Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yes Virginia, Women ARE Funny

Approximately 5 years ago, give or take a few, I made an offhand comment that has lived in infamy ever since. Genuinely intended to placate a friend's mother after her failed joke, I casually remarked, "It's ok [Offendee's Name], I just don't find women funny." Needless to say, this statement did not comfort, and instead became an enduring story of misogyny and my general incompetence with the English language. Little did I know, the topic of women and humor is well-worn territory. Had I been more articulate, maybe I would have explained myself like Christopher Hitchens does here, but I was 20, so I mostly apologized profusely and desperately tried to change the subject.

Now that I'm 26, you would think I would have rethought my stance on this matter, but to tell you the truth, with very few exceptions (Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman (less so), sometimes Ellen), I can't say that I have. This isn't to say there aren't women with terrific senses of humor or wit (I know plenty personally), it simply means that how it manifests itself comedically, has never rung true in the way it does with male comedians. Is there a scientific basis to this? Maybe some humor node in the brain that translates almost identical jokes completely differently on a genetic basis completely out of our control? Is it all in the delivery and I am unconsciously some chauvinist pig? I like to think that we are all operating on the same playing field and equally receptive to humor, be it from Jerry Seinfeld or a 3-year-old. So imagine my satisfaction (validation? relief?) when Bridesmaids, a film written by two women (Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo) and starring 5 women, was absolutely hilarious.

People have been falling over themselves to congratulate producer Judd Apatow for another comedy home-run, but it is Wiig and her costars that deserve the credit here. While it's true that without Apatow's help the film would not exist, if this film had flopped, it would have been Wiig's career in the dumps, not Apatow's. As such, Wiig deserves to catapult to the top of every romantic comedy casting call, ahead of the humorless Jennifer Aniston and the vapid Katherine Heigl. The crown is hers for the taking, but here's to hoping that she shuns it for bigger and better things.

Bridesmaids' success is the ultimate validation of the term 'addition by subtraction'. Usually reserved for sports teams who unload a difficult player to improve team chemistry, Wiig refuses to use the rom-com paint-by-numbers blueprint that most films with female leads are beholden to if they want to break even. If there is an emotional scene or a hunky dude, you best believe that they are there to serve the story and not to satisfy a studio focus group. Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson need not apply. Additionally, because she doesn't rely on these reliable crutches, she entrusts the heavy comedic lifting to her capable costars, and they do not let her down. Not only is there Dumb and Dumber level physical comedy (Wiig makes Jim Carrey's shtick look tired) and Jackass-level gross out comedy, there is wit and heart that neither of these two films possess, and compare most favorably with Apatow's other male-centric offerings The Forty Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. The very fact that I am mentioning Bridesmaids in this pantheon be endorsement enough for you to buy a ticket, but if that's not enough for you, at the very least buy one so I'll stop talking about it and put my foot in my mouth already.

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