‘Do You Think Men Can Be Sexy and Funny?’: Jena Friedman Gives Jon Stewart, Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt and More the Female Comedian Treatment
“If I had a dollar for every time a journalist asked me, ‘Is it hard being a woman in comedy?’ I’d probably make as much as a man in comedy.”
Stand-up comedian, late-night writer, playwright, TV producer, Borat 2 screenwriter and now author Jena Friedman has had to put up with quite a bit of bullshit in her career — specifically, the inundation of inane questions from even the most reputable reporters about what it’s like to be a “woman comedian,” queries that her male peers never have to field when The New York Times wants a quote.
“The truth is, being a woman in comedy is fine, and sometimes it’s really great,” Friedman writes ahead of the release of her essay collection, titled Not Funny. “I have nothing to compare it to. It comes with the same indignities as being a woman in almost every other industry in America, but at least we have a microphone!”
To highlight the absurdity of some of the borderline-to-outright insulting interview inquiries she’s received over the years, Friedman conducted a bit of a social experiment by approaching a number of her male comedian friends — such as Jon Stewart, Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Reggie Watts and the immensely confused and frustrated Jim Gaffigan — and asked them the exact questions that The Guardian and the New Yorker have asked her, only with the genders reversed.
Their answers, written up by Friedman on LitHub, are exactly as ridiculous as a reporter asking a professional comedian if she “writes her own material.”
Friedman’s post needs to be read in its entirety, but, for the sake of promotion, I’ve provided one quote from each comedian featured that shows just how ridiculous Fred Armisen now knows a female comedian’s experience with the media to be:
Is it hard to be a man in comedy?
Reggie Watts: It is, because you constantly have to watch your back, you have to make sure what people are laughing at are your jokes and not just your nice hips.
When did you decide to become a male comedian?
Jon Stewart: (Laughs) Um, you know for years I was a boy comedian, and I think it was at some point after my bar mitzvah that I decided… Actually, I don’t think I decided, I think it was just pronounced and anointed. It was at a ceremony.
Do you think it has changed for men since you got into the business?
Eugene Mirman: Yeah.
Friedman: In what ways?
Do you think men can be attractive and funny?
Fred Arminsen: That’s actually a good question, not that the other ones weren’t good questions (laughs). Yes, I do. Bob Odenkirk, he’s attractive. I mean, Charlie Chaplin was attractive.
Do you think men can be sexy and funny?
Bob Odenkirk: Actually, no. I don’t think comedians can be sexy. I suppose there might be a few who are, only to fetish freaks. I think part of being a comedian is being an underdog — not being cool, or sexy. I’ve always thought you can’t have both, to be funny, you have to be making fun of convention. Beauty and sexiness is very often fitting an ideal.
Friedman: These are all questions female comics have been asked, so if any are off-putting, I’m sorry.
Odenkirk: Tough shit is what you’re saying (laughs).
Do you write your own material?
Patton Oswalt: I really do! I guess it’s a compliment when people tell me, “You could totally hang with the lady comics!”
Is all your material about being a dad?
Jim Gaffigan: No.