by liberal japonicus
Sapient's guest post still seems to be giving off heat, but as that slowly dies down, we need something else, I suppose. So below the fold (cause there's a video down there too), some things to keep the home fires burning.
The feminism point was prompted by this New Yorker piece
Yael Kohen’s “We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy,” out today, is an oral history that charts the role of female comedians in this country, from Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller’s lewd, joke-based night-club gigs of the nineteen-fifties to the idiosyncratic performances of the alternative comedians Kristen Schaal and Aubrey Plaza today, with Elaine May, Lily Tomlin, Janeane Garofalo, and many other doyennes of comedy interviewed and discussed along the way. The section of the book about the women of “Saturday Night Live,” excerpted here, focusses on a period in the nineteen-nineties and early aughts when a group of ambitious female cast members transformed “S.N.L.”—a notorious boys’ club since its first season, in 1975—into a space where female comedians could collaborate and thrive.
The show had produced occasional female stars, like Gilda Radner and Jan Hooks, during its first two decades, but beginning in 1995, a fundamental shift in the show’s gender balance began to take place. With the arrival of Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri, and, the following year, Ana Gasteyer, “S.N.L.” saw a new core of female cast members who fought for time on the air, encouraged each other to succeed, and took ownership of their performance styles. These women paved the way for subsequent generations of female cast members—Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and, later, Kristen Wiig—who continued to bolster the position of women on the show and, in the process, became some of the biggest names, male or female, in comedy today.
The interview is quite interesting. Getting SNL only as bits and pieces here, I saw the female based sketch comedy and the ticks and idiosyncracies that were highlighted as evidence of how women were still being treated badly, but reading the interview, it describes how these "comediennes" (funny, I couldn't even remember how to spell that word) are actually working to subvert tropes.
The one thing that is dicey is period stuff, and nursing, and things like that. That’s where guys are like, Ugh, that’s never, ever gonna fly. I had a sketch that almost got on with Rainn Wilson about a guy that wanted to watch a lady breast-feed. It got a big laugh at the table, but I think the guys were still like, Okay, that’s a little too much into the biological areas—like, we don’t wanna think of you having your period and we don’t wanna think of you as a food source.
PAULA PELL: I think the fear was if a scene was about some female issue, it was going to have hard jokes. We don’t do subtle little observational things. It’s gotta have hard jokes in it and it has to have some observation with an edge. For example, I wrote a thing back in that day called “Kotex Classic.” It was a commercial parody for Kotex and it was commenting on “classic” things coming back, like Coke Classic. And that’s where I got the idea: what if it’s something classic that isn’t good, like this horrible pad and belt that thank God we don’t have anymore. So there was a concept behind it, which they like to have, and the idea was a new kind of Kotex, where they’re going back to the old kind of Kotex that had the belts. And when you first pitch things like that, about a pad or whatever, there’s always the worry, “Well, how’s it gonna work?” And I think Lorne, because he’s a sixty-something-year-old man, is squeamish about any female thing like that, as many men are. But I think as celebrities became more like Courtney Love, and with Molly, especially, have such abandon and coming out and showing her underpants [as Mary Katherine Gallagher], we could write harsher, crazier, harder things for women.
Looking at this from far away and just seeing snippets of what reaches the TV screen, it looks like it's mysogyny all the way down. But the process behind it is aiming to subvert these tropes.
It is sort of serendipity, cause just before I say this, I heard about these two videos below:
Maybe it's just me, but this seems to get at the problem in a way that both prevents counter outrage and really bites. Which I tend to think is as it should be.
And as soon as I hit the post button and go back to my regularly scheduled
procrastination surfing, this appears: