Monday, January 26, 2009

Gender Comedy

One of my favorite SNL skits of the year has been the "Single Ladies" video with Beyonce and Justin Timberlake. I laughed almost more the second time I saw it than the first - if you haven't seen it, I will post the link at the end of this story. Justin Timberlake, Andy Samberg, and Bobby Moynihan are dressed up like ladies and act as Beyonce's backup dancers for the video. There is something really funny about them acting very feminine - their clothes, their actions, the way they talk, etc.

What would happen if we reversed this? Dress up Beyonce and two other women and use them as backup dancers in Justin Timberlake's video for "Single Men" (there is no such song or video, but imagine just for the sake of this argument). If they acted very manly - dress, actions, speech - would we find it as funny? I say no.

This is just one example - but have you ever thought about what we find funny when it comes to men versus women? It's funny to laugh at a guy dressed up doing an impersonation of a woman, but usually not very funny to watch a woman dressed up doing an impersonation of a man. I know a girl that can do a great Sean Connery impersonation, but it's just not as funny as Darrell Hammond doing it. Men can be funny about men and also women, but women only seem to get laughs when impersonating other women. We, as a society, just don't find that to be as funny.

I don't have a lot of answers for this one, but here is where I'm coming from. I believe a lot has to do with the way men and women dress. It is acceptable for women to wear traditional men's clothing - such as jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes, polo shirts, button-up shirts, khaki's. Almost anything men wear, women can also do the same. However that is not true the other way around. Men do not wear skirts, dresses, high heels, flats, tights, etc. It is acceptable in our society for women to dress and then act like men - however it is not acceptable, or considered by many as homosexual, for men to dress or act like women. When this occurs, it has to be taken in a humorous way because there is no possible way this is normal behavior.

It is a very interesting topic and something I don't think a lot of people think much about. There is definitely a gender gap in comedy and I'm not so sure that it's an easy fix. Being 'manly' doesn't have to be about having the biggest muscles, drinking the most beer, going hunting, not worrying about what you look like, never showing emotion, thinking it's funny to act stupid or having a garage full of power tools Maybe being 'manly' can be about being a gentleman, taking care of yourself, showing some intelligence, being respectful, helping with the kids and dishes and laundry and dinner. I think it will be hard to find a way to change how we portray men and women in comedy, but I believe that changing the way our society looks at roles of men and women will go a long way in closing the gender gap - including comedy.

SNL Video Link

1 comment:

Mr Blume said...

Moral of the story is, you want to wear womans clothing, and to not be laughed at. Just be free, wear a dress.