While female comedians often say they don’t want gender consideration, audiences disagree. Comedy has long been a boy’s club because for a long time, women being funny was considered more inappropriate, disrespectful or even threatening. My, how times have changed. While comediennes have made great strides in recognition, men still dominate as comedy’s headliners. Take a walk through a DVD section and you’ll see that while Chris Rock, Dane Cook, and Katt Williams are in no shortage of arena-specials, feminine counterparts like Margaret Cho and Anjelah Johnson are sparse, if not non-existant. You’d have to search Google or YouTube to find footage of your favorite funny women.
Here then, are 18 reasons to perpetuate the shattering of comedy’s glass ceiling. Though not all are comedians per se, they are all funny, they are all influential, and– to the best of our knowledge, they are all 100% female.
Elaine Benes(as portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfuss on Seinfeld): Though technically not a comedian nor a real person, Louis-Dreyfuss’ portrayal of Elaine Benes was such an epitomally funny female character with such an enduring prime-time run, that she undoubtedly influenced others.
Famous Quote: Um… you know what? Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like Al Pacino? You know, “Scent Of A Woman.” Who-ah! Who-ah!
Janeane Garofalo: Before turning so politically-minded, Garofalo was actually pretty damn funny with her social-outcast wit and biting remarks. Saturday Night Live recognized her talents, as well as legions of stand-up comedy fans.
Famous Quote: I guess I just prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth.
Bonnie Hunt: Mild, tame, and family-friendly are some of the criticisms Hunt endures, but it also happens to be who she is and what it is that appeals about her to her fans.
Famous Quote: I still have my bad days when I think I’m not getting everything I deserve. But those pass quickly once my Mother gets on the phone and says, ‘listen, we used to eat rocks and walk 80 miles a day to school.
Sarah Silverman: In contrast to Hunt, Sarah Silverman is the anti-Bonnie. Outspoken, often beyond the line of good taste, and completely unafraid to be so, Silverman stands out as one of the few female comics who broadly appeal to men.
Famous Quote: I was going to get an abortion the other day. I totally wanted an abortion. And it turns out I was just thirsty.
Tina Fey: Heralded as smart, hip, funny, and integritous, Fey is all of the above and more. Getting her big-time start on Saturday Night Live, Fey went on to host Weekend Update and is now the darling of NBC prime-time with movie projects in the works.
Famous Quote: Researches reported that they developed a “self-healing” plastic that repairs itself if cracked. The plastic will change the way airplanes are built and medicine is practiced. In a related story, Joan Rivers will never die.
Margarget Cho: Sometime after the old-school forerunners of female comedy, but well before new-school ingenues like Olivia Munn and Anjelah Johnson came Margaret Cho, a forerunner in female standup who also broke barriers with her short-lived ABC sitcom All-American Girl, about an Asian American family living in the States.
Famous Quote: It’s time that African-Americans and Korean Americans put aside their difference and focus on what’s really important: hating white people!
Wanda Sykes: Ideally, race and gender have nothing to do with being funny, but Sykes is often referred to as the funniest black woman on television. And deservedly so. Funnier than her “funniest black woman” title predecessor, Mo’nique, Sykes is a comic’s comic who recognizes funny is always the thing.
Famous Quote: I’ll never forget the first time my family came to see me do stand-up. It was an awful bombing. It was like a damn terrorist attack. I was onstage in Washington, D.C., and the audience was talking. Some of them even turned their backs to me. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t even move. I just kept talking until I heard my mother yell out, “Wanda! Get off the stage!”
Gilda Radner: An influential figure for women in comedy, Radner was an original “Not Ready For Primetime Player” on Saturday Night Live, recognized largely for her hilarious send-ups of Barbara Walters(“Hewwo, I’m Baba Wawa and this is Twenty-Twenty…”) and her commitment to make the audience laugh no matter what the cost.
Famous Quote: I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they’re the first to be rescued off sinking ships.
Lucille Ball: Probably the single most influential woman figure in comedy, Ball’s long-running sitcom I Love Lucy not only forged the path for women on TV, but continues to run in syndication, holding its own against contempory television comedies that she and it undoubtedly influenced.
Famous Quote: How I Love Lucy was born? We decided that instead of divorce lawyers profiting from our mistakes, we’d profit from them.
Jenny McCarthy: The original naughty hottie, McCarthy started on the MTV dating show, Singled Out. Her crassness, crudeness, and tomboyish tongue often stole the spotlight and not only opened doors for her career, but also for foul-mouthed female followers like Chelsea Handler.
Famous Quote: My philosophy of dating is to just fart right away.
Tracey Ullman: Regarded as the queen of sketch comedy, Ullman’s side-splitting sendups of famous men and women alike made The Tracey Ullman Show a hit in the 90’s and beyond. It also introduced the world to an animated family of five named The Simpsons.
Famous Quote: If God had intended for breasts to be seen, He wouldn’t have created large woolen pullovers.
Joan Rivers: The queen of the red carpet and savage wit. If women in comedy was a political office, Rivers would be the two-term president who won by a landslide. Respected by peers and audiences alike, Rivers’ witty tongue-lashings take aim at everything and everyone, including herself.
Famous Quote: I don’t excercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.
Roseanne Barr: Barr’s success came at a time when audiences wanted it: an overweight, homely, mom-type who hid a hilarious sense of humor under her juice-stained sweats. Barr was lauded and loved for her true-to-life portrayal of supermoms everywhere, but also castigated for setting Tom Arnold loose on the world.
Famous Quote: Women should try to increase their size rather than decrease it, because I believe the bigger we are, the more space we’ll take up, and the more we’ll have to be reckoned with.
Ellen Degeneres: Years ago, Degeneres turned her sitcom Ellen‘s demise and media-fed questions about her sexuality into her current success as TV’s first openly-gay comedy/variety talk-show host. Her throne atop daytime television remains unchallenged, and her Queen of Nice title does nothing to tarnish her hilarity.
Famous Quote: My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.
Carol Burnett: Along with Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller, and Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett is widely considered one of the fore-mothers of female comedy. The Carol Burnett Show, a long-running sketch comedy hour, sealed her fate as an American icon for women in comedy.
Famous Quote: We didn’t exactly starve, but we were pretty poor when I was growing up. I remember thinking, Oh gosh, if I could just make thirty dollars a month to help with the rent, that would be fabulous. So perhaps I envied performers when I heard that Bing Crosby made twenty dollars a minute.
Amy Poehler: Any fan of Late Night with Conan O’Brien will tell you some of the funniest moments on the show were when sidekick Andy Richter’s angry, hyperactive “kid sister” interrupted the show with her emotional outbursts. Poehler later went on to steal scenes on Saturday Night Live, host Weekend Update, and star in her own sitcom, NBC’s Parks and Rec.
Famous Quote: I’ve said this before, that, when you’re in school and you’re the class clown, men are really good at making fun at other people and women are really good at making fun of themselves.
Phyllis Diller: To say that Phyllis Diller paved the way for zany, female comics would be like saying Michael Jordan was a pretty good basketball player. Diller’s original zaniness, wit, and personality were unlike any seen before, and her scratchy-voiced delivery of some of the most deadpan statements places her among the top originals of funny women.
Famous Quote: You know you’re old if they have discontinued your blood type.
Amy Sedaris: “Weird,” “strange,” and “offbeat” are words used to describe Sedaris and her sense of humor, but only in conjuction with “funny.” Sedaris’ books, stints on TV, and talk show appearances have only confirmed these descriptions, but it is this uniqueness along with her sense of humor that makes her so original and funny.
Famous Quote: I always got along with all types of people – popular people as well as drug addicts.