Much of the public is well aware of big name male comedians, such as George Carlin, Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, and many others. We are also well aware of female comedians such as Tina Fey, Margaret Cho, Aisha Tyler, Amy Schumer and others. However, in the public opinion of predominantly male audiences, female comics just don’t seem to deliver the side-splits like men do. Why is that?
Some acknowledge that gender does have a strong influence in the comedy scene. Huffington Post reports that in 2014, only 10 percent of entertainers or comedians were female, with a significant disparity in earnings between male and female comedians as well. This pay gap, as well as the popularity gap, could be due to the social notion that women are somehow unfunny or not able to communicate humor as well as men. While this viewpoint explains a lack of success for female comics, there might be other reasons that coincide with this.
Another reason why female comedians might have it harder than male comedians is the type of undertones in their brand of comedy. As stated before, the perspectives of women — comedic or serious — can be hard for a mostly male audience to connect with. The appeal of female comedians may be seen as solely female-oriented due to this lack of connection. Women tend to lead different lives than most men and experience different moments of life that they consider funny. For example, Amy Schumer’s type of comedy focuses on personal, private and embarrassing parts of her life, ranging from jokes related to her vagina to crude descriptions of her romantic life. This may come off to a male audience as very “in-your-face,” and from a female comedian, this might deter male audiences and other male comedians from working with her. In short, female experiences may translate into comedy that female audiences connect with, but may result in half-hearted chuckles from male audiences. Older male audiences might find identifying with the comedy or insights of a female off-putting for their age or generation.
Perhaps the greatest solution is making spaces of comedy and entertainment more open to female writers and comedians, as well as female audiences. In the minds of many men and women, female experiences are just as valid — and funny — as male experiences. Female comedians don’t just normalize this, but also help us connect with women and other minorities alike, resulting in a greater plethora of comedy to enjoy. Comedy audiences themselves need to find appreciation for female and minority comics who bring perspectives and humor not found in many other places. We’ll all end the show the same at the end of the day: sides split and worth the ticket cost.