Howard, Steve and I took on women in comedy in this week’s Perpetual Post. Check it out!
I’m growing tired of hearing about how Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are such funny women. I mean, yes, they are. But is this such a revelation? The amount of attention those two receive for being funny is becoming a little patronizing, because for the most part it’s the same reaction of good-natured astonishment that would be elicited by the sight of a gopher wearing chaps or a tap-dancing kitten. The implication is: Look! These women are breaking down barriers, they’ve turned our misconceptions upside down; they’re thriving outside their element! It’s as thought the general public thinks each of them woke up one day and said, “Today, I think I’ll be funny– unlike women.”
Tragically, I was never informed that women aren’t funny. As a result, I spent my clearly misguided youth worshipping witty, smart-ass female authors like Erma Bombeck, Jean Kerr and Cynthia Heimel. I listened to old records and radio programs and grew to love the crackling improv of Elaine May and Joyce Grenfell and the sweet guile of Gracie Allen. I rented early Saturday Night Live episodes and marveled at the physical comedy of Gilda Radner and the snarky wit of Lily Tomlin. All of these women were brilliantly funny. I guess none of them got the memo.
It’s true that my many female comic idols are often less well-known than their male counterparts. George Burns’ fame far surpassed that of his counterpart and comic foil, Gracie Allen. Ricky always told Lucy she couldn’t be in the Babalu show. Saturday Night Live, for all its talented female stars, never seemed to launch their careers as far as it did the careers of legendary comedians like Steve Martin and Jim Belushi.
Indeed, for every smart, funny female role model I discovered through books, radio and television, there were many mediums which suffered from a distinct lack of vibrant female characters—or any female characters. After all, Bugs Bunny had all the good one-liners. None of the women stranded on Gilligan’s Island had decent comic timing; Smurfette was dull as dishwater. But to me, the lesson there was still not ‘girls in general aren’t as funny as boys’—it was ‘those girls aren’t funny’. So instead I watched Murphy Brown raise hell, and dreamed of the day I would live un-chaperoned in the Plaza Hotel like bossy, outrageous Eloise.
I agree with Steve Murphy that humor thrives on awkwardness and alienation, and that an adolescent penchant for feeling like an outcast is very likely to produce an individual who is quick with a one-liner and has a Simpson’s quote for every occasion. But I disagree that humor is a defense mechanism and a means of social survival mostly for males. Rather, I think it is a natural reflex for either sex—one that, if properly nurtured and cultivated, can be merrily abused as a dysfunctional means of self-protection by both boys and girls. After all, both face a tremendous amount of pressure to fit into their respective roles—and there are always going to be those on both sides who look around and think, “Wow, this shit is hilarious.”
I also agree with Howard that individual women who are not funny are often used as an example to somehow prove that women in general are not funny—which I find unfair. Were this standard applied to men, Pauly Shore alone would irrevocably prove that all men as a rule are desperately unfunny. Which is fair to no one, except Pauly Shore.
Hilary Duff, you are so right to put Faye Dunaway in her place. How dare she question your acting talents? Lizzie McGuire was a tour de force!
Especially since the original Bonnie and Clyde movie was only a re-telling of the story– while the remake of the ’67 classic you’re starring in, in your own words, “is kind of like the true events of how everything went down.”
I’m sure it’s not your fault Ms. Dunaway allegedly lashed out at you. After all, she’s old! As you pointed out, “I might be mad if I looked like that now, too.” Well said, Hilary. Maybe you’ll get hit by a train and then you’ll always be young and beautiful forever!
I hope this feud does not go on for much longer. Maybe the two of you can put things right by starring in a modern, scene-for-scene remake of Mommie Dearest. Nothing would make me happier.
President Bush held a brief press conference at the White House this afternoon to introduce what he called “a bold new proposal” that he believes “will greatly simplify and improve the lives of the American people.”
The President prefaced his announcement with a call for understanding.
“We are living in troubled times,” he began. “I have found myself looking to the past to find the strength and inspiration to lead this great country. The modern world has much to learn from the wisdom of olden times. There are many great men of history, in many nations, whose ideas and values remain relevant and useful. ”
The President cleared his throat. “One of these men in particular, an eighteenth-century novelist, wrote an essay whose clear and brilliant message resonates just as strongly today as it did when it was first published in 1729. To his credit, this obscure Irish author has helped lay the framework for what my administration believes is a groundbreaking, yet simple and effective solution to one of the leading evils facing the American people today: the problem of hunger.”
“Listen to me,” President Bush continued. “Due to the failure of our schools to properly teach abstinence, teenage pregnancy rates are soaring, with no end in sight. The threat of overpopulation in this country grows more imminent every day.
“America’s dependence on foreign oil and labor has left us scrambling to meet our basic needs for food and shelter. It’s time we utilized an abundant resource that can be found right here, in most of our very own homes.”
“Children are wonderful,” the President declared. “But we have more than enough of them right now. Let us acknowledge that they are also wholesome and nutritious. Difficult times call for difficult measures, and I think the American people understand what I’m talking about.”
The President went on to describe the tax breaks that would be granted to couples who chose to view their offspring as what he called ‘deliciously non-renewable resources’.
“It is true that these progressive, ‘energy-efficient’ families will be missing out on the economic incentives that are available through our current program, which rewards parents with a $5,000.00 tax credit for each child they raise,” Bush admitted. “However, once the incentives of our new program are in place, parents will be rewarded with a hefty tax cut for making the kinds of practical and intelligent choices that are crucial for survival in the difficult and dog-eat-dog — or man-eat-baby– world of today.”
“Not only that,” he added, “but by offering the American people this choice, I am not only encouraging family togetherness, but also promoting an increase in home-cooked meals.”
“Think about it, my fellow citizens,” he concluded. “I believe that this is going to be a turning point in this history of our country. By looking to the past for inspiration, we are moving forward into a new era of succulence.”
There is very little I enjoy about any aspect of health insurance. In theory, it’s pretty great; if you have it and you get sick, you can go to the doctor without having to pawn your TV. But in practice, it’s a big mess.
Whenever I start a new job and I am lucky enough to be eligible for health insurance through it, I tend to find myself inundated with information that I am not sure how to use and also that scares me. There are too many choices. I know choices seem like a good thing to have, but health insurance choices invariably involve an intimidating handout and occasionally a degrading PowerPoint presentation. The handout is worse though. At least the PowerPoint usually has pictures-like that stylized ClipArt graphic of the guy scratching his head. I can relate to that guy. Both of us are probably thinking, “Do I need a lot of health insurance, or a little? What are the odds of getting hit by a bus if I opt for the minimal coverage I can afford?” (Ok, maybe that’s just me thinking that. The guy is just thinking “?”).
I think those handouts need to simplify. They ought to consist of one sentence followed by two boxes: The sentence should say “Do you want Health Insurance? Check Yes or No.” Bam! Done.
But instead, we have choices. Like, do I want a $2,000 deductable, or a $5,000 deductable? Do I want a $25 co-pay for doctor’s visits, or a $45 co-pay? What about specialists? Do I really see that many specialists? What about that weird mole I’ve been meaning to have checked out? What exactly constitutes a specialist anyway? And do I want dental coverage? Do I want terrible dental coverage, and I can go to any dentist I want? Do I want excellent dental coverage, and there’s only one dentist in my network and he only works on Wednesday mornings in months with an “r” in them? Do I want to have to pay $75 for an Emergency room visit, or $150? If I end up going to the emergency room, and I’ve opted for the plan with the $75 copay, will it lessen my pain, knowing I could have had to pay twice that much? Will the ER doctors treat me sooner if they know I paid more to get in?
How are my cells feeling? Any of them planning on going rogue in the next few years? Is there a history of heart disease in my family? Or just a lot of complainers? What are the odds that I’ll fall into a chasm and then get hit by lightning, and would that be covered?
How about life insurance? I’m 27, and I have a net worth of negative $3,200.00. Is this what I want to leave my family with in the event of my untimely demise? On the other hand, do I really want to put away money every month for such a morbid cause, when I could spend it on beer and downloading Nintendo games for the wii?
These are the questions that will earn you blank stares from the person whose job it is to explain your benefits to you. But they are the questions I need answered! There is nothing more frustrating than hearing this person say, “Each individual is different and has very different health insurance needs.” Yes…but wait, NO! Everyone has the same exact needs. If something happens to them; if they get sick, they want to be treated and get better, and they don’t want to have to pay through the nose for it. True, some people will have head colds and others will have cancer-but nobody knows who is going to have what. Therein lies the crux of the health insurance provider’s song and dance: “The type of coverage that best fits you,” they’ll add, “really depends on who you are as an individual, your lifestyle, and your comfort level with risk.”
Ah, risk. Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. And this is what bothers me the most about any kind of insurance, really-they’re asking you to make a bet on your own health and chances of survival. I have asthma, and terrible eyesight. I have the reflexes of a dead chicken and the sense of direction of a headless chicken. I never wear hats when it’s cold. I have high arches. Grocery shopping depresses me. Even I think my odds aren’t great.
Also, I plain don’t like gambling. I don’t enjoy risk. I don’t even play poker except with pennies. My fear of losing borders on psychopathic. Don’t even get me started on retirement; I have a 401k plan with risk options suited to an 80 year old. But that’s exactly what health insurance companies expect us to merrily do–calculate our own risk of illness, and then lay down money that we got it right.
Well, damn it. My unfortunate inability to see into the future makes this a tough call. I could live to be 90 without a single hospitalization, or I could trip over the dog and break both my legs tomorrow. That’s life! Who knows! No one does! But with insurance, we’re asked to guess. This is what bothered me so much when I was being aggressively pursued by Health Insurance Agents after my initial move to North Carolina, when I gave the free market a whirl. Health Insurance Agents are like used car salesmen crossed with snake oil salesmen crossed with vampires who know your phone number. Talk to one of them for ten minutes and you will be suddenly gripped by the fear that at any moment you could slip on the carpet and break your spine.
I only wish you could be rewarded for making the right choice. That there were some kind of positive reinforcement for skillfully placing your bets. “Hey, you picked the plan with the low rate for Specialist visits and then ended up having to see several Specialists dozens of times! Congratulations-you’ve tripled your money and doubled your health!” I guess good health is a reward unto itself…for the insured and insurance companies alike. Everybody wins.
So, fine. Take a leap of faith. Take bad vision coverage, and good dental. Take maximum life insurance and minimum disability. Make as educated a decision as you can after viewing a PowerPoint presentation, then roll the dice and see what happens. It’s a gamble, but it’s the best you can do-and I guess it’s better than nothing.
Up at 6am
At work by 7:15
Who did I piss off?
Twelve hour workdays
I’m getting too old for this
Also too lazy
Broccoli and rum
Don’t tell me that they don’t make
A balanced dinner
Damn it workplaces
Stop giving me free candy
My butt is a shelf
Although I complain
Life is pretty good right now
Just need to add sleep
You just have to sit back with a few glasses of wine and watch “The Wedding Date” with the dog. Of course, the movie was his choice. Damn it, Charlie! I don’t need to see Debra Messing as an unlucky-in-love spinster who has to hire Durmot Mulroney as her wedding date! Oh, all right. If you insist. Another glass? Oh, I guess so. If that’s what you want. Man, Debra Messing sure is unlucky in love. When will she catch a break?
Oh, right. At the end of the movie. Well, good for her.