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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
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.
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