Feminism & Co.'s Funny Women: Can you be too much of a woman on stage?
But when she took questions from the audience, she remarked that women weren't necessarily encouraged to talk about "being women" on stage. And then she told an anecdote about how Janeane Garofalo's stand-up often led to clubs not booking women for a long time after. In telling that, it seemed Kahaney was saying that Garofalo's content came off as "too feminine" for mainstream audiences.
Kahaney also spoke to the idea that often, women have to choose between a comedy career and having a family -- if a woman does choose to take time off from her career to focus on having and raising a child, Kahaney emphasized, she may have a hard time getting work when she re-enters the scene years later. And she also referred to Louis CK's ability to do so easily as a man, in effect because his now ex-wife could take care of his daughters -- meaning he didn't have to leave the game for so long.
I could see the definite merit in her argument, but I felt her way of thinking was part of the barrier: Sure, women can and do have a harder time in the entertainment industry in general -- but the women she presented as pioneers persevered in (in some ways) in a much harsher social environment than today's. So I didn't understand why women in stand-up would have to tone it down now, in 2012.
Coincidentally, from this lecture I headed to Comedy Works to see Amy Shumer's sold out 10 p.m. show. In the ninety-minute set, she talked about many forbidden, "feminine" things -- oral sex, the morning-after pill and abortions, not to mention fisting and sexually transmitted diseases. It seemed as though she was indirectly disproving Kahaney's message -- that women can, in fact, be dirty and graphic and feminine, and make audiences of both sexes laugh their asses off. Equally.