Women Comedians and Body Politics
278 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.20 in
Sales Date: March 1, 2014
Women in comedy have traditionally been pegged as either “pretty” or “funny.” Attractive actresses with good comic timing such as Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Julia Roberts have always gotten plum roles as the heroines of romantic comedies and television sitcoms. But fewer women who write and perform their own comedy have become stars, and, most often, they’ve been successful because they were willing to be funny-looking, from Fanny Brice and Phyllis Diller to Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett. In this pretty-versus-funny history, women writer-comedians—no matter what they look like—have ended up on the other side of “pretty,” enabling them to make it the topic and butt of the joke, the ideal that is exposed as funny.
Pretty/Funny focuses on Kathy Griffin, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen DeGeneres, the groundbreaking women comics who flout the pretty-versus-funny dynamic by targeting glamour, postfeminist girliness, the Hollywood A-list, and feminine whiteness with their wit and biting satire. Linda Mizejewski demonstrates that while these comics don’t all identify as feminists or take politically correct positions, their work on gender, sexuality, and race has a political impact. The first major study of women and humor in twenty years, Pretty/Funny makes a convincing case that women’s comedy has become a prime site for feminism to speak, talk back, and be contested in the twenty-first century.
Comedy is a mainstay of popular culture, and yet female comedians continue to receive surprisingly little attention from feminist media scholars. Pretty/Funny picks up where my own study of women and comedy, The Unruly Woman, left off. . . . The subject of this book will be inherently attractive and interesting to readers in many academic fields—women’s and gender studies, performance studies, race/ethnicity/queer studies, and film and television studies, among others. It will also appeal to general readers familiar with the comedians Mizejewski studies, from edgy Margaret Cho to the widely popular Ellen Degeneres.~Kathleen Rowe Karlyn, Professor of English, University of Oregon, and author of The Unruly Woman: Gender and the Genres of Laughter and Unruly Girls, Unrepentant Mothers: Redefining Feminism on Screen
I found this book a totally engaging read, and I learned a lot from it. . . . This selective picture of six successful women—straight, lesbian, Asian, Jewish, white, black—allows the reader to get a fascinating look at the diversity and range of female comics, their talent, their different styles, and the wealth of social and political criticism that emerges from their comedy. . . . This book has a solid theoretical grounding. In addition, it is clearly written by an author who herself obviously has a sense of humor.~Joanna E. Rapf, Professor of English, University of Oklahoma, coeditor of The Blackwell Companion to Film Comedy and author of many other works on comedy
- Introduction. Pretty/Funny Women and Comedy's Body Politics: Funniness, Prettiness, and Feminism
- Chapter One. Kathy Griffin and the Comedy of the D List
- Chapter Two. Feminism, Postfeminism, Liz Lemonism: Picturing Tina Fey
- Chapter Three. Sarah Silverman: Bedwetting, Body Comedy, and "a Mouth Full of Blood Laughs"
- Chapter Four. Margaret Cho Is Beautiful: A Comedy of Manifesto
- Chapter Five. "White People Are Looking at You!" Wanda Sykes's Black Looks
- Chapter Six. Ellen DeGeneres: Pretty Funny Butch as Girl Next Door