Whoever says women aren’t funny hasn’t watched The Daily Show. The polarizing topic of gender and comedy was addressed Christopher Hitchen’s 2009 article in Vanity Fair, where the late Hitchens asked, “Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women?”
In this highly discussed piece, Hitchens attributed this fact (as he presented it) to several factors, many of which relate to sex, or if you really want to stretch the idea, biology. He said that men want to impress women, so they entertain them through comedy in an effort to seduce them. He also credited men’s apparently lower standards for comedy to their intelligence, or lack thereof, saying, “Men will laugh at almost anything, often precisely because it is – or they are – extremely stupid. Women aren’t like that.”
Hitchens went on to admit that there are a few female comedians, but, “Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.”
I missed the memo that went around, saying if you are not tall, slim, WASPY and straight, your value as a comedian is lessened. Could someone forward that to me? I’m sure I’ll benefit from reading it.
Well, ladies and gentlemen (if any of you are still reading) may I bring your attention to the woman in black? Her name is Samantha Bee, and she has featured on The Daily Show for more than ten years and stars in almost 400 videos in the archives on ComedyCentral.com. As one of the few female correspondents of The Daily Show, Bee is frequently called in to provide the “female point of view” from her “lady brain.” She is married to fellow Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones and often plays the role of the tired, taken-for-granted wife – to the entire country. This treatment elevates the stereotype beyond a token role in a Judd Apatow movie and instead highlights the sociological trends of politics and culture, as well as simply being hilarious.
In what was easily the most enjoyable research I have ever done for a blog post, I went through the archives on Comedy Central’s website, putting together a list of my top ten favorite Samantha Bee moments. I’ve divided my list into two segments; here are the first five.
Following McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his Vice President, Bee called out McCain on his obvious and insulting pandering to American women, naively thinking if he chose a woman – any woman – to be his running mate, they would vote for him. Bee presented herself as “a proud American vagina,” and asked Jon Stewart to “stop overloading her lady brain.” Bee’s deadpan delivery and hilariously vacant stare as she called herself a vagina, not a woman, and saying that although Sarah Palin is Hillary Clinton’s ideological opposite, she is her gynecological twin, is a brilliant portrayal of exactly how McCain was treating female voters.
2. Plame Game
In the throes of the Valerie Plame/CIA scandal, Bee cleverly spoofed both teenage gossip and the movie Bye Bye Birdie by explaining that the the system of power in Washington is modeled after a “sorority house.” Talking in a deliberately ditzy voice, responding to Jon Stewart’s queries with, “As if!” she depicted the catty, backstabbing attitude of politics in Washington D.C. (which, she said is filled with “Chatty Cathys,”) while also being highly entertaining. And, based on the song “Going Steady,” she featured a song called “Going Public.”
3. Primary Victory for Women
According to Jon Stewart, the media was “taking note of” and “diminishing” the trend of women winning new spots in primary elections, and Bee depicted the stereotype of the overworked, exhausted wife who is taken for granted but still begrudgingly comes in to fix everything that men have broken.
“Men broke the country and now you need the ladies to come in and make it all better,” she said, in tightly wound voice. “No, it’s fine, honey, we’ll do it. You just go back to sleep. We were getting bored just holding down full-time jobs and raising our kids anyway.”
Bee perfected the passive-aggressive tone that women are so often depicted as using when Jon Stewart asked, her, “Are women, Sam, upset that we expect so much from them?”and she responds (heaving a huge sigh), saying, “No, no, no, it’s fine.”
I found this video especially endearing because Bee’s real-life husband Jason Jones, who also contributes to The Daily Show, played a caricature of a stupid man, walking on the set without pants, asking for help in getting his hand out of a pickle jar. It’s endearing and entertaining but also incredibly effective.
In response to various idiotic claims that women should not serve in the armed forces because they will inspire men to be either too chivalrous or too sexual, Bee offered an apology, for “this…all this.” She tells Stewart, “You guys can rape it or you can protect it, but you can’t ignore it.”
Bee trivialized the idiocy of the statements, comparing men raping women to leaving the toilet seat up, giggling and talking in a very juvenile tone of voice. She switched to a more serious tone when she says expecting to be raped is “just the way it is when you’re a woman intruding in a man’s world.”
While I don’t consider rape a trivial matter, nor do I find jokes about rape funny, I think Bee’s humor in this segment is very effective and I absolutely love that she addressed the ridiculous attitude of victim-blaming and that women are asking to be raped because they are inserting themselves into an all-male atmosphere.
When Stewart said that, as a man, he found these statements insulting because he is not constantly struggling to repress sexual urges, Bee said, “Someone hates women!” How many women out there have been asked why they hate men, simply because they don’t want to have sex with someone? It is refreshing to see the tables turned – especially by Bee and Stewart.
In response to the media saying the Vice Presidential debates discussing “women’s issues,” and Joe Biden’s aggressive performance “turning off women,” Bee said she was appalled by how “how rude and belligerent the two men were to each other and that nice waitress who was trying to calm them down.”
Bee also depicted the ridiculous hypocrisy of the statement, saying, “We’re women. We don’t like it when people argue on television,” despite the Real Housewives television show earning hit ratings amongst American women.
Stewart, ever playing the straight man to Bee’s comedy, said people would never hear someone say that men would find tax policies a turn off. But, Bee said, women need to be courted, while men are rational creatures and only think with their heads. In a final moment of brilliance, she suggests the debates be held with the candidates taking bubble baths, accompanied by rose petals and scented candles.
Stay tuned for the second half of my favorite moments by Samantha Bee!