Thursday, May 30, 2013


Not that anybody in particular really cared what he thought, but Jerry Lewis, while in Cannes promoting his latest film, earlier this week, Jerry Lewis got asked the female comic question. Let me explain where this started, Lewis had stated multiple times in the past before about how he doesn't particularly believe females should do comedy, nor are they particularly funny. Last week, they asked him again about this, and sure enough, the 87-year-old, reiterated his belief that females aren't funny, saying, and I quote, "I can't see women doing it, it bothers me....I cannot sit and watch a lady diminish her qualities to the lowest common denominator. I just can't do that."

This, as you can imagine caused some uproar, from the usual group of people you'd imagine, this one seemed to be led by Margaret Cho, at least on twitter who brought this story to my attentions, and I even retweeted one of her tweets about it. Well, it pissed me off too, frankly, many of my favorite comics are female. Kathy Griffin, Tina Fey, Paula Poundstone, Janeane Garofalo, Ellen DeGenerous... Roseanne! Not to mention some of the older ones like Moms Mabley, or Phyllis Diller. Hell, the Kennedy Center just announced last week that they're giving the Mark Twain Prize to Carol Burnett earlier this week! Anyway, I got into it, and afterwards I checked back and noticed that Margaret Cho appreciated my retweet and started following me on Twitter, which I'm not gonna lie, I geeked the hell out over that for a few hours and thought back on her great routines and how she can find comedy in the most private and personal things. I mean, I watched her "Notorious C.H.O." DVD once and it's change my whole idea of what stand up can be!....

So anyway, that happened, and meanwhile, this old issue of course got brought up again, and of course, Lewis isn't the only one who's been repeatedly vocal about this. The late Christopher Hitchens famously wrote a column in an attempt to prove that female comics were less funny than men. Adam Corolla's opinion on this, actually comes off as somewhat realistic. Wrong of course, but he at least leaves open the possibility that women can be funny, he just claims that women aren't as funny as men, overall. In actuality, most studies show that women aren't more funny, they're more discerning about what's funny, so men laugh at more immature humor while women don't. Think "The Three Stooges" phenomenon for instance, and the old joke about how men like them and women don't; there's actually some truth to it.

Anyway, I don't want to get into a discussion over who's funnier or not. Funny's funny to me, and discerning over sex is fairly stupid. I honestly don't notice things like that anymore, nor do I think it has any particular relevance. However, this strange, old-fashioned take on something caught my eye elsewhere this week. I've been watching some old episodes of "What's My Line?" recently on youtube. Some of you may or may not know, but I've always been obsessed with game shows. I even dressed up as Alex Trebek for Halloween when I was six. Anyway, "What's My Line?' been one of my favorites recently, because I was kinda thinking about the possibilities of a new version of the show recently. I also enjoy seeing a lot of old and unusual people, many of them before they were recognizable household names. The strangest people went through that show I'm finding, from Salvador Dali to Frank Zappa. On top of that, it's pretty funny and challenging at times. I was kinda wondering about the possibilities of bringing the show back in modern time. Who would be a good modern-day equivalent to the panel for instance, and some of the new jobs that people have now that could challenge or fool them, especially nowadays. (Think of all the computer jobs out there, for instance.)

Then I started looking at some of the comments that were left. Of course, there's a good mixture of them, spanning a lot of areas, the jobs, the way some of the celebrities react and what-not. Some discussion on Dorothy Kilgallen's death, which like any JFK conspiracy buff like myself, is fascinated by. (If you don't know that story, look it up.) Yet, there was another bunch of comments that caught me completely off-guard.  These were the group of comments about, the way the show reflect, for-lack-of-a-better-term, a more classy era. This, I found strange, frankly 'cause in this respect, I honestly didn't see any noticeable difference between, the way people acted then and now. They would note things like the clothes people wore being more sophisticated, and lots about manners. The male panelists standing for the female contestants for instance. Things that, frankly not did I not notice, but I don't see a major difference between that and modern times. Especially when were talking television. I mean, that was just the rules and procedures of the game they're talking about. Would you expect them to say "Screw you" to the contestant or something like that? Especially when we're talking the '50s and '60s when we all know that we were trying to live up these artificial and unreasonable standards of modernity, most of which, the Hollywood, or the New York Elite that were on that show, certainly didn't live up to in real life. It seems odd to me that people find something natural and better about artificiality like that.

Oh, it's definitely better in some ways compared to the over-dramatization of certain TV game and reality shows are nowadays. This is certainly not a show that would be benefitted from cutting to commercial in middle of someone saying something that could potentially determine a person's future on that show, to build drama. (Seriously, Gordon Ramsey shows, you way overdo it.) That's one of the reasons it appeals to me now, how different it is from what's on television nowadays. Yet, while shows like "What's My Line?" are in some ways great documentation of a time gone by, that wasn't really part of it. Fictional pieces about how things were supposedly better in the past somehow, that people were different and better then. I think if Jerry Lewis's recent comments are any indication, it's that relics of those past eras, are relics for a reason, and that they need an upgrade every-so-often, and we all have to have a proper context to the past, to fully understand them. The notion that somehow the way we were was better in the past is about as ridiculous to me as the notion that, one sex is funnier than another. They're both essentially part of the same delusion though, that things used to better in the past, and that certain people can and should only do certain things, and whatnot. I guess I hope I'm just not alone in seeing these differing perspectives as shameful beliefs based on past pre-ordained assumptions. Perhaps we should start a new version of "What's My Line?" with a panel filled of the funniest people of our generation, and wait until after we air to even realize that none of the panel are men.


Maurice Mitchell said...

Phyllis Diller pioneered the female comic in a way that no other had. I certainly don't agree that women aren't funny. I wonder if he's thinking of his style of humor which is pretty over the top. Lucille Ball did it perfectly, but she's the exception. You're right. Women do have a more subtle sense of humor.

David Baruffi said...

Lucille Ball, studied every imaginable form of humor, and most them were taught to her by Buster Keaton, so yeah, she is special, as is Phyllis Diller, I'm a big fan of hers. I think you also have to mention on top of Diller, people who don't get as much credit like Mae West, as well as Moms Mabley, who I think is still banned on some networks for some of her racy material. Especially Mabley, they really don't get the recognition they deserve as female comedic pioneers.

Yeah, funny is funny, that's really the key. Women can do any kind of humor as well as men if they wanted to. I think the really great comedy comes from, a new or different point of view that comedy is approached by. Go through all the great comics, they're all different, or they started what everyone's been copying, and nowadays, I think a lot of the great comics of our generation are women, who have those different perspectives, that for one reason or another, we haven't seen before. You know, I remember the first time seeing Tina Fey on "SNL", and thinking "Something's going on in her mind," way before she was a household name. And when she took over as head writer, suddenly you can just tell, she's saying something different. Whatever she's coming from, we've never seen it before. There's a lot of imitation, but that something new, that's where I look at it and go, "Aha!" That's for men and women, but it's from a lot of women nowadays, and dismissing it for any reason, it is ridiculous.