Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Women Are Funny! But some are funnier than others...


Women are funny!  There are so many great memoires out now, written by fabulous, funny women. Most do not even address whether women are funny- because giving that answer grants legitimacy to the question. These women do what they do best- write witty relatable material that leaves you in stitches- and thereby proves their point quite well through demonstration. I like to check the “recommended reads” nonfiction table as soon as I enter the library- and I have thus far read three great memoires by talented women. 
Tina Fey’s had me (much to Hubbie’s dismay) reading lines out loud and cracking up midway through. Mindy Kaling’s made me laugh out loud (just check out the back cover and you’ll be holding your sides together)- with slightly fewer lines read aloud. Betty White’s barely made me chuckle.  I know she’s eighty nine years old- and I’ll be lucky to be continent and functioning at that age- but why isn’t her memoire funny? She is one of my favorite actresses of all time. I’m a Golden Girls nut. Her delivery is perfect and her timing is spot on. Ms. White writes a few paragraphs about comedic timing that I found fascinating. She said that when you overthink it, the timing is always messed up.  So what makes Mindy and Tina so laugh out loud funny and Betty so….meh?
My answer? Betty White is a phenomenal PERFORMER . Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling are great WRITERS (and arguably great performers as well).  Truly great comedy is born when professional actors with impeccable comedic timing perform great material. There is no such thing as a great performance of poor comedic writing. The opposite is also true, of course- excellent writing can be absolutely mangled by a poor performance. For example- Betty White’s portrayal of Rose in the Golden Girls is undeniably hysterical- and the role never became clich├ęd or predictable. That stands as testament to Betty White’s talent. Of all the characters on the show, Rose is the most stereotypical.  She’s the dumb blonde for goodness sake! Yet, Ms. White gives Rose depth, she gives her a lovable vulnerability, a sense of fun  and an all-encompassing cluelessness that is somehow endearing. You don’t want to smack Rose over the head. You want to hang out with her, and give her a big hug. That is incredible! Most “stupid” characters are so darn annoying! Every time Steve Carell walks into a scene on The Office I want to walk out. And he’s lauded for his performance!
Of course humor is also a matter of taste. I lean toward the word based, scripted comedy of the above performers and run as quickly as my legs will carry me- away from boundary pushing, shock your audience, profanity overusing, gross out comediennes like Chelsea Handler, Joan Rivers and Sarah Silverman. Their brand of humor just doesn’t appeal to me.  Comedy need not be overly chaste- some profanity every once in a while can make a joke really funny- but if there are more bleeps than actual words- than you probably stink as a writer. I really loved Tina Fey’s Mindy Kaling’s and Betty White’s memoires.  If you have a little bit of time, check these memoires out of your local library- and prepare you family to have unintelligible lines, half choked with laughter read aloud to them.