ladies don’t feel as if they’re judged to be less hilarious than their male counterparts within the comedy community.

“[The problem] is something that women face in a lot of occupations, which is that people don’t assume a woman to be the natural leader of a group,” says Caitlin Tegart, comedy writer and sketch teacher at New York’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade. “Maybe they’re not chosen as head writer or director as quickly.”

Boston-based improv comedian Marty Johnson adds that female comedy writers are the key to seeing more female-driven comedies.

“Eventually it won’t be weird to see a film like ‘Bridesmaids’ in theaters; they will just be comedies with people in them, whether or not they have boobs,” she says. “It comes down to the number of scripts that are being written by female comedy writers who have access to industry players. Women are going to write hilarious parts for other women, because that’s just the reality of their worlds.”

But there are rays of hope in television, says New York-based comedian Shannon O’Neill.

“On Thursday nights you have two female-led sitcoms — “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation” — so already there, we’re at the 50/50 point,” she says. “It might seem unusual to people now, but ‘Bridesmaids’ is just the starting point of absolutely more to come.”

Box office dollars

Some professional funny ladies feel that the lack of a female presence in big-budget comedies comes down to money, plain and simple. Glennis McMurray is the founder of theGLOC.net — that’s Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy — which serves as a forum for female comedians. She’s gathering as many women as she can to go see “Bridesmaids” this weekend, in the hopes of boosting the film’s box office numbers.

“It’s likely that movies are a risky business and [producers] need a surefire formula or franchise before they hit the green-light button,” she says.

“That’s why a huge opening weekend for ‘Bridesmaids’ is so important!”


For more movie news, follow Heidi Patalano on Twitter
@HeidiatMetro.


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