In line with the Ghostbusters ll release I was asked to write an article about women in comedy. So I did. It was rejected for being, well, too smart. Rather than doing a rewrite, I thought I’d post it (as is) on my own blog. Sometimes it’s good to analyze the facts.
Rise of the Funny Girls
If I had a dirham for every time I was asked if there is a rise in women doing comedy I would easily have enough for 100 cups of karak chai.
A lot of times people think of stand-up when they hear the word comedy. However, comedy is a huge genre that spans across television, film, theater, stand-up, music, video, literature, circus and beyond.
In all areas, comedy is still male dominant, but yes, there has been an increase in some funny fields. Let’s look at the stats!
According to The Bunche Center, studies show that women had lead acting roles in only 25 percent of films studied in 2011. I wonder how many of that 25 percent were in comedy films?
The L.A. Times also looked at all movies produced at major studios over a six year period and found that men were hired to direct 90 percent of them. Wow, that’s a lot of masculine energy especially when at least 50 percent of the viewers are female.
As the film industry is moving like a turtle in diversifying it’s on and off-screen talent, opportunities for women in television are growing quicker.
Check it out, according to The Center for the Study of Women in Television, women make up for 51 percent of lead roles in broadcast comedies and dramas, and 37 percent of lead roles in cable dramas. The count of female directors in network television are 10 percent of broadcast shows and 35 percent of cable shows.
So how have women gotten ahead in television? By creating their own content and acting as both writer and performer and in some cases, producer and director too. Also, there are new platforms like Netflix and Hulu that are welcoming to female content creators.
If you look at the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, Kristen Wiig, Tig Notaro, amongst many others, you will notice that they are double, or triple, creative threats. Since many strong, funny female roles weren’t being written, they wrote them!
Looking back, that’s what my idol Lucille Ball did in 1951. Her iconic show “I Love Lucy” was groundbreaking in many aspects. What was special about her is that not only was she incredible at physical comedy/slapstick (which was only being done by men at the time) and beautiful, she was also very intelligent.
She insisted that her real-life husband, Desi Arnez, played the role of her on-screen husband. Many of the show’s scenarios were based upon situations and antics the duo may have experienced and their natural chemistry allowed for brilliant comedic timing. Comedy, at it’s best, reflects life then exaggerates it.
Topping things off, Lucille was also the first woman to head a Hollywood Studio, Desilu, which went on to produce a number of well-known shows. Sadly, there haven’t been many female studio executives to follow.
Enough about America, what about my experience in the Middle East? When I first visited Dubai in 2007 I was told many times that there wasn’t a local comedy scene or a place for those interested in comedy to learn and be mentored. When asked if I would return to launch the Region’s first comedy school I took a leap of faith and did it.
I co-founded Dubomedy with my now husband Ali Al Sayed and we have had many budding female comedians go through our training programs. We launched Funny Girls M.E.N.A. in 2010 as a platform for women from diverse walks of life to perform, laugh, break stereotypes and empower their comedic voices. The show continues to tour annually in line with Breast Cancer Awareness month with new line-ups.
Like many of the current female comics I also write, direct and perform. I don’t wait for opportunities; I create them. Luckily, there has been a lot of support from the community towards my work and it brings me great joy to see more women locally following the path.
I am currently writing a One Woman Show set to premiere in 2017, directing the female driven theatrical production Invisible Cities and will headline Funny Girls go Pink throughout the U.A.E. all October. See, female comedians keep very busy too!
The key for continued growth is for women to support other women. Create roles, open doors, collaborate, guide. Laughter is contagious; together we can spread it faster.
And now, I’m off to write more jokes and keep with my mission of sharing love through laughter but first, let me go get that cup of karak chai.