Lisa Lampanelli and Sarah Silverman are the only female standups who make me laugh, and for what I’m sure they would consider all the wrong reasons. In contrast to their offstage liberal politics, their professional personae are obnoxiously “politically incorrect.” (Bonus feature: Lampanelli’s predilection for African American men—who presumably appreciated her zaftig figure—inspired one of my favorite jokes, Patton Oswalt’s “Lisa Lampanelli has fucked more black men than the Tuskegee experiments.” Alas, such jokes were forced into retirement after she married an Italian guy, although some would call that a distinction without a difference.)
And that’s about it, although I sense that the number of women who share their high recklessness threshold is growing. If it might get a laugh, today’s aspiring female comic will probably do it, regardless of who might get hurt.
Joan Rivers was the first comedienne to turn standard-issue self-deprecation into a proto-punk, stare-down dare: “I’m here, I’m ugly, get used to it.” But Rivers was performing way before these women, and their mothers, were born. What forces unleashed and mainstreamed today’s impetuous, un-blushable broads?
Their rise coincides with the Girls Gone Wild gonzo porn of the late 1990s. In private and in public, millions of ordinary women now regularly perform sexual acts that were once confined mostly to prostitutes’ repertoires. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian turned what would have at one time been blackmail fodder into multimillion-dollar enterprises.
Inevitably, this extinction of inhibitions led to raised expectations and jaded palates. Cameron Diaz’s sticky inseminated bangs seem “so ten years ago” now because they are, and then some. And in that film, Diaz (like cinematic comic stalwarts from Carole Lombard to Madeline Kahn) was “object,” not “subject,” à la Lampanelli.
I’m apprehensive about the future of female comedy. Bridesmaids took Judd Apatow’s proven “men are adorable pigs” formula and mixed estrogen with the testosterone. Next up, though, lesser talents will simply squeeze out “girl power” gross-out comedy that forgets the estrogen entirely. We’ll be stuck with de facto drag shows, but with women performing as male impersonators, scratching their nonexistent balls while complaining of the munchies.
No doubt a few women comics will keep joking about their vaginas because they want to and it’s funny, not because doing so has become tediously obligatory, like a first-date blowjob. Maybe sometimes they’ll even hum the theme from SCTV’s spoof of ’70s off-Broadway feminism, I’m Takin’ My Own Head, Screwing it On Right, and No Guy’s Gonna Tell Me That it Ain’t. That’s what we used to do.
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