Friday, October 21, 2005

I was reading this article about stand-up comedian Sarah Silverman in The New Yorker (Oct. 24 issue) and was shocked to see Penn Jillette agreeing with Jerry Lewis that there are no good female comics. Jilllette says: “I mean, what passes for funny in women is, like, Lucille Ball, who was never funny.” They go on to admit maybe Phyllis Diller is funny. I am a low blood pressure person, but I have to say, I found this really, really annoying.

I know this can be very subjective. And men tend to like male comics, who reflect their own problems back to them. And women tend to like female comics for the same reason. But does Penn Jillette know nothing about the history of television?

I Love Lucy was a phenomenon. It is quite possibly the most popular show that has ever existed. It was first in the ratings for four of its first six seasons, but the extent that it’s been seen in reruns and syndication has probably resulted in it being watched more than any show that’s ever existed. TV Guide has said that she has “a face seen by more people, more often, than the face of any human being who ever lived.”

Never funny?

Her humor has its roots in vaudeville. Though she looked great in a shirtwaist dress and was certainly attractive, she was not above playing the clown. Many of the classic shows centered around slapstick, visual humor that took full advantage of the visual nature of television. Lucille Ball was not a stand-up comic. She’d been a movie and radio actress. But the stories of the show had an element of realism much like we admire in Seinfeld. Seinfeld’s philosophy was “no hugging, no learning.” Lucy did hug her TV and real life husband on the show, but keep in mind part of her reason for doing the show was to keep her cheating husband in the same town. And she definitely didn’t learn. Her character constantly wished she could get out of the apartment and do something glamorous in show business. (How current is that?)

Lucy was the original rebel housewife. She defied her immigrant husband and the conventions of her time over and over again. And women loved it. They identified. They laughed. And they’re still laughing.

And Sarah Silverman is really funny, too.

And also Joan Rivers. Roseanne Barr. Ellen DeGeneres. Judy Gold. Susie Essman. Janeane Garafalo. Imogene Coca. Wendy Liebman. Carol Leifer. Paula Poundstone. Rita Rudner. Margaret Smith. Gracie Allen...

Comments:
Thank you, thank you. Pitiful how Jerry Lewis is uncomfortable around women comedians and how patronizing can you get,"Women" are a God-given miracle who produces a child."
Women are natural born absurdists who couldn't survive without humor. Women don't often tell molifying jokes but among themselves they chuckle over the strangenous of the universe.
 
This blog is very nice! Well done on your good work!

Signs of Cheating
 
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