One man got up on stage and noted his tight t-shirt might get him in trouble tonight (again with the confusion over what consent is), another told an offensive joke concerning razor blades and gay men's sex lives. A domestic violence joke had to be done because the comic had dropped his rape jokes: “people don't like those any more.” What does this discerning guy do as a day job? Policeman. Not for the first time, in an unfortunately silent bar, I turned to my friend and commented: “Well I could do that.”
Amateur stand up might not be my calling or my great talent but I am fond of thinking I could last 5 minutes on stage without offending the audience. What was interesting was the creeping suspicion these men weren't particularly funny at any time, whether on stage or with their friends. They only thing that was laughable was the insistence on their part that they had girlfriends.
I have been to many stand up comedy nights and even when women do take part they are still always outnumbered. This is not because there aren't as many funny women but their aren't as many funny women setting a precedent. Or not funny women setting a precedent. Any women at all just leaping up there and cracking out a joke or hilarious anecdote.
Phyllis Diller, one of the only women I have seen to not just laugh at her own jokes, but to revel in them died last night. I would say Diller is the last of the pioneers of women who found fame being in comedy. Women who think themselves as The Funny One owe their position (imagined or no) to Diller, particularly if their schtick is to laugh at themselves.
Just as Virginia Woolf ventured that we women should lay flowers at Aphra Behn's grave, we should be placing Fancy Salted Nuts at Diller's.
Ellen Degeneres commented: "We lost a comedy legend today. Phyllis Diller was the queen of the one-liners. She was a pioneer." But it is Joan Rivers who points out what we have lost: "The only tragedy is that Phyllis Diller was the last from an era that insisted a woman had to look funny in order to be funny." Diller was candid about her face lifts and surgery, once telling Dawn French that it was only after her first face lift that she attracted men. But Diller happily went on stage in comedy wigs with a cigarette and feathered costumes to cackle and take down her fictional husband Fang with no vanity.
Another interesting and important fact about Diller's comedy career is that she did not embark upon it until her late thirties, with 5 children and a husband. "I became a stand-up comedienne because I had a sit-down husband." Starting on the comedy circuit at 37 and befriending Bob Hope, who she worked with on films and TV. In the 1950s women's lib had an example of a woman who had it ALL. Diller went on to have ALL the husbands too, fictional and non-fictional "Fang is permanent in the act, of course, don't confuse him with my real husbands. They're temporary."
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