“Women Aren’t Funny” The Funny Cockumentary
Ask yourself – are women funny? Does a bear eat honey? Other than Winnie the Pooh, I’m not exactly sure. In my quest to explore why laughter is the best medicine, I came across comedian Bonnie McFarlane’s “cockumentary” called “Women Aren’t Funny.” This came out in 2014, but like much of my life, I was late to discover it until now. This was created in part by a comment comedian Adam Corolla made insulting “chicks” in comedy everywhere about men being funnier.
Just like me, Bonnie wanted to dig deeper into ethos of comedy. Her documentary sets out to discover, if in fact, women aren’t funny. We know they are. Lucille Ball, Joan Rivers, Tina Fey, Wanda Sykes and Chelsea Handler are just a few as proof, but are men funnier? Are people reluctant to admit women are funny or is it something else?
My takeaway from watching this documentary – which I highly recommend – is there are more rules for women in comedy than men. Women have boundaries. We can’t be too dirty, too sexual, too angry, or talk about our menstrual cycles. (What’s left then?!) It’s been my impression that in order for a female comic to be successful, self-deprecation must be part of her on-stage persona. When the female comic puts herself down, other women don’t feel threatened and will connect. This is true for men to some extent, but men don’t have as many boundaries. In fact, according to Bonnie and her husband, comedian Rich Voss, men make more jokes about periods than women.
Mathematically speaking, there are more male comics working across the country than female. Of all the comedians currently getting booked, 95% are male. So if you look at the numbers, men might be funnier simply because there are more of them working. But the documentary delved deeper. Bonnie says that in 1981 – 11 women were headlining across the nation, but in 2013, only 9. Why are the numbers declining? Could it be sexism? Duh. But sexism permeates many categories, not just comedy, so let’s set that aside. My take on the decline is due to the conditions on the road. The flop house or comic-condo comedians stay in while performing at the clubs across the country are described as a “rape buffet” by Wanda Sykes. And while that (hopefully) is extreme, Sykes describes the condo as a place where you want to bring your own sheets and towels. Where don’t I sign up?
So how can we increase the number of women in comedy? I look at Bonnie’s documentary as a call to action for moms around the world to raise funnier little girls. Many girls are raised to be polite – stop that right now. Sons and daughters should be raised to be kind – equally. Politeness is directed more at little girls while class-clownery is tolerated more from little boys. Let’s level the stage.
Please understand, I’m not telling moms how to raise their daughters (yes I am). I’m just saying if you were blessed with a silly little girl who gets into trouble from time to time, don’t completely squash it. And don’t put her in ballet classes. (Thanks a lot Mom. I could have been a stand-up comedian.)
Was “Women Aren’t Funny” one-sided? Somewhat. And though the tongue-and-cheek documentary at times resembled a mockumentary, that’s what makes “cockumentary” the perfect classification. Laughing and learning go together naturally. Bonnie and Rich should work with Michael Moore on his next project.
Best joke: Bonnie is interviewing Colin Quinn, discussing the conception of “the roast.” Colin says that we wouldn’t have roasts today if it were up to women. Bonnie says, “We would have them. We just wouldn’t invite the guest of honor.”
Best bit: Bonnie transforms into a man to see if the male comic has it easier. Spoiler alert: s/he does not. Bonnie’s husband’s reaction is priceless.
Best aww: Bonnie with her daughter on stage. Some might find her language rough, but if you loved Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die bit about the rent money, you’ll love this too.
Now go out and see a female comic tonight!