by Anna Esslinger
I am an avid fan of Saturday Night Live. I started secretly watching it when I was six, even though I didn’t understand any of the innuendos or adult jokes. SNL brought to my attention three of my idols: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig. Amongst the flood of untalented pop and reality TV stars, these women showed me that it is possible for women to be smart, funny, respected, and adored by millions. As a long-time devoted fan of SNL, I was disappointed to find out that SNL has hired six new cast members, but only one woman.
There is no doubt that Saturday Night Live is a male-dominated show. Out of the sixteen cast members, only six are women, and there is only one woman writer out of twelve writers on the show. The men to women ratio on SNL accurately represents how male-dominated the humor industry is. Female comedians –not just from SNL–aren’t given nearly as many liberties with their material as male comedians. Their writing and jokes are typically criticized more than men’s, and society expects these women to fit a certain mold.
Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig are the poster-children for women in the humor industry, having reached a level success that most women in their field do not. However, even the most famous female comedians have faced scrutiny that most men do not have to endure. For example, many people credit Tina Fey’s thirty-pound weight loss to her overnight success on SNL. Sadly, this holds some validity. Before her weight loss, she worked as a writer on the show and only appeared as an extra. Later, she began performing in sketches and co-hosted Weekend Update, making her one of the most-loved cast members on the show. It is a shame that people only started to appreciate her talent and utter comedic genius when she lost weight. This connection of weight loss to success is not seen in male comedians. America loves “big, funny guys” like John Belushi, Chris Farley, Seth Rogen, and Jonah Hill, but are often very unwelcoming to the female counterparts.
About a year ago when “The Mindy Project” first came out, I was appalled when I read an article regarding the T.V. show’s writer, creator, and star, Mindy Kaling. The journalist basically said that he or she “didn’t want another T.V. show about an annoying, fat Indian girl complaining about how hard it is to be single.” I seriously had to question this writer’s sanity. It appears as though the writer ignored the fact that Kaling is a Dartmouth alum, began writing for The Office when she was twenty-four, and has won and been nominated for countless awards. He or she simply grouped Kaling as “whiny girl” and then refused to accept Kaling as a serious writer.
Another female comedian who is constantly insulted by the media is Lena Dunham. Regardless of what I think about her writing style, it is unfair that many critics do not give her proper credit for her work. Dunham is incredibly successful for her age; by age twenty-three she had already produced the immensely popular indie-film Tiny Furniture and by twenty-five she had her own show on HBO. I heard many people say that the only reason she was so successful at such a young age was because of her famous parents. If you are also wondering who her parents are, you are not alone. Her parents are successful visual artists who are well-known in the art world. Do these critics really think that mildly-famous artists have a say in who gets a show on HBO?
Women are not given nearly as much freedom and opportunity as men in the humor industry. Whenever there is a breakout female comedian she is scrutinized and criticized way more than any man would be. Whenever a woman becomes a successful comedian, her credentials and natural talent are ignored and she is pressured into the mold of what society think that female comics should only be. Women deserve as much comedic freedom as men whether it be over their weight, content, or success.
Sources: Imdb, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine