8 Funniest, Most Outrageous Women Comedians

One of the main ways sexists try to discredit feminism is to stereotype feminists as uptight, frigid and humorless. Unfortunately, the world of comedy has long marginalized women, making it hard for funny feminists to get in front of the public to change that perception. A few have gotten through—Roseanne Barr comes to mind—but in recent years, there’s been a surge of women in mainstream comedy making overtly feminist jokes. It’s getting harder and harder every day to convince people that feminists can’t be funny. Here’s some of the choicer bits of feminist comedy to come out in the past few years.

1. Sick and Tired

Wanda Sykes really kicked off this golden age of feminist comedy with her 2006 comedy special “Sick and Tired." She riffed on sex, gender, and what it means to struggle against sexism in the 21st century. Particularly hilarious was her bit about how she wishes she could just leave her vagina at home sometimes when she’s going about town doing her business. “You could visit a professional ball player’s hotel room at two o’clock in the morning,” she exclaims. “Sex? Nuh-uh. My pussy’s not even in the building. I’m just here to talk about your jump shot.”

2. Broad City

It's hard to pick one bit out of this show, created by and starting Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, which teems with feminist insight and hilariously filthy humor. But one episode, "Stolen Phone" had a B plot that might be one of the smartest takes on female sexuality ever put on TV. In it, Ilana sleeps with a man named Tyler, who is ridiculously hunky, loves nothing more than going down on a woman for hours, thinks pubic hair is hot, and is bisexual. Ilana thinks she's died and gone to heaven, until she finds out he's a crappy improv actor who leans heavily on sexist humor and stupid puns in an ill-fated attempt to get laughs. "I'm embarrassed that he was inside of me," Ilana complains to her friend Abbi. 

That's what this show is so good at: Using raunchy humor so deftly you don't even realize they're making sharply feminist points. That women care about the personality of the men they sleep with is frequently used against them to argue that women aren't really interested in sex for its own sake, but just as a way to get men to like them. But it's clear that Ilana loves sex and has very specific interests, so much so that she's torn when she has to choose between hanging out with a man who annoys her or not getting to have sex with a hunk who loves cunnilingus. 

3. Parks and Recreation

NBC’s comedy starring Amy Poehler had a lot of humor about small-town American life, including plenty of shots at casual sexism. One particularly notable bit is when Poehler’s character Leslie Knope is being questioned by a cop who assumes women are naturally bad at shooting, and Poehler starts riffing on some of the sillier stereotypes men sometimes have about women. “All I want to do is have babies!” “Are you single?” “This would not happen if I had a penis.” “Bitches be crazy!” “I’m good at tolerating pain, I’m bad at math, and I’m stupid.”

4. Football Town Nights 

Comedy Central sketch show "Inside Amy Schumer" has, in its third season, blossomed into a routine source of outrageous feminist humor. One sketch in particular, “Football Town Nights," showed how funny rape humor can be when rapists are the butt of the joke, instead of victims. This parody/tribute to "Friday Night Lights" features Josh Charles playing a high school football coach who wants to institute a “no raping” rule on his team, only to find resistance not just from the players, but the entire community. The players, in a bit of dialogue that resembles the comment section of any feminist article on rape, keep trying to find loopholes to allow them to have sex with unwilling girls. “What if she thinks it’s rape but I don’t?” “What if she’s drunk and has a slight reputation….” “What if the girl said yes but then she changes her mind out of nowhere, like a crazy person?” The sketch deftly exposed how silly it is to think it’s unreasonable to wait for enthusiastic consent before having sex.   

5. Veep

There’s almost no topic related to politics or media that this rapid-fire HBO sitcom about a narcissistic vice president played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus won’t touch on, including sexism and abortion politics. In an episode titled “The Choice,” V.P. Selina Meyer, who is adamantly pro-choice, blanches at publicly addressing the issue, afraid of taking a position lest she turn off any would-be voters. When her advisors suggest she write a speech where she speaks about the issue as a woman, Meyer freaks out. “I can’t identify as a woman! People can’t know that. Men hate that. And women who hate women hate that, which, I believe, is most women.” As Hillary Clinton’s campaign starts heating up, this joke seems particularly prescient.

6. Kristen Schaal on the Daily Show

Just a few years ago, The Daily Show was coming under fire for its lack of female voices and its hesitance to subject sexism to the same satirical spotlight it had for other political silliness. That’s all changed, in part because of the frequent use of Kristen Schaal, whose absurd but cutting sense of humor has been put to great use in attacking the Republican war on women. It’s hard to pick her best bit, but I’m fond of her parodying how condescending Republicans are to women who vote for Democrats. “We gave Obama our hearts and all we got in return was this free birth control?” she says is an outraged tone before pouring a bowl of pills in her mouth. “So reckless,” she exclaims, sending up Republican rhetoric that equates using insurance coverage to pay for contraception with being a slut.

7. Jessica Williams on the Daily Show

While Schaal tackles feminist themes with her goofy, often surreal riffing, Williams tends to a more sarcastic, straightforward, but just as funny approach to mocking sexism. Consider her response to Arthur Aidala, who bragged on Fox News about how he likes to cat call women on the sidewalk by applauding them, which he insists women must like because they smile when he does it. “Those smiles do not indicate a 90 percent success rate,” Williams retorted. “It means that the woman is trying her best to end this interaction, because if she doesn't smile, he might tell her to smile. If she tells him to leave her alone, he'll probably call her a bitch. ... What he's doing is basically just a high-minded Lincoln Center version of, Hey, sweet tits," she concluded.

8. Obvious Child

While much of the best feminist comedy is on TV and in standup, some of it is leaking into the movie scene, bit by bit. Obvious Child started as a response to movies like Knocked Up or Juno that treat abortion as if it were out of the question, but it morphed into more. Donna Stern, played by Jenny Slate, doesn’t even hesitate to abort a pregnancy caused by a one-night stand with Max, played by Jake Lacy, but ends up falling in love with him anyway. Obvious Child doesn’t just upend the “never show abortion” rule of rom-coms, but also rejects a number of clichés  about men, women and romance that rule less interesting, more retrograde romantic comedies.  

This is just a sampling of what women are doing these days in comedy, showing that women can be funny without having to wallow in tedious stereotypes: Bridesmaids, 30 Rock, The Mindy Project, Broad City (which may be the funniest show on TV right now), the female-heavy cast of Saturday Night Live. The list goes on and on. Hard to believe that just a few years ago, there was a national debate over whether women are funny.

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