What The Rise Of Women In Comedy Really Means About Society

By Kelsey D’Auben

This past Saturday night millions of Americans tuned into the second episode of Saturday Night Live’s 41st season with host Amy Schumer, whose performance included a number of hilarious sketches such as “Porn Teacher,” “Hands Free Selfie Stick,” and an opening monologue where she showcased her roots in stand-up comedy.

Schumer was made an overnight sensation this past summer with the premier of Trainwreck, a film she wrote and starred in. She also won an Emmy award for the third season of her sketch comedy show Inside Amy Schumer.

While hosting on SNL, she also promoted her upcoming HBO special, Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo, which will be available Saturday. It’s safe to say that just over the past few months Schumer has risen up to the top of the comedic world and has become one of the biggest names in comedy today.

For most of history, men have run the comedy scene. From the early days of Charlie Chaplin, to Monty Python in the 70’s, and even into the early 2000s when Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, and Will Ferrell dominated the genre.

But recently things seem to be changing.

Schumer, along with others such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, or any of the very female heavy cast of Saturday Night Live are just a few of the big names you think of when you talk about comedy today. All of these women are constantly gaining success and popularity, especially among the newer and younger audiences of today.

These women have the numbers to back their success too. Some of the most popular comedies at the box office this summer were films featuring female leads. Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer grossed over $130 million, Spy starring Melissa McCarthy over $236  million, and the all female cast of Pitch Perfect earned a whooping $285 million at the box office.

“To a degree, everyone’s going to be offended by something, so you can’t just decide on your material based on not offending anyone”- Sarah Silverman

While on the other end, some comedies with a male lead were not nearly as successful at the box office, including an under whelming performance by the Ed Helms helmed flick- Vacation and Ted 2, a macho soaked comedy about a talking bear.

Female comedies have also been popular with critics. Trainwreck scored an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Spy a very impressive 93%. Meanwhile, Get Hard starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, was expected to be a huge hit only scored a 29% on the popular movie rating website.

So why is it that this type of female driven comedy has gained so much popularity over the past few years? It could well be because comedy is now being aimed at a younger, more socially aware audience. Previous generations were much less conscious of political correctness so comedians of the time felt much less inclined to avoid offensive material, and most of these comics were men.

But this is not the case today. Younger audiences now are much more sensitized and much less comfortable with hearing offensive jokes. They just don’t find it funny anymore. Some older comedians, like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock who were very popular in the 90’s, have even gone so far as to say that they will no longer perform at college campuses because the audiences are “too politically correct.

However, this old school way of thinking isn’t as popular amongst female comics. Sarah Silverman, whose career also began in the early 90’s and was known for being edgy and not-so-politically correct, has spoken out against comedians like Seinfeld and Rock who believe political correctness is ruining comedy.

“To a degree, everyone’s going to be offended by something, so you can’t just decide on your material based on not offending anyone,” Silverman said in a recent interview. “But, I do think it’s important, as a comedian, as a human, to change with the times. To change with new information.”

Because female comics have only started to be taken seriously within the past few years their style tends to be more progressive and more politically correct to accommodate to the taste of today’s audiences. They are reaching out towards younger demographics that the older male comics just don’t understand. Not only does this progressive female comedy make them more popular amongst younger crowds, but they are also generally more accepted by minorities and other diverse groups because their type of comedy is less likely to exclude people by making them the butt of a joke.

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Cover Photo Credit: Jeffrey Zeldman/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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