Three women in comedy weigh in on sexism

Molly McAleer, Debra DiGiovanni and Cheryl Hann discuss how they deal with gender-related criticism in the comedy business.

Three prominent women in comedy have paired up with UNews to discuss the issue sexism as it occurs in their field of work.

Joining us we have Molly McAleer, a writer and story editor for the sitcom 2 Broke Girls. McAleer also owns and co-founded the female-oriented comedy site HelloGiggles, which she began with her colleagues Zooey Deschanel and Sophia Rossi. McAleer currently lives in LA and originally rose to internet fame as a blogger on mollsshewrote.com.

We also have Debra DiGiovanni, a successful Canadian stand-up comedian who has won numerous awards for her work, including Best Female Comedian at the 2009 Canadian Comedy Awards.

Finally, joining us from Halifax is Cheryl Hann, a Dalhousie alum who is part of the Haligonian sketch comedy troupe PicnicFace. The group had a 13-episode TV show on The Comedy Network.

1. How does it make you feel as a woman in comedy when prominent men come out against female comedians? Have you learned to let it slide off your back or does it still hurt/anger you?

Molly McAleer:

I think that stuff makes the person saying remarks like that look so much worse than it does comedy writers who are women. For that reason, I do not personally find it bothersome.

Debra DiGiovanni:

It makes me sad that it’s 2014 and this is still an issue. I wonder what happened to these men to make them so afraid of funny women? Truly, I find it ridiculous and horrifyingly boring.

Cheryl Hann:

To be honest, it sort of makes me laugh. To be clear, I am laughing at anyone who feels the need to come out against female comedians. The idea that I could be somehow worse at relating my experiences to an audience because I’m female is insane.

2. Should prominent females in comedy respond to these comments or is it best to ignore them?

Molly McAleer: 

Yes, it’s an issue of equality. I personally do not choose to comment on or get involved in every slam that’s made, but I think we see activism on lots of other issues regarding equality.

Debra DiGiovanni: 

It’s impossible to ignore. As a comic, I am up against it daily. Men are constantly writing/tweeting/facebooking me to tell me just how unfunny I am. The fun part is: I still win. And that makes me laugh. No man will ever shut me up.

Cheryl Hann: 

I think it’s important to understand the climate you’re working in as a comedian, male or female. I want to be clear here that I don’t think “men” say this or that. Some men, and some women, say things that are hurtful or dismissive toward female comics. And many men and many women are allies to female comics. If you are good at what you do, focus on that. Don’t let someone else’s hang-ups affect how you do you.

3. Adam Carolla famously got a lot of flack for saying women hired on comedy shows are unfunny and essentially there to fill a quota. Have you encountered any of these thoughts working for a comedy show? Do you feel a responsibility to prove that this is wrong?

Molly McAleer:

I mean, I work on a staff that is over 70% women. I am told this is very, very rare. But from what I see of many other writer’s rooms, this simply not the case. I think that many people are pretty hip to the fact that women and people from lots of different backgrounds are the kind of thing you need to make something appeal to a wider audience.

Debra DiGiovanni: 

First off, Adam Carolla? The epitome of un-funny. So, I could care less what he said. If Jim Gaffigan, Bill Burr or Brian Regan said that, I’d be a bit sad, as they’re fantastic comedians. Also, this is why they wouldn’t—they’re fantastic comedians.

Cheryl Hann:

That is a truly horrible thing to say. When someone says something like that, or something they think is nice like, “I don’t usually like female comedians, but you were really great!” call them on that. Point out how awful they’re being. I don’t feel I have any responsibility to prove anything to people like this. Their opinion doesn’t matter to me because their opinions are obviously shallow and uninformed.

4. Is the argument somewhat pointless considering it’s an entirely subjective point of view with no true answer? Or should we continue to engage in the argument?

Molly McAleer: 

I just think there’s a lot of misinformation out there about how this business works and what exactly goes wrong. I think people pick up on lots of different pieces of information from all sides and try to make sense of it all, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anything said about any of this stuff that I perceive to be 100% accurate.

Debra DiGiovanni: 

There is a true answer. Women are funny. That’s the answer. Men who feel this way (women too) are wrong. I wish the issue would go away, but I also wish war and crime would go away too. Might not happen.

Cheryl Hann: 

I think the argument is senseless. Of course women are funny. People are funny. The more I think about this the more I can’t believe it’s something we’re still talking about.

5. Who are some of your favourite funny females?:

Molly McAleer: 

Amy Schumer, Morgan Murphy, Kelly Oxford, Kristen Wiig and Joan Rivers. Phyllis Diller and Dolly Parton will always be my favorites, though.

Debra DiGiovanni:

The wonderful Maria Bamford, the sensational Amy Schumer, the unstoppable Wanda Sykes, the brilliant Ellen Degeneres and the timeless Wendy Liebman. Also, I love Fortune Feimster, Laurie Elliot and Felicity Ward.

Cheryl Hann: 

Kristen Wiig, Maria Bamford, Tig Notaro, Gilda Radner, Lena Dunham, Jenny Slate, Megan Amram, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and many, many others.

 

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