Women in comedy

After Pitch Perfect actress Rebel Wilson claimed that her size is a benefit to her comedy because it’s not fun to laugh at more slim and attractive women, we have been left wondering whether this is a real and unspoken issue in our society. Wilson not only commented that being bigger is an asset, but that more attractive comedians usually “don’t have great personality anyway,” which highlights another issue of people having to hoard something other than attractiveness to make them interesting.

If we start by taking a look at the basic statistics we can see that women are already a minority in comedy, where the only big names in the UK we can think of are those women with larger frames such as Sarah Millican, Jo Brand, Miranda Hart etc. which is astonishingly fewer than the amount of male names that pop into our heads. It is true that these women all use their size to their advantage when on stage, but does that mean that they would still be funny if they didn’t and if they were socially considered as the right size? According to Rebel Wilson, yes. It seems that women can either be beautiful or funny, but not both. If a woman goes her life not getting attention through her looks, she needs something else to make her interesting which is humour, because attractive people have no need to be funny. I’m not saying the exact same thing doesn’t happen with men too, but why is it that when it’s talked about, women are the main focus? Do women need something extra to make them interesting because they are women and therefore naturally don’t live up to men?

Dawn French spoke of her weight loss after her divorce, saying that all people wanted to know was why she lost weight and how she lost weight, stating “it was as if people thought I couldn’t be funny anymore if I wasn’t fat.” However there are plenty of women in comedy who are slim and still considered funny such as Ellen DeGeneres, Aisling Bea and Katherine Ryan. However, celebrities such as Megan Fox have stated that: “Ellen DeGeneres is attractive because of her sense of humour”, so just being slim isn’t enough to qualify for a dull personality, you need to be beautiful too. However this isn’t the case for Aisling and Katherine who seems to combine both and still be found funny.

Since men are still considered the predominant gender in comedy it could be felt that women need to try harder in order to be found as funny as men and self-deprecate in order to do so. People seem to find humour in those who can take a supposed flaw and turn it into something they are proud of, and can laugh at themselves for. Rebel Wilson said “no one thinks, if you’re fat, that you’re going to be an actress and everyone’s going to love you,” suggesting that she took a so-called negative part of herself and turned it into something positive.
Another question is: if it’s funnier to laugh at larger women, then is it also funnier to laugh at larger men? There are plenty of male comedians who use their size as an asset such as Michael McIntyre and Jonah Hill. In fact, through this asset Jonah Hill became such a popular actor that he eventually ended up playing serious roles, such as Michael Finkel in the upcoming thriller True Story. So are people taken more seriously once they are able to hone what others would see as a flaw? If so, this could either be a positive way to look at larger comedians or highlight a serious issue with perceptions in society.


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October 2021
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