Are women funny? This is a question that has seemingly plagued us since time immemorial. However, a quick history lesson would have us all know that this particular bit of invented history doesn’t stand the test of time.
Dated scientific jargon might convince you otherwise. But hilarious female writers have existed for a long time, Aphra Behn, anyone? The Restoration-era writer was known for her quick wit and bawdy dialogues. Although societal decorum was quite different back then, and she was merely following the norm– especially during the reign of Charles II, the ‘Merry Monarch’ – where women were encouraged to be witty.
Hedonism in Charles II’s court aside, women have always had a penchant for humour. Let’s take, for instance, the more conservative society of the 18th century, Jane Austen’s novels largely fell in the genre of ‘comedy of manners’ – a subtle but useful way to satirize societal conventions.
And even though the notion that women lack intelligence was all pervasive in the early modern period in England, their lack of humour was never made apparent till the 19th century.
But in the 20th century, it was set in stone. Sociologists and psychologists embraced the idea with open arms – especially with our good old Sigmund Freud coming into the picture.
But female actors in the 1910s, Alice Howell, for instance, engaged in physical comedy. In the 1950s, in USA, both Gertrude Berg of The Goldbergs and Peg Lynch of Ethel and Albert were female writers despite the norm.
In the end, female comedy writers and comedians existed despite the skewed idea that women aren’t funny. Today, some of the best comedy shows are penned by women. Let's take a look at some of them:
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
And if we are talking about comedy, then it would be an injustice to not include Pheobe Waller-Bridge and her raw, gnawing and equally hilarious Fleabag. Characters don’t get names, situations are almost always inane, and a certain sense of escapism permeates through the series, making it understandably one of the best shows to explore grief through humour. And one of the best shows, in general, as well.
Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum is another fantastic example of cringe comedy. Much like Fleabag, it breaks the fourth wall and focuses on sex quite a bit. It didn’t get the exposure that Fleabag did, but it’s one the funniest shows of this decade. Coel's acting stands out, especially because of how she is unafraid to let the idiosyncrasies of the character shine.
Derry Girls, written by Lisa McGee, is set in the 1990s during the last years of the Northern Ireland conflict and is another fast-paced show with outrageous humour. The characters are so irrevocably messy, chaotic and endearing that you can't help but laugh. Political tensions aside, it's wholesome, in the most relatable way.
Issa Rae’s Insecure is also dubbed as one of the best shows of all time. Mostly because it takes on difficult topics with a sense of humour. And like many of the shows on the list, it's equally relatable. A story that does not depend on archetypes to set its structure, is a rare find. In Insecure women to exist at their awkward best.