I don’t have to tell you that stand-up comedy is dominated by males. You knew that from years of watching swarms of dudes appear on Comedy Central Presents. You knew that from attending one of the open mics around Chico and watching dude after dude go up and tell jokes about being a dude. You knew that from scrolling through the stand-up section of Netflix, bypassing all the Russel Peters specials you have no intention of ever watching, until you get to that Whitney Cummings one where she’s naked on the cover, and you look at it for a second and think for a second, “Why is she naked?” Suddenly you remember that life for a woman is hardly ever a meritocracy, but rather a thinly veiled beauty pageant.
Before the Last Stand closed down last year, I overheard Bay Area comic Caitlin Gill lament that a female comic not only has to be funny, but also attractive. Immediately, my male-brain jumped to the defense of my gender. I knew that couldn’t be true. There are plenty of ugly lady comics out there like… uh… Lisa Lampanelli? I continued thinking about it for about two more seconds before I finally had to admit that stand-up is yet another area where it’s just way easier to be a male. A Google image search of Louis C.K. and Tina Fey (two of the greatest minds in comedy today—though Fey isn’t a stand-up comic) seems to tell you it’s okay to be ugly if you’re a male, but if you’re a female you better flaunt what you got—and if you don’t got it, then you better start as a writer or an improviser.
That isn’t to say that appearances don’t play a factor at all for male comedians (or that Louis C.K. isn‘t handsome in his own pasty, chubby, bald way; you just don‘t see him dressed to the nines or bending over to pick up a typewriter in lingerie). As a male, you may not have to be good looking, but you do have to look good (as in good at comedy) and match your appearance to your material. As a female though, you have to do all those things and also look good (as in people want to sleep with you).
Obviously, this is a bad thing. I have to wonder how many great comedians we’re missing out on because they don’t have the sex appeal. Adam Corolla is an idiot— women are just as funny as men, so why aren’t 50% of comics female? Why are most new female comics also attractive? It’s probably because Caitlin Gill was right. It’ll be a great day for comedy when flocks of pasty, chubby (maybe not bald) female comics can rise through the ranks solely on merit, and don’t have to follow it up with sexy photo shoots. Until that day comes though, we can at least relish the fact that lady comics don’t have to twerk on Robin Thicke to get our attention.