here are a variety of theories attempting to explain the relative minority status of women in comedy, ranging from socialization (women are raised to laugh at others, not to tell the jokes) to courtship (men want to be the ones to make others laugh) to good old-fashioned sexism (club owners tend to be men and think men are funnier). At any rate, women tend to be less comfortable with, or at least less proficient at, off-color humor – which is why it’s so startling when they do get down & dirty (part of Sarah Silverman’s huge appeal is that she looks like a fresh-faced girl-next-door and talks like Lenny Bruce).
I don’t know if it’s my gender (female, duh), my age (not telling, duh, which tells you I’m old enough not to want to tell), my upbringing (raised by a feminist mother who forbade Barbie dolls because they fostered an unrealistic body image, and an intellectual father whose idea of a joke was offering to do his Millard Fillmore impression . . . . but I digress), or my Ivy League education, but I’d always believed cerebral wordplay was infinitely superior to potty humor. My one near-break as a comedy performer was an invitation to audition night at The Comic Strip in LA, after I’d won some cabaret awards in San Francisco. I did a couple of my witty, Noel Coward-esque songs about current events, to polite applause, but then the man after me impersonated the male sex organ having its first orgasm, complete with sound effects. Needless to say, he totally killed and got invited back. (To be fair, this was almost 30 years ago. Don’t bother doing the math, let’s just say I was old enough to rent a car – but barely!)
I never had to wrestle with whether or not to adjust my highbrow ideals, because shortly after that I started a family. Turns out, the biggest influence on my sense of humor has been having two sons, particularly once they hit puberty (and especially once Husband 2.0 came on the scene, whose brilliant plan to cure the boys of using foul language was to have ‘swearing night’ at dinner so they’d ‘get it out of their system.’ Instead, they both just enlarged their vocabularies!) Between language, rating each other’s burps, and Family Guy, I’ve pretty much surrendered to a frat house environment.
I still try to keep my weekly songs witty and informative – which means usually my sons ignore my videos (apart from my 17-year-old reassuring me that ‘over 100 views is viral for old people’ – cue rimshot). But this week, I’ve succumbed to a sophomoric tone, at least in part – which means my sons think this week’s song is actually cool.