Sorry Dave, Jay and Conan but female comedians don’t need you like they used to. In a new insightful post by Alex Leo, she declares that female comedians don’t need to depend on the late night talk show circuit to get their names out there anymore because they now have social media. And that medium is actually proving to be better than five minutes on national television. The platform also gives them a lot more freedom.
“But the level playing field of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr means no one gets between ambitious talent and a potentially receptive audience. All it takes is perseverance, ability, skill, and infinite patience,” wrote Leo. She cites Ilana Glazer, a New York comedy writer who, when she and writing partner Abbi Jacobson didn’t make it into the improv groups they wanted at Upright Citizens Brigade, decided to establish a web presence. Those UCB rejects have a contract with FX now. Hmm.
Then there is Elaine Carroll of Very Mary Kate ( a hilarious video series that parodies the fictional life and times of Mary-Kate Olsen, which I cannot stopping laughing at), who got a deal with College Humor after producing her series herself. She also recently appeared on Mad Men. “In the old days, if you got a spot on Carson, your life changed forever,” says Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, who blogs at the Huffington Post. “That’s not true anymore. Do we even need those shows? I don’t think we do.”
Comedian Gaby Dunn, who has a blog called No Fun Gaby Dunn. told The Grindstone:
“There are so many new and exciting paths to success in comedy and social media is a fantastic one. Without Twitter we wouldn’t have the weirdo stylings of Megan Amram, for example, who I think traditional venues would have found too bizarre and that would have been a crying shame. This is the wave of the future and the most relevant and best way of thinking.
If you’re not acknowledging the validity and power of the Internet (especially for women and POC who are traditionally ignored by the mainstream) you’re either missing out on some amazing, hilarous creative comedy or you’re being willfully ignorant and you’re going to be left in the dust. You can’t define success through these narrow venues anymore. I do not care who is on Late Night. I don’t consider those people above anyone who has a successful presence on the Internet. The importance is equal. “
And maybe it’s okay that female comedians aren’t dying to be on the late night circuit considering that it was only in January that Eddie Brill, the comedy booker for The Late Show With David Letterman, got fired after speaking to the press without authorization from the show. However, it was really his disparaging remarks about female comedians that were the true catalyst for his getting axed. “There are a lot less female comics who are authentic … I see a lot of female comics who to please an audience will act like men,” he told The New York Times. Atlantic writer Eric Randall wrote that this is getting a lot of attention because Brill’s “opinions are particularly important though since, as the guy in charge of booking stand-up comics who appear on Letterman, The Times profile called him “the most influential comic you have never heard of.
The internet may also be better for female comedians considering a lot of the negative baggage that comes with being a stand-up comedian. Dunn wrote on her blog a few months ago about a night when she was performing in which she was heckled so badly, really sexually harassed, to the point where she had to leave the stage. Apparently this is very common for ladies in the comedy world. She told The Grindstone: “I think this happens a lot but I had never heard of it because no one talks about it! There is definitely gender specific-heckling happening but there is so much pressure to not look like you are affected by it. There is a lot of pressure to be cool cause it is comedy and if you look like a weak, crying woman it hurts you.”
Conan’s sole female writer Laurie Kilmartin told Marie Claire that she thinks the drive for women and men to go into stand-up comedy is very different. “This is a huge generalization, but I think guys get on stage to get laid, and women get on stage to get heard. For female comics, it’s such a personal thing. I hardly know any female stand-ups who talk about generic stuff: It’s always really what happened to you. It is sort of a big switch to go from that to writing for someone else. And I think that that stops a lot of female comics from making that jump over.”
Not that there aren’t hecklers lurking all over the internet using the commenting section of videos and posts as there own personal punching bag, but Carroll told Leo there is a certain gender neutral blanket that the internet has. “the process of something going viral is contingent on it being good. It isn’t based on gender or race or sexual orientation. If your idea is good enough (or weird enough, or contains enough cats jumping into boxes), it won’t be ignored — even if you’re a female lesbian lady woman.”
Thank you internet! You’ve given us kittens in tubas and an amazing platform for female comedians to reach a wider audience.