50 Hilarious Female Working Comedians (
Part 2 of 2)
2:51 pm, April 18th | by
“Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.”
wrote Christopher Hitchens in a now infamous Vanity Fair article. (In case you were wondering, Hitchens decides that the “humor gap” exists because women “have to affect not to be the potentates.”) Five years later, Adam Carolla — remember him? He was a person who sort of mattered at a point in time. He made a TV show of puppets doing prank phone calls; he was a comedic genius, ahead of his time, etc. — told the New York Post that “dudes are funnier than chicks.” “They make you hire a certain number of chicks,” Carolla opined. “They’re always the least funny on the writing staff.”
We know that these comments largely come from men who are just trying to be provocative or men who have somehow discovered a rip in the space-time continuum and travelled to our near future from the 1980s. Hopefully the systemic sexism that exists in comedy has become clearer in recent years, as more and more funny women gain larger and larger followings on nontraditional platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube. Yet, lest there be any man who continues to genuinely believe that women aren’t funny, and because April is National Humor Month, we have decided to attack this ever-present and pernicious claim, with scientific proof: a round-up of fifty hilarious working female comedians.
(Note: The stipulation guiding our list was that the funny lady had to be a stand-up comic — so Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and the like couldn’t be included — and presently performing — so don’t think that we just forgot about comedic legends like Phyllis Diller!)
When you are one of the most memorable and mesmerizing characters in a Judd Apatow movie despite only being on screen for two minutes, I think that means you are pretty damn talented. Charlyne Yi charmed the pants off audiences as
Knocked Up's Jodi, a stoner girlfriend, and has continued to amass a cult following with her offbeat, mischievous, multidimensional comedy. Yi's stand up — if one can even call it that — incorporates music, theater, audience participation, magic, and, occasionally, a traditional joke or two. She has been a fixture at Los Angeles' Upright Citizens Brigade, a YouTube star, an award-winning screenwriter, and a doctor on House; she is unpredictable in the best ways. Few comedians are as creative or talented as Charlene Yi.
Christine Nangle is a skilled improv comedian and comedy writer; after rising through the UCB ranks, Nangle was hired to write for
Saturday Night Live in 2009. Nangle is one of the only SNL writers, in the history of SNL, who was hired from a writing packet instead of an audition/performance so PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT, MEN WHO THINK WOMEN CAN'T WRITE COMEDY! In fact, Lorne Micheals' production company Broadway Video recently released Nangle's hilarious and bizarre web series " I Wanna Have Your Baby," in which the UCB-alumna plays Dolores Santangeli, a surrogate mother for hire with "an unusually strong birth canal."
Andrea Rosen is
all over the comedy scene: she is constantly performing at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Rififi, and Galapagos, she has appeared on Stella and in The Ten, and you can also see her work on Superdeluxe.com. Rosen's brand of life comedy — telling true stories with joke almost incidentally built into them — is honest and completely compelling to watch. Our favorite thing about this New York-native ( Roosevelt Island, represent!) is that she's the co-founder of Variety Shac, a comedy collective with fellow funny ladies Shonali Bhowmik, Chelsea Peretti, and Heather Lawless. After noticing that they rarely got to perform with each other, since "it's usually one woman booked per show," Rosen et all created their own monthly show. Way to be the change you want to see in the world,
Say what you will about the audaciously filthy Chelsea Handler but she is holding it down for the ladies in the late-night world. Handler has managed to parlay snark into a media empire: she has four best-selling books, two television shows, and is producing a whole slew of other programs. Not only is Handler the best friend we all dream of having — a dry and clever party girl who can tear trolls like
Piers Morgan to pieces — but she is clearly devoted to fostering the careers of fellow female comedians, placing a number of female stand-ups on the Chelsea Lately roundtable.
I'm going to say it: if Chelsea Peretti were a man, she would be one of the biggest names in comedy right now. Comedy nerds and critics have always known what the rest of us are just beginning to realize: Chelsea Peretti is exquisite. A little self-deprecating and a little mean-spirited with a fierce personality, Peretti is delightful to watch. With spots on
Louie and The Kroll Show, a hit podcast, and a writing gig on Parks and Recreation, it seems like Peretti is about to make it big &mdash, and it's about time.
In case you were beginning to worry that I had forgotten that there was a whole world outside of the dark comedy clubs of the United States, I give you Gina Yashere, a British import whose stand up is explosive and riotous. The only British comic to ever appear on "Def Comedy Jam," Yashere takes the stage like an opinionated friend, chatting and rambling, weaving anecdotes and impressions together seamlessly. By addressing subjects with a degree of affection and warmth, Yashere attracts an ethnically diverse audience, something that is rare for a comedian who is so willing to engage with issues of race and racism.
Jackie Monahan is redefining gay and alternative comedy. Provocative, disarming, and lighthearted, Monahan is a regular on the comedy circuit, telling jokes that are unpredictable in direction and delivery. While being an out lesbian comic isn't easy — Monahan has
talked about having to take "a gigantic pay cut in the past" — Monahan's likeability is limitless. For an example of her unique voice and fresh perspective on being gay, check out Monahan's 2011 Sundance hit, . Co-Dependent Lesbian Alien Seeks Same
Like a phoenix with a whoopee cushion as a tail, Jenny Slate has risen from the comedic ashes, proving that one F-bomb on
Saturday Night Live can't hold a sistah down. After her SNL contract wasn't renewed, Slate became an Internet celebrity with her infectious and adorable video "Marcel The Shell With Shoes On." From there, the comedian blossomed, co-creating and co-starring in one of the most critically-acclaimed web series ( ), landing a recurring role on the late Bestie x Bestie Bored to Death, and performing in an insanely popular comedy show, Big Terrific. As she said herself, Slate's comedic style is "at once bashful and explosive. It's a little bit perverted, a little bit ladylike, and old-fashioned, which is a great mix. Sort of tangy." Slate is a great lesson in taking control of one's own career.
If you took out your biggest pot and dumped in a bunch of seemingly conflicting components like "art student at Vassar," "comedy show," "CNN Election blog," and "Nick Kroll," after a few hours of percolating, you would have created your very own Jessi Klein. Devastatingly witty, expressive, and pretty nerdy, Klein smashes every stereotype pitted against women and funny women like the Incredibly Hilarious Hulk. Klein also helped develop The Chappelle Show
Josie Long is more of a storyteller than a traditional stand up, helping to push comedy into an increasingly theatrical realm. Long is a comedic vanguard who is regularly creating the most interesting and unique material out there. Usually dressed in t-shirts and hoods, Long performs shows that are about anything she is passionate about, from DIY culture to life-long learning to politics. While diverse in topic, all of Long's shows are marked by a similar level of enthusiasm and character-acting. An Edinburgh Festival favorite, Long is constantly reinventing herself, her comedy, and the field.
Judy Gold isn't your typical comedian but the 6'3", Jewish, lesbian single mother has been performing and making audiences laugh for more than twenty years. Gold has done everything: she is a two-time Daytime Emmy Award winner for her work as a writer and producer on
The Rosie O'Donnell Show, she has written and starred in multiple one-woman shows, and she has created her own docu-comedy series. Gold is a quintessential performer; she is gleeful, energetic, and glowing. Seeing Judy Gold is an experience.
Kathleen Madigan is one of the most popular headlining comedians currently working and she's very much a woman; so deal with that, haters! Oh, and do you know who has performed on
The Tonight Show ten times? Kathleen Madigan has, and she was a woman each of those ten times. (I think...I don't have any source to cite.) After appearing on the second season of Last Comic Standing, Madigan catapulted to fame and hasn't looked back since. She has performed on every conceivable talks show, appeared on numerous talking head countdowns about celebrity mistakes and pop culture "fails," and, even after twenty years in the business, is still killing it in stand up. With her own breed of direct, no-nonsense comedy, Madigan is funny as hell and has an unearthly ability to cutting down everyone and anyone — frankly, I wouldn't mess with her.
13.Brooke Van Poppelen
Kelly Oxford went from being a Calagary housewife and mother of three to the biggest Internet star pre-Psy, all thanks to a whip-smart
blog and a few well-written tweets about Kardashians and wine. Oxford didn't wait to see when her fifteen minutes would expire; she jumped on that hustle and translated her Twitter fame ( Time said she had one of the " 140 Best Twitter Feeds"...twice) into a burgeoning comedy career. Kelly has already sold a film script on spec to Warner Brothers and two TV pilots to different networks and released a comedic memoir, Everything Is Perfect When You're a Liar. With her knack for one-liners and snappy, unfiltered observations, we aren't expecting Kelly Oxford to disappear anytime soon.
In short, Palestinian American Maysoon Zayid is defying
allllllllll the conventions, laughing (well, getting others to laugh) in the face of racial, gender, and comedic stereotypes. A self-described "Palestinian Muslim virgin with cerebral palsy, from New Jersey, who is an actress, comedian and activist," Zayid is considered to be the first female Muslim comedian, a topic she doesn't shy away from her comedy: in one set, she jokes about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, her strict Palestinian father, and coming of age as a Muslim. According to the Institute of Middle East Understanding, Zayid was the first person ever to perform stand up in Palestine and Jordan. To say Maysoon Zayid's comedy is vital is an understatement.
Frankly, we don't think it's fair that Natasha Leggero gets to be this beautiful and this funny. A regular on
Chelsea Lately, the actress/comedian is sharp, edgy, and misanthropic in the most delightful way. Her tongue-in-cheek demeanor helps her get away with most of her bark and bite — Leggero is the kind of girl who can insult you and your home and your entire family and your favorite television show and yet, you'll still want to drink a beer with her after. Why aren't there more ladies like Leggero in comedy? Well, maybe they don't know how they fit in the male-centric comedy world. At first, Leggero didn't. "I always thought stand-up comedy had to be men in suits talking about their wives," Leggero explained to Splitsider, "so when I found out it was more like sassing for money I was hooked."
We realized shortly after publishing the first part of this countdown that while we had declared our love for Kate Miccuci, one half of the comedic duo Garfunkel & Oates, we had stupidly forgotten to share the sonnet we had written for Miccuci's Garfunkel, Riki Lindhome. While we won't publish said sonnet — we still have some dignity left — we will say that we are enamored with Lindhome. Little do G&O fans know that Lindhome is an accomplished comedian and actress in her own right; I mean, her first film role was in Clint Eastwood's
Million Dollar Baby! Not too shabby, if you ask me. The fact that Lindhome is rarely recognized for her film and sitcom roles is a testament to skills as a character actress. This Garfunkel has also written and directed two short films and hosts a popular podcast on Nerdist called "Making It." Riki, we want you to know that you have already made it....into our hearts.
Time magazine called Laura Kightlinger's IFC show, The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman, "the kind of drawling feminist sarcasm rarely seen since Roseanne left sitcomdom." While unfortunately the half-hour comedy is no more, we'd have to agree: the show that Kightlinger created and starred in was superb, surprising, and a much-needed articulation of a feminine comedic voice — much like Kightlinger herself. Kightlinger is a phenomenal writer, one that was probably too ahead of her time; in this post- Girls and Bridesmaids world, we hope that she has a triumphant return.
Whatever your thoughts on her, her infamous
performance of the national anthem, her loud, brash bravado, or the season finale of Roseanne are, you can't deny that Roseanne was a pioneer. Barr was a sitcom creator, writer, and star when a woman getting such opportunities was unheard of. Roseanne Barr was an overweight housewife turned comedian turned worldwide phenomenon; she portrayed and poked fun at working-class life with authenticity, warmth, and intelligence. Nothing was too taboo for her or her series: drugs, homosexuality, domestic violence, class — all of it was deal with honestly and with humor. Roseanne was the first feminist who made us laugh, cringe, love her, and love to hate her. All female comedians are indebted to her.
We have a confession to make: we kind of feel like we're friends with Julie Klausner. Like, her
book may or may not have been one of the reasons we were so excited to move to New York, and her podcast may or may not be one of the first things we look for online every Friday morning, and her Real Housewives recaps may or may not be our reason for living. WE LOVE JULIE KLAUSNER, OKAY? If you have not yet listened to her riff on her week/life at the top of every podcast episode, you are missing out on something special.
21.Sara Schaefer and Nikki Glaser
Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer
successfully parlayed a podcast, "You Had To Be There," broadcast out of Schaefer's apartment in Brooklyn, into a half hour comedy show on MTV. Jealous? We certainly are! Not only are the two of them extremely talented, but it's so heartening to see them find success through a partnership based on shared senses of humor and collaboration. We need more Tina and Amy duos in the comedy world, and these two seem like worthy heirs.
Shappi Khorsandi is cooler than you (...we assume). She's an Iranian and British-born comedian who got the funny gene from her father, who had to flee the country after a satirical poem he composed didn't go over so well in the wake of the Islamic Revolution. Her YouTube stand-up clips are worth a look if only because she has one of the
best voices ever, but if clips on the internet aren't your bag Khorsandi also wrote a book, A Beginner's Guide to Acting English. She's also a delight on Twitter.
Wikipedia entry leads with a description of her comedy: "Wendy Liebman (born February 27, 1961 in Manhasset, New York) is an American stand-up comedian known for her distinctive style which includes quick, clever follow-ups after her jokes. She starts the joke leading it to one direction then changes it. As in "This Thanksgiving I made a 28 pound turkey ... pot pie," or "I really like to shop....lift." Liebman started doing standup in in 1984 and her most recent Showtime special, Wendy Liebman: Taller on TV aired in January 2012. That's a 28-year-old stand up career, ladies and gentlemen. Not bad at all.
Whitney Cummings might not seem like much of an underdog — she created
Two Broke Girls and Whitney in the same year (the latter is now off the air but the former is going strong), landed her own (albeit short-lived) talk show on E!, is conventionally gorgeous and friends with Chelsea Handler. But Cummings is also a tireless standup, working harder than almost anyone else in the game. And while her brand of bro-friendly "men are like this, women are like this" comedy might turn off some, it's still refreshing to see a female comic whose act is so strongly geared toward women. Just as Louis C.K.'s latest (brilliant) special included many ruminations on the nature of being male in the 21st century, so does Whitney concern herself with boyfriends, Spanx and Twilight. It might not be your bag, but you have to respect it.