Theater Thursdays: Where My Sketch Comedy Ladies At?

Since before the days of vaudeville troupes of performers have been rampant in comedic performance, especially in improv comedy. Those troupes such as The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, The Lonely Island, The Whitest Kids You Know, and many more are all arguably great and talented groups who have brought laughter and joy to many. The thing is, though they are indeed funny, they are also completely and utterly all men. I can guarantee that almost all of you could remember at least one sketch (or song) from among the groups mentioned. The obvious question is why are there no all-female sketch comedy troupes? I will admit there are women in sketch comedy. However, it is almost always either roughly half men/half women like Saturday Night Live or many men and one woman like… Monty Python.

Now, some may argue that there are all-female comedy troupes that are funny and how dare I suggest they don’t exist? They do exist, and I’m sure they are are absolutely fabulous, but they are not famous. What makes us flock to these all-male troupes? What causes them to be so memorable? Why do we not see some ladies acting silly with only other ladies in comedy sketches? In this instance, I am sad to say that it is most likely the old tired clichés of “women aren’t funny, women are easily offended, women can’t appeal to a man’s sense of humor (as if theirs is the only one that matters), and women don’t make ratings.” I could go on, but it would make me angry and anger leads to wrinkles. Got to keep looking young, am I right ladies? (No). The powers that be (television networks, movie producers, stupid people with much power and money but little sense) are less willing to risk money on something different, which is probably why more and more people are flocking to the computer screen when they need a laugh than to the movie and television screen. Which brings me to the Canadian all-women sketch comedy troupe called She Said What.

She Said What consists of The Canadian Comedy Award nominated Carly Heffernan, Emma Hunter, Megan MacKeigan and Marni Van Dyk. Everyone has things they can’t stand, and things that make them laugh so hard they almost crack a rib. I offer you these funny ladies, who are definitely the latter. So watch the video below and make these women famous!

Portlandia and The Feminist Bookstore

I’ve never been to Portland, OR, but I have been around a hipster, which, if Portlandia is any indication, is pretty much the same thing. For those of you who haven’t heard of it Portlandia is a Peabody Award-winning satiric sketch comedy television series, which is set and filmed in Portland. It stars Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen and the lead guitarist and singer for indie rock/post-punk band Wild Flag Carrie Brownstein. The show has sprouted some phrases such as the famous “put a bird on it!” poking fun at people who slap a bird on a purse and call it art (I’m looking at you, Etsy),“Portland is where young people go to retire”, and my favorite “…plastic bags also cause pelican cancer”—which may be true, for all I know (save the pelicans, use reusable grocery bags!). Armisen and Brownstein play many different characters on the show, but the Feminist Bookstore Ladies are by far the funniest. While most of the other characters on the show are often silly right off the bat, Toni and Candace, the co-owners of the feminist bookstore “Women & Women First” are so straight faced it’s ridiculous. They are some of the most believable characters I’ve seen not only on the show, but in other shows as well. It truly shows their talent as comedic actors. These characters they are especially in sync.

The first skit these characters appear in is in season one, episode one. Not realizing that the bathroom is for paying customers only, a customer (Steve Buscemi) is forced to buy something while the two women continuously cause problems for him. It is delightfully awkward. This skit establishes the characters very well. Candace (Armisen) the older of the two women is a mild mother earth type, but is the first to threaten violence at the least provocation (a running gag has her pouring gas over everything when she is upset.) The younger woman Toni (Brownstein) is always the first to become offended and often twists around peoples; words to that affect. Her monotone voice and joyless outlook on life is especially hilarious. I always forget that its Brownstein when she is in that character, since it is so different compared to the others. She is by far my favorite of the two.

At first I was a bit miffed by this sketch. Feminism gets a bad rap as it is without this show seemingly mocking its more extreme members. However, after watching it again I understood what they were going for. Like in any group there are people whose radical ways tend to make the more sober members look bad. These two extreme ‘feminists’ have become so bound by their dogma that they start attacking other women who do not share their exact lifestyle or belief system. This is especially seen in some of their other sketches. They treated the women studies student who wore frayed shorts and attends a stripping class (for exercise) quite badly. They also made fun of her professor. Also Candace did a mock impression of her daughter Donna, which even Toni thought was uncalled for. It’s obvious that both Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are feminists and these characters are meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

Overall, it’s a great show that everyone should be watching! Watch Portlandia Fridays at 10/9c on IFC, it’s also available on Netflix.