Tue, Oct 23, 2012 - Page 9 News List

After 60-year struggle, female comedians come into their own

By Paul Harris  /  The Guardian

“He read it and kind of became convinced,” Thomas said.

By the 1980s, comics such as Elayne Boosler were doing edgier material (“The Vatican is against surrogate mothers. Good thing they didn’t have that rule when Jesus was born.”) They were also starting to become more powerful — Late Night with David Letterman had a female lead writer. By the 1990s, comedians such as Roseanne Barr and Ellen DeGeneres had mainstream hit shows led by feisty, powerful women.

Alternative comics such as Janeane Garofalo and Margaret Cho were major standup names and Whoopi Goldberg had gone from standup to being a wildly popular movie star. Yet still it was not easy. Carter remembered taking part in a standup comedy act that was being recorded by Paramount. She was introduced by a man with the remark: “Now here is something different. Our next comic has tits!”

Now, women comics have never seemed more powerful or more present. Wiig’s film Bridesmaids was one of the most successful films of last year. Comedians such as Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham and Chelsea Handler have become major figures in the cultural landscape.

However, they also represent a wide variety of styles: from the raunch of Handler to the self-conscious angst of Dunham to the cutting satire of Silverman.

“It is an evolution. What we see now are more and more women, and so we get a greater diversity of things that they are talking about,” Kohen said.

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