Women in comedy have traditionally been pegged as either “pretty” or “funny.” Attractive actresses with good comic timing such as Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Julia Roberts have always gotten plum roles as the heroines of romantic comedies and television sitcoms. But fewer women who write and perform their own comedy have become stars, and, most often, they’ve been successful because they were willing to be funny-looking, from Fanny Brice and Phyllis Diller to Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett. In this ...
Women in comedy have traditionally been pegged as either “pretty” or “funny.” Attractive actresses with good comic timing such as Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Julia Roberts have always gotten plum roles as the heroines of romantic comedies and television sitcoms. But fewer women who write and perform their own comedy have become stars, and, most often, they’ve been successful because they were willing to be funny-looking, from Fanny Brice and Phyllis Diller to Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett. In this pretty-versus-funny history, women writer-comedians—no matter what they look like—have ended up on the other side of “pretty,” enabling them to make it the topic and butt of the joke, the ideal that is exposed as funny. Pretty/Funny focuses on Kathy Griffin, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen DeGeneres, the groundbreaking women comics who flout the pretty-versus-funny dynamic by targeting glamour, postfeminist girliness, the Hollywood A-list, and feminine whiteness with their wit and biting satire. Linda Mizejewski demonstrates that while these comics don’t all identify as feminists or take politically correct positions, their work on gender, sexuality, and race has a political impact. The first major study of women and humor in twenty years, Pretty/Funny makes a convincing case that women’s comedy has become a prime site for feminism to speak, talk back, and be contested in the twenty-first century.
"Comedy is a mainstay of popular culture, and yet female comedians continue to receive surprisingly little attention from feminist media scholars. Pretty/Funny picks up where my own study of women and comedy, The Unruly Woman, left off. . . . The subject of this book will be inherently attractive and interesting to readers in many academic fields—women’s and gender studies, performance studies, race/ethnicity/queer studies, and film and television studies, among others. It will also appeal to general readers familiar with the comedians Mizejewski studies, from edgy Margaret Cho to the widely popular Ellen Degeneres."
Joanna E. Rapf
"I found this book a totally engaging read, and I learned a lot from it. . . . This selective picture of six successful women—straight, lesbian, Asian, Jewish, white, black—allows the reader to get a fascinating look at the diversity and range of female comics, their talent, their different styles, and the wealth of social and political criticism that emerges from their comedy. . . . This book has a solid theoretical grounding. In addition, it is clearly written by an author who herself obviously has a sense of humor."
Linda Mizejewski is Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the Ohio State University in Columbus. She is the author of Divine Decadence: Fascism, Female Spectacle, and the Makings of Sally Bowles, Ziegfeld Girl: Image and Icon in Culture and Cinema, and Hardboiled & High Heeled: The Woman Detective in Popular Culture. Her most recent book, It Happened One Night, is a study of the original romantic comedy film.
Acknowledgments Introduction. Pretty/Funny Women and Comedy's Body Politics: Funniness, Prettiness, and Feminism 000 Chapter One. Kathy Griffin and the Comedy of the D List Chapter Two. Feminism, Postfeminism, Liz Lemonism: Picturing Tina Fey Chapter Three. Sarah Silverman: Bedwetting, Body Comedy, and "a Mouth Full of Blood Laughs" Chapter Four. Margaret Cho Is Beautiful: A Comedy of Manifesto Chapter Five. "White People Are Looking at You!" Wanda Sykes's Black Looks Chapter Six. Ellen DeGeneres: Pretty Funny Butch as Girl Next Door Notes Bibliography Index