*one-dimensional female character from a male-driven comedy*

I started this post months ago. I’m not 100% sure what my overall argument is, just that I’m a mad, mad girl. In the time elapsed, the incomparable Take My Wife has been released on iTunes and via Starz. Busy Phillips got a late-night talk show. Things are happening. But we’re still stuck. Perhaps one day I’ll finish this piece. But until then, enjoy some wine-fueled ramblings from last winter.

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I want to preface this by saying RIP to The Mighty Quinn, the show that Jen Kirkman sold to ABC that unfortunately didn’t go to pilot. Also, RIP to NBC’s Whitney, which lasted 2 great seasons, Comedy Central’s Sarah Silverman Program, which lasted a mere 32 episodes, Hulu’s Difficult People, which was cancelled after 3 seasons despite being one of the most well-written shows of its era, and potentially, NBC’s Great News. If you’re a comedy neophyte, you may not know what these series have in common. Thematically? Nothing. Because “woman” isn’t a genre.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 50 years, you know that women have been changing the comedy game since the day they were first allowed on stage. From Moms Mabley, to Phyllis Diller, to Joan Rivers, to Carol Burnett to contemporary performers like Silverman, Kirkman, Alice Wetterlund, Phoebe Robinson, Cameron Esposito, Rhea Butcher, Naomi Ekperigin, Sam Jay (Chelsea, stop listing people you’re obsessed with, it’s thirsty af), women are and have always been a vital part of the standup scene. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel isn’t falling on deaf ears. (P.S. Bravo to Brosnahan for such incredible delivery.)

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Male-led shows about comedy (I’m dying up here notwithstanding since I haven’t seen it) tend to be funny by virtue of the fact that they star male comedians. Watch an episode of Louie (in secret, lest anyone find out you’re supporting the Infamous Masturbator), and note the jokes. Outside of the scenes where Louis is performing standup, are there any? C.K.’s series makes a concerted effort to be #deep regarding body image and race, but it’s not funny, per se. Maron‘s final season is fucking depressing—he goes to rehab, fathers a child with whom he’s not allowed a relationship, and absconds to rural California in ruin. Crashing starts with a man-child cuckold without the slightest ability to care for himself. Women-led comedy series, however, don’t have the luxury of leaning on the fame (or notoriety) of their stars. They just have to be fucking funny. So funny, in fact, that they’re often too funny for a general audience used to pratfalls and “Bazinga!”s.

Say what you will about Fey & Carlock’s 30 Rock [insert objection to Alec Baldwin’s existence], it is one of the best pieces of television in the medium’s history. It is expertly written, by a fairly diverse staff of writers (Tracey Wigfield and Donald Glover are notable alums). The main plot of 30 Rock, at least at its inception: Liz Lemon and Jenna Maroney spearhead The Girlie Show, a women-led comedy sketch series, at NBC. Due to low ratings, a GE executive (at the time, GE owned NBC—now Comcast does) Jack Donaghy decides to add Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) to the cast, due to his popularity with the 18-24 year old male demographic. Hilarity ensues.

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30 Rock, despite consistently low ratings, survived seven seasons, a milestone that many woman-run series never achieve (holla @ Gilmore Girls). 30 Rock, for a long time, filled an essential gap at the time—it portrayed a flawed woman in all of her glory, a flawed woman whom the audience is supposed to root for. It’s not perfect (Twitter hates Tina Fey because she made a couple of shitty off-hand comments about stripping over the years), but it’s of its time and essential to a contemporary audience attempting to understand the history of women in television. Bush was still President when this show was airing! God, remember him? We hated him so much, the war criminal, but we had no clue how bad it could get. Bring back Bush/Cheney if it means North Korea won’t take out my California family.

Digression aside, apart from Queen Regent Shonda Rimes, there truly are not that many female showrunners (or for that fucking matter, trans or gender-fluid TV showrunners) in the biz at the present moment, so we millennials have to give respect where it’s due.

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There is plenty of good stuff about LouieMaron, and Crashing. I don’t mean to pick on them, but two of them are goddamn named after their respective creators. Louie is one of the few shows I’ve ever seen to employ obvious race-blind casting. Maron does a good job of painting its central character as the unsympathetic “problem,” and Crashing portrays Pete’s cheating wife with a touching level of sympathy. But each of these show is bolstered by its women, who are subsequently given no recognition for their roles In Crashing, specifically, Jamie Lee has revitalized Crashing in a way I didn’t think possible. Lauren Lapkus was the undeniable highlight of season one, and Jamie Lee is stealing the show in the sophomore season. I love Pete Holmes, so I hesitate to criticize him, but his story as a layabout man-child aspiring comic is far less compelling than the journey of his woman costars.

If we’re going to see gender parity and inclusivity in comedy, we’ve got to give woman-led series a chance to breathe. A chance to grow. It’s time.

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Kool Things IV

Another week for the books! It literally snowed yesterday, because April Fool’s Day is real. I needed my escape, and I found it in memoirs and comedy, by which no one is surprised. These are the things that got me through the hail/sleet/snow hellscape that was this week.

This Show

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Crashing, Pete Holmes

I cannot even believe that I haven’t written about Crashing yet! Crashing, the semi-autobiographical brainchild of brilliant comedian and beautiful human being, Pete Holmes, is HBO’s newest Sunday night series. It tells the (dramatized) story of Pete’s divorce and entry into the New York City stand-up scene. Guest stars have (thus far) included comedy powerhouses like Sarah Silverman, Artie Lang, and TJ Miller, as well as one of my personal favorites, Aparna Nancherla.

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If you don’t yet know the delightful Pete Holmes, well, you should. He briefly hosted his own talk show that aired weeknights after Conan, The Pete Holmes Show, hosts an interview podcast called You Made It Weird that never fails to get spiritual, and landed an HBO special called Faces and Sounds that dropped in December. He’s a hometown hero, hailing, like myself, from Metro Boston (I think Somerville or thereabouts). Pete Holmes truly has one of the most unique voices in comedy—his relentless optimism and winning smile make jokes like calling himself “Lesbian Val Kilmer” all the more powerful. Crashing chronicles Pete’s days as a fresh-faced comedy newbie; now, though, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

*Crashing airs Sunday nights at 10:30 on HBO.

This Book

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Real Artists Have Day Jobs, Sara Benincasa

This week I’ve been devouring this amazing book of essays by comedian and author Sara Benincasa, and it’s been an emotional journey. I finished it on my lunch break today and it took everything I had not to publicly sob. I hesitate to call this book “self-help,” but if you read it, you will help yo’ self. For real. The words of wisdom in this book range from “brush your damn teeth” to “treat your vagina like the magical temple that it is.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get it. Benincasa gets very frank about her own struggles with mental illness but never fails to be disarmingly hilarious. As someone who aspires to a reasonable facsimile of this incredible woman’s career, it is inspiring beyond belief to read of someone rising from the ashes of her own self-destruction and kicking major ass purely through hard work and talent. 10/10, read this f***ing book.

I’ve already ordered one of her other books, Agorafabulous!, which I can’t wait to start reading!

Check out her short film, The Focus Group, on Vimeo.

*The kindle version of Real Artists Have Day Jobs is only $1.99 right now, my dudes! Go forth and read!

This Special

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Pizza Mind, Sasheer Zamata

SNL cast member and jumpsuit messiah Sasheer Zamata just dropped her very first stand-up special on the incredible comedy streaming service, Seeso. The stunning and brilliant Ms. Zamata tackles race, feminism, and being named after Star Trek like a gotdamn professional. Topics of discussion include “resting bitch face,” her brief employment at Disney world, and the (very f***ing true) fact that white girls are constantly shedding hair all over the place. The special is hilarious, but it’s also a thoughtful, educational experience. Sasheer Zamata does not care if her material on race makes you uncomfortable. That’s on you.

Pizza Mind is must-see TV. If you have a spare hour, give it a watch. You will be rewarded with a magical cartoon adventure and a show-stopping finale number #nospoilers.

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DID I GODDAMN MENTION THE JUMPSUIT, THOUGH? My ladies who art in comedy are KILLING it in the wardrobe game lately.

Watch her bit about her tricky-to-pronounce first name here.

Watch her in “Black Jeopardy”, one of SNL’s finest skits. Here she is with Drake, Tom Hanks, Louis CK, and Elizabeth Banks.

*Pizza Mind is now streaming on SeeSo!

Dis Phone

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I upgraded early and got an iPhone 7 this week! I almost went Plus, but I tried out my husband’s 6+ for a little while, and the damn thing’s just too big! I like being able to rock the one-handed text. But don’t text and drive! Do as I say, not as I do! The transition from iPhone 6 to 7 has been like night and day! It’s faster, there are two speakers, and it’s PINK. I know I’m predictable and basic, but the more pink I can get in my life, the better! I also got the 128G model (4 times the storage of my last phone!) so that I could combine the functions of iPhone and iPod (I’ve been using my iPhone 4 from many years ago as an iPod—the thing was begging to be sent to a farm upstate, it was dead and buried). Despite the foolish amount of music I’ve put on it, I still only seem to listen to Hamilton…

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We got a shipment of phone cases from The Casery to my work, so I also treated myself to this amazing case. Kendrick Lamar fans, unite! This isn’t a sales pitch for my work or anything, since y’all don’t know where I work, nor is it an ad for The Casery, but seriously, you guys, these cases are the absolute best. The designs are the cutest I’ve ever seen (donuts! sushi! cacti!) and the cases are super well made. I’m obsessed…I might need to get this one next, in honor of the little cat that started it all—Della!

This Game

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Stump! Trivia

I’ve been playing Stump! Trivia for ten whole years, since way before it was appropriate for me to be hanging out at a bar on a weeknight. I’m not actually sure it’s even appropriate now. But alas, such is my addiction to trivia and other brain puzzles—every Wednesday night for the past year (and many Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in years past), my father and I have ordered a round of drinks and a basket of french fries and challenged ourselves to a battle of wits in the quest for a restaurant gift card.

Stump! is arguably the best trivia game in the Boston area (it was started in Marshfield), but it’s now a nationwide company that offers fun, challenging trivia and Questionnairey (a Family Feud-style game) at bars and private events. Long story short, I am a huge, huge fangirl, and a frequent player. So, the other night, after a particularly exciting win at our local pub, I applied to be a host.

I had applied years and years ago, but was likely much too young to be considered. Doesn’t super make sense to hire an underage girl to work in a bar—I don’t hold the lack of response against them. But this time, I heard back via email almost immediately and set up an audition!

I wasn’t looking for a second job, and the extra few bucks a week won’t make a huge difference to me financially, but the public speaking experience is priceless! The whole gig is essentially an improv performance—something I’ve been anxious about for years! I recently admitted to myself that my dream is actually to be Conan O’Brien (or a reasonable lady approximation)—writer, performer, icon. Okay, I’m joking about the icon part, but in order to achieve even a tiny sliver of my dream, I’m going to need to get better in front of a crowd.

If you’re in the Boston/South Shore area, come support me here!

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Thanks for letting me blab about my obsessions for a month straight! What are you obsessed with lately?

—DellaBites

*as usual, all of the images via google or the sites linked in each description!