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TRACI SKENE has appeared on VH-1's Standup Spotlight, A&E's Comedy On The Road and Lifetime's Girls Night Out, all of which has done her absolutely no good.

Traci Skene


Traci Skene

SHECKYmagazine Chief

Hey, Lay-deee!

At last month's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado, American Film Institute Star Award recipient Billy Crystal began his acceptance speech by announcing, "I would love to say, women are funny." To the untrained observer, this would appear to be nothing more than a lame attempt by Mr. Crystal to find himself a date for the post-ceremony banquet. But to the trained observer, we realize he was merely referring to the lame comments made a year earlier by honoree and comedy legend Jerry Lewis.

Jerry Lewis--who is best known to the younger generation as the guy who ripped off Eddie Murphy by making The Nutty Professor movie first--put his white-socked foot firmly in his over-sized mouth when he said, "A woman doing comedy doesn't offend me but sets me back a bit. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world." Well, Mr. Lewis, a man being painfully honest doesn't offend me but sets me back a bit. I think of you as a non-producing machine that brings babbling to France.

Aw shucks, I shouldn't be so hard on the old guy. He is, after all, an old guy. If his statement had been made by David Spade or Jerry Seinfeld I would have had to open up a can of whoop-ass on somebody. (FYI: There are two types of canned whoop-ass. Domestic canned whoop-ass is available at most supermarkets, while the imported canned whoop-ass can be found at specialty gourmet shops.) Besides, the "Hey, Lady" guy was forced to make a "humble apology" proving that he is a lonely guy on Planet Uranus.

Speaking of baby-producing machines, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to perform at a Girl's Night Out Pajama Party at a local comedy club. The premise is a fairly simple one: You take three female comics, remove all language and content restrictions and put them on stage in front of 250 rum-soaked babes. Before you know it, the floor is slick with estrogen and cheesecake and by the end of the show all our periods are in sync. (Warning to Jerry Lewis: Do not, I repeat, do not attend a Girl's Night Out Pajama Party. If you do, make sure you bring a defibrilator.)

I love all-girl shows. During the course of a year, I spend most of my time with men, so I'm always surprised by the love and support that exists when a group of women get together without the presence of testosterone. Lots of laughing, lots of cheering, lots of hugging. (Sorry guys, it's not naked hugging!) Old ladies explaining the sex jokes to the young girls. Young girls pretending not to understand. The same women who would scratch each other's eyes out over a guy are suddenly caught up in the "sisters are doin' it for themselves" atmosphere. It is, without a doubt, the easiest money I make all year.

A few nights later, I performed at a synogogue-- making me the most versatile human since "Neon" Deon Sanders. As I entered the all-purpose function room, I was pounced on by an eighty-something woman who was sitting with her husband and a few of her elderly friends. She was happy to see me. The woman, it turns out, had been part of the all-girl audience earlier in the week. "Don't worry" I whispered, "I won't do any of the material that I did the other night." "Oh, that's good," she said between hugs. "I'm not a prude, but I am uncomfortable hearing those things in mixed company."

And that's when it hit me: men and women together are "mixed company." I had never really thought of it that way before. I was born in 1965. I grew up in an era of free love, women's rights and increasingly relaxed social mores. In my world, men and women together are merely men and women together. Recently, after hearing me rant in a particularly chick-centric way, a fellow comedian, said "Yeah, but you're not a woman. You cried when Mitch Williams gave up the home run to Joe Carter and lost the World Series." I took that as a compliment and I also took it as validation that I am truly one of the boys. But am I?

As comfortable as men are with me, I've come to realize that part of them behaves differently when they are in my presence. (No, I'm not talking about their private part.) I behave differently as well. Our generation of men certainly aren't as uptight as Mr. Lewis and his cohort, but they are still men. And while we aren't hung up on being viewed as "lady-like" we are still women. Looking back on my set at the Girl's Night Out, I did perform a few jokes that I would never do outside of that setting. I'm no different than the old woman at the synagogue. I'm just less honest.

So, perhaps occasionally hanging out exclusively with one's own gender is a good and necessary evil. Of course ladies, if we want the privilege of doing so, we must also grant the same privelege to men. Recently, it was rumored that Comedy Central's The Man Show was planning on a nationwide standup comedy tour. I hope it's true. I also hope that they restrict the audience to ":men only." Feminists of course will shake like a washer with an unbalanced load, but I have to ask, "Girls, where's the harm?" I am by no means a separatist, but haven't we reached a point in our development where we are comfortable enough with each other that we can be apart without feeling threatened or excluded?

I believe Billy Crystal when he says that women are funny. I also believe Jerry Lewis when he says that women are not. I also know a few female comics who would despise them both. I for one will continue to spend the majority of my time with men, laughing and feeling as comfortable as possible. Once a year, however, I will gather with my fellow felines and revel in all things muliebral. And when it's over, I'll take my husband home a piece of cheesecake. HOME Back to the Top