It’s been a popular criticism of women in comedy and now a famous old school star is adding his voice to the argument.
Jerry Lewis says that he absolutely enjoyed old school comediennes Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. Ball’s comedy is “brilliant” to Lewis while Burnett was deemed “the greatest female entrepreneur of comedy.”
Lewis credits the talent of these women to the fact that they never “worked blue” the way so many women comics do today.
“Seeing a woman project the kind of aggression that you have to project as a comic just rubs me wrong,” said Lewis. “I mean you got some very, very funny people that do beautiful work.”
Despite an admission that the women who are vulgar in comedy are often talented, he added, “I have a problem with the lady up there that’s going to give birth to a child.”
Women vulgarity in modern humor has long been a source of derision for a few of reasons.
— Kathleen Madigan (@kathleenmadigan) April 12, 2014
— Abbey White (@smalltownfires) April 12, 2014
Firstly there is the long held view that the aggressive and lewd expression of self is a realm meant for men only. Society still views feminine energy as married to polite delicate behavior. It is an energy that isn’t meant to curse.
The vulgar nature of women in comedy is also seen as a cheap imitation of so-called male humor. Are women comediennes working blue because it comes naturally or because they feel that it’s the only way to win over largely male comedic audiences? The need to fit in with male-dominated comedy is seen as a source of pressure for women rather than an expression of non-swearing comedy which some think should come more naturally to women
Another criticism is the idea of vulgarity in modern humor itself. The nature of today’s comedy is sometimes too reliant on shocking and offending rather than actually being funny. While that is an understandable argument, it seems swearing in comedy is an issue to be applied uniformly.
The possibility that a woman might give birth at some point isn’t exactly relevant to her ability to tell a joke and what kind of joke she gets to tell.
Do you think Jerry Lewis’s remarks were fair or sexist? Comment below!
Image via Wikimedia Commons