I’ve been sitting on this post for a few hours, and am still hesitating to post it because of how easy it would be for someone to think that this post means that beautiful women are inherently unfunny. In reality, the problem isn’t with funny and beautiful women. The problem is with us.
From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman. By far. They usually—boy am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online—but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny.
I’d like to go on the record as agreeing with him. Do you know why? Because beautiful women aren’t taken seriously as comediennes. We are conditioned to see beauty things and beautiful people as something to be revered instead of laughed at.
Let’s take a little trip back to the 1950’s, when Lucille Ball was the top funny woman of the day (and still is one of the top of all time). I Love Lucy was groundbreaking in so many ways. The show portrayed an interracial marriage where the wife was very much the equal to her husband. While Lucy Ricardo would appear to defer to her husband she was conniving and would scheme to get her way. Never was she truly stupid. Sometimes she just got caught up in her own tangled web. Most comedy was based on things not going according to plan. She was anything but a mild and meek housewife. This is the Lucille Ball we all know and love:
Wide-eyed, silly, looking somewhat daft at first glance. Would we still laugh at her antics if she looked like the Lucille Ball few of us are familiar with?
By the way, she co-founded and co-owned DesiLu Productions. Without her, we wouldn’t have Star Trek. There’s your daily dose of WTF? trivia.
Another popular show of the time was The Honeymooners. Audrey Meadows, as Alice Kramden, stood up to her blowhard of a husband. She was a strong, determined, loving woman. Here is semi-frumpy Alice:
These women had to downplay their beauty to be taken seriously as comediennes. True, there are some women who’ve been seen as funny without downplaying their beauty:
Marilyn Monroe as Pola Debevoise in How to Marry a Millionaire:
Mary Tyler as Laura Petrie in The Dick Dan Dyke Show:
Marilyn was expected to play the dumb blonde, despite being highly intelligent in real life, and having a major love of reading and learning. Mary lucked out, and was allowed to play smart women.
But the unfortunate reality is that funny women have the cards stacked against them in the best of times. John Belushi straight-up sabotaged women, and wrote sketches for them so unfunny that the chance of them being selected for SNL was nearly nil.
Take a look at this list of 30 of the funniest women of all time.
Go on. Look. Save me from having to ad a bunch more photos here.
You’ll probably notice that only a few of them are women who are beautiful in the typical sense. Most are homely or, at best, look like the “girl next door.” With rare exception, we just plain don’t see women as funny when they look beautiful.
Why is this? Is it because our modern comedy, in an era when slapstick comedy is a relic of the past, would rather see beautiful women as sex objects, and a women being funny challenges that? Spoken comedy and stand-up these days are sex jokes and one-person bantering about sex and penises, and in sitcoms, women are either stupid…
Stand-up comediennes are definitely expected to downplay their looks. Would you believe that this gorgeous woman:
…is Sarah Silverman?
Imagine how well her acts would go id she didn’t try to look boyish and crash, and instead delivered her act while looking typically beautiful.
When women in comedy are allowed to be beautiful without being stupid nerdy nags who aren’t supposed to be pretty, it’s a plot device, usually to remind us that they can look pretty, but ha ha, look at the contrast of how their characters are stupid nerdy nags.
When women have an uphill battle to climb to be seen as funny without having to try to make themselves look physically unattractive, why bother trying?
Eisner didn’t say anything sexist. He merely pointed out how women are given the choice of getting to look beautiful, or being funny. Since most women want to look the best we can, and downplaying beauty means going against what most of us want (we can thank society, once again, for conditioning us to be embarrassed and apologize if we don’t look perfect), it’s a touch choice. More value is ultimately placed on beauty.
Until we have more Mary Tyler Moores willing to break more ground by not apologizing for their beauty while going out there and splitting sides with their comedy, this is a problem that can’t be fixed. But what incentive is there to break that ground when we, as a whole, won’t laugh at beautiful women thanks to life-long conditioning? Breaking ground in the 50’s was easier when there was less to choose from.
Without a doubt, there are women who are beautiful who can also be funny…but only is beauty is downplayed. So yes, beautiful funny women are hard to find because, for the most part, society doesn’t allow women to be beautiful and funny at the same time.