The art of making jokes instead of babies

Jerry Lewis once said he doesn’t find women funny, his logic being that he thinks of our kind as “producing machine(s) that brings babies in the world.” Lucky for us and our precious wombs, unlike Jerry Lewis, we don’t have dicks to punch. And lucky for you, we will never tearfully sing you an off-key rendition of “Send in the Clowns.”

But our rage towards Jerry Lewis is as much about his Easter Seals telethon pre-empting our regularly scheduled programming as it is about his views on female comics. Why? Because he’s wrong. And we pity him for it.

Truth is, we don’t really think much about what it’s like to be a female comic, or the difficulties we face, or the hurdles we must overcome. Yes, we did do that one show during which frat boys yelled at us to have a pillow fight (we did not have any pillows onstage), and, yes, we have had to follow the odd dude closing with a rape joke (coincidentally, none of them were funny). But decent male comics have to follow rape jokes, too. And we’re sure someone has probably yelled at two dudes to have a sword fight on stage, which is far more objectionable than pillows.

We often get asked – mostly by journalists looking for an angle, or dads who grew up watching Jerry Lewis – what it’s like to be a woman in comedy. We generally look at each other, shrug and spew out some garbage about Tina Fey being awesome and 90% of the all-gal troupes in Toronto citing their gender in their name (Two Weird Ladies, Ladystache, She Said What, LadyBusiness, 2 Black Girls…). But we don’t tear up and start singing Destiny’s Child anthems. Partly because our mascara would totally run and we have terrible singing voices, but mostly because our comedy lives are pretty easy.

This isn’t to say female comics don’t need a thick skin when they get started. We’ve both been endowed as the wife, mom, secretary, ditz or whorebag in more improv scenes than Carrie Bradshaw has shoes. And the number of open mics we’ve done with men who boast about banging chicks is shockingly higher than the number of chicks those men have disappointed sexually. But as you get better you start performing with better people who don’t need to go for the easy joke and who see the world in an interesting way. Once you get over the first hurdle, you find the rest of the track is pretty even ground.

And this is, of course, thanks to all the women who committed themselves to comedy when it wasn’t so easy. Because it wasn’t. Those women probably cried, like, even more than a regular woman cries (which is all the time). We thank those women from the bottom of our sparkly pink hearts. They made our lives easy and they inspired us. In fact, Mandy’s obsession with Gilda Radner verges on worrisome.

We’re rambling on about this because this week marks the first annual SheDot Festival of funny women. We are excited and honoured to be part of this fest, as we’re performing alongside some of the best standups, sketch troupes, improvisers and storytellers in the city, country and continent. But we see this festival less as an attempt to prove women are funny, and more as evidence that there are so many successful women comics that they can pack an entire fest with talent. The diversity of the shows and the performers is so incredible that gender fades into the background. So many different races, orientations, ages, views, styles and womb accomplishments are represented that it puts the Spice Girls’ shtick to shame.

So, if you want to be guaranteed a night filled with period jokes, go see Dustin Diamond live on stage. If you want a night filled with diverse comedy from some of the country’s most talented baby machines, check out the SheDot Festival.

GIRL POWER!

Two Weird Ladies perform as part of SheSketch, Thursday, May 1st, 8pm at Comedy Bar, and as part of SheSketchProv, Saturday, May 3rd, 7:30pm at Comedy Bar. Shows and workshops run May 1st – 4th. For a full lineup and to buy tickets in advance, visit shedotfestival.com

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