'Variety' Columnist: Female Comics Shouldn't Tell Dirty Jokes

News
by Inkoo Kang
November 21, 2013 3:00 PM
5 Comments
  • |

Sarah Silverman is arguably one of the most famous female comic working today. She's a household name and can boast among her achievements an Emmy-nominated TV show, over two dozen film credits, and an instantly recognizable comic persona that's entirely her own. 

But she still gets no respect, at least not from Variety TV columnist Brian Lowry, who wrote an embarrassing "review" of Silverman's latest HBO special, We Are Miracles. Lowry spent two sentences on the special, i.e., the thing he was actually supposed to write about, calling it "disarmingly funny right before veering into bad-taste territory," and then devoted the rest of his piece concern-trolling the comedienne's supposed lack of mainstream success despite her attractiveness. The culprit, he decides, is Silverman's "determin[ation] to prove she can be as dirty and distasteful as the boys." Lowry doesn't fault one of his favorites, Louis C.K., for telling jokes about how the frosting on Cinnabon pastries remind him of semen, but he writes that Silverman "can and should do more." It's hard to think of a more blatant example of double standards. 

Lowry's piece gets two things wrong. First, that Silverman's career may not be as lucrative as, say, the seemingly neutered Steve Carrell's is, but she's a superstar in the comedy world. (Believe it or not, films and TV aren't everything.) A kind of mea-culpa interview with Silverman that appeared on Variety's site today finds her explaining her perfectly logical, personal fulfillment-oriented professional path: 

Silverman says because she keeps her overhead low, she doesn't really do anything that she doesn’t want to -- except be on the road, which she loves while she's onstage but otherwise can leave her lonely and homesick. (She says she travels "less than I should, more than I want.") But her approach is just to follow her career wherever it goes, knowing that as long she keeps writing, she'll always have a destination.

The second is Lowry's out-of-touch assumption that raunchy female comics aren't popular. Sure, there might be some male viewers like Lowry who think women should behave like ladies or be cuddly and nonthreatening like Ellen Degeneres. (That's no knock on Degeneres, who is hilarious in her own right.) But has he asked any female audiences, who -- surprise! -- also like to laugh? Dirty jokes might, in fact, be the golden ticket to sustaining a long and successful show. The Whitney Cummings co-created 2 Broke Girls, based on the comedienne's difficult life, is a ratings winner. Chelsea Handler's talk show, E!'s Chelsea Lately, is going strong in its seventh season. And no one's ever accused Jon Stewart of being a failure because he just has a measly basic-cable show. And what does Lowry think the women on Sex and the City, a genuine cultural phenomenon, sat around and talked about? 

Ultimately, the "something simultaneously fascinating and maddening about Sarah Silverman" that flummoxes Lowry is the idea that she is pretty and funny, or more specifically, pretty and potty-mouthedly funny. Silverman's an attractive woman who wants to express herself beyond saying Look at how attractive I am. Don't you want to have sex with me, don't you don't you don't youFor that apparent transgression, Lowry is scolding Silverman for not reducing herself to being just a pretty face. 

Silverman's HBO special We Are Miracles premieres Saturday, November 23rd at 10pm on HBO.
You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

5 Comments

  • KXB | November 21, 2013 6:05 PMReply

    What the hell kind of name is Inkoo Kang?????

  • Adam | November 21, 2013 6:01 PMReply

    I think that Mr. Lowry's mistake is that he's making this a needlessly sexist commentary by using phrases like "as dirty as the boys," etc. Otherwise, I agree with a lot of what he's saying about the way that Silverman often throws jokes around with high "shock factor" content in a way that just doesn't strike me as funny. That said, I often feel that way about Ricky Gervais too. He's completely valid in wanting to describe what he thinks is/isn't funny, and what does/doesn't work in a comedy show. Mr. Lowry just didn't need to make it a needlessly gender-based argument, which that kind of heading can't help but do.

  • aovinaovja | November 21, 2013 3:35 PMReply

    2 Broke Girls is horrendously unfunny and racist. John Stewart's not a failure because he has a decade plus host on the daily show credit, another cultural phenomenon. Sex and the City is...tame these days. He's explaining that her range hasn't really developed. I think it's stupid to say that she was joining a boys club with her humor because she was, in fact, genuinely funny. She did AIDS, rape, and people dying jokes. So Lowry's a bit ignorant and should've cut that line. Big woop. If that's what this all boils down to then there's not a whole lot to say. I read it and didn't see a sentence that read she's not allowed to be whoever she wants to be. He actually praises her throughout a lot of the article. And your conclusion is without some merit. You're assuming his overall stance by taking his words and turning them into a politically charged misogynistic agenda. I think he just doesn't like potty humor all that much, honestly.

  • aovinaovja | November 21, 2013 5:45 PM

    No. You either read a different article or he just re edited because it says "that's not to say that women can't do blue humor" or something to that extent. He means her specifically. He may not be aware of her Jesus is Magic or something where her vagina sings a song at the end, but I'm getting that he's referring mostly to her TV appearances and that she's funnier than the Roast crowd that he thinks she's playing toward. So yeah. Seems like a bit of a jump the gun scenario going on here.

  • Tom Haverford | November 21, 2013 3:45 PM

    No, he's fine with blue humour when it comes from males. But women should be daintier; he says as much in the review.
    He's not explaining that her range hasn't developed, he's explaining that he's uncomfortable with a woman going blue.

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Women Dominate This Year's Olivier ...
  • Tribeca Women DIrectors: Meet Elizabeth ...
  • Tribeca Women Directors: Meet Anete ...
  • Julie Walters to Receive British TV's ...
  • Divergent Third Novel to be Split into ...
  • Weekly Update for March April 11: Women ...
  • Trailer Watch: Food Industry Scrutinized ...
  • Tribeca Women Directors: Meet Sofia ...
  • Studios Still Leaving Money on the Table ...
  • Donna Tartt, Annie Baker Win Pulitz ...