Funny Girls

Funny Girls

Funny Girls

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
May 13 2011 3:39 PM

Funny Girls

Among the collected rave reviews for Bridesmaids , the film debuting this weekend that was written by and stars Kristen Wiig, is one from Manohla Dargis of the New York Times . She notes Bridesmaids definitively refutes Christopher Hitchens’ 2007 essay asserting women aren’t funny. I adore Christopher, but the essay, silly at the time, is unthinkable only a few years later. Wiig is only the latest funny woman to find success in front of and behind the camera. There is the brilliant actress, writer, producer Tiny Fey at the top of the best-seller list with her comedic memoir Bossy Pants . Chelsea Handler has her own talk show, writes strings of best-sellers, and will be the executive producer of an NBC show based on one of her memoirs.  A few years ago it might have been possible to list in a blog post most of the successful, funny women – but there are too many now. But trying to prove that women can be funny is as anachronistic as pointing to the Supreme Court and saying, "See, women can be lawyers!"

Certainly there have always been pioneering funny women, but each generation seemed to produce only a handful. In the early years of Hollywood there were Mabel Normand and Anita Loos . Lucille Ball’s shows had a woman writer, the recently deceased Madelyn Pugh Davis. Lucille Kallen and Selma Diamond were in the legendary writer’s room for Sid Caesar shows. Nora Ephron writes witty essays and screenplays – and became one of the few women directors. But the small numbers of professionally funny women allowed the case to be made that making people laugh was a last, final redoubt of the Y chromosome. But I bet husbands and boyfriends who get dragged to Bridesmaids this weekend and find themselves laughing their asses off will have to grapple with the now-irrefutable fact that estrogen is just as potent a laughing gas as testosterone.

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.