“Comedy helps you practice communication, confidence, bravery—how to live in the moment, process challenges, survive failure, get up there without a script: pretty much everything we try to teach girls, all rolled into one.” — Girls’ leadership coach Laurie Wolk
Comedy is power.
“Comedy is pure power. You’re up there by yourself. You’ve got that mic,” says Susie Essman. And it’s especially potent for girls, says Rosalind Wiseman, author of (among many other books) Queen Bees and Wannabes (source material for “Mean Girls”!) and founder of Cultures of Dignity. “Girls are out there for people’s scrutiny all the time. With comedy, they’re in a different kind of spotlight—one that they define. Comedy lets them say, ‘I think this is important.’ It gives them a new and different way to claim authority and power.”
Comedy helps you be YOU.
The best comedy comes from who you are, not who you wish you were. “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers,” Lena Waithe has said—and they’re your funny. What makes you different is what makes you funny, and what makes you funny is what makes you strong.
Comedy smashes perfectionism.
Comedy is messy—and it’s made of harmless little fails that you quickly learn will not kill you. “You can’t be perfect andfunny. Perfect isn’t funny,” says Lynn Johnson, CEO of Spotlight Girls!
Comedy boosts confidence.
Comedy forces you to try things out—in public!—without being 100% sure they’ll work. It helps you realize there’s only so much of a situation you can control, which is a highly annoying yet extremely healthy realization—one that helps you know you can walk into any situation and deal with whatever happens.
Comedy is good for your brain.
Cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems, Ph.D. found that people exposed to comedy are better able to solve creative problems. He says: “Just as physical exercise strengthens the body, comedy pumps up the mind.” recommend).
Comedy makes you a better writer.
Listen to any comic and hear: how much information they convey in how few words; how they use specificity and detail; how they use words to show you what happened, not just tell you about it; how they order their words in a sentence. That’s not just being funny—that’s writing (and a ton of rewriting). That’s how comedy teaches you to say exactly what you need to say: no more, no less.
Comedy makes you a better speaker.
Says Colin Lingle, Ph.D., experienced improviser and expert in political communication: “Building your ideas into a story, especially a funny one, is not the work of slackers. Telling jokes to a live audience tunes your senses to how people react. This information can shape your entire life. It’s like training for the Olympics of Standing Up in Front of People. Once you learn it, any other venue seems like mini-golf.”
Comedy (humor) makes you better at your job
Whether it’s taking over multinational corporations or scooping froyo. “There’s all this evidence around the ROI of humor,” says Naomi Bogdanas, co-author of the Stanford-tastic “Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is A Secret Weapon in Business and Life.” Study upon study shows that having a sense of humor helps teams solve problems and makes people want to work with and for you.
Comedy is perfect for shy people.
Many people say, “I would do comedy, but I’m too shy.” No, you’re not. Fun fact: COMEDIANS ARE SHY. Why do you think they like to talk on stage, or wear giant mustaches? So they don’t have to TALK TO PEOPLE. Carol Burnett has said she can perform only when she’s in character. Joan Rivers has described feeling awkward chatting in real life, one on one. Being shy is part of your funny—own it.
Comedy helps tackle tricky topics.
Says Aparna Nancherla: “Humor opens a lot of conversations that would be difficult to have otherwise.” Here’s how Iliza Shlesinger puts it: “You can shroud an ‘agenda’ in comedy, and it’s more digestible. Of course the laughs come first, but the message is, once I’ve gotten you laughing, I want to get you thinking.”
Comedy helps you deal with tough stuff.
Comedy is power—over pain.“My race and gender have been a source of pain in my life so I use humor to reassert power over the things I feel least funny about,” says San Francisco standup Allison Mick. How does that work? “Comedy is almost a form of cognitive therapy,” says Leslie Sokol, Ph.D., author of Think Confident, Be Confident and Think Confident, Be Confident For Teens. When you search for the humor in something painful, she explains, you force yourself to examine it, hold it at a distance, stop it from taking you over. “It pulls you toward a less negative, more healthy perspective,” she says. “Comedy helps you cope.”
We need more women in many professions, such as president of the United States, and Ghostbuster. But bottom line, comedy matters. So there are (at least) 8 reasons why women—starting with you!—matter to comedy.
Comedy is power.
Comedy is a social and cultural force—when everyone has access to it, it’s a zillion times stronger.
Women are a gender, not a genre.
Aparna Nancherla: “‘What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?’ 1% jokes and 99% answering this question.” More women (and non-straight cis white dudes) in comedy would mean that female comedians are not “female comedians”—they’re comedians.
Comedy is business.
As in any other industry, individualized and institutionalized sexism (and other -isms) keep women (and others) down, sidelined, or out. More women in comedy—especially in positions of power—will help burn those walls down.
More women in comedy makes everyone funnier.
Cameron Esposito: “If you are a straight, white, 22-year-old dude and you do stand up comedy, there are a lot of you. So if you put a woman who is Black and 35 in between two straight, white, 22-year-old dudes, those dudes look more interesting. They get to be a counterpoint—something that straight, white men rarely get to experience. Not only are the people that had historically less representation benefitting from being around more diversity, but so are the people who are in the majority.”
Comedy has something to say.
Comedians are “today’s public intellectuals,” as The Atlantic put it. “People look to Amy Schumer and her fellow jokers not just to make fun of the world, but to make sense of it. And maybe even to help fix it.” And if more minds could be opened to more ideas from more people who don’t necessarily look like them, we’d all be better for it. We’re talking to you, late night comedy.
More women in comedy means more women in comedy.
White dudes who try comedy invite their friends (white dudes?) to their shows. When audience white dudes see comedy white dudes, audience white dudes go, “I could do that.” And they do. And invite their friends. And THE CYCLE CONTINUES—but WE CAN BREAK IT. “Women are limited in our imagination by the things we have seen women do. We don’t see ourselves as presidents because we never have female presidents,” says Cameron Esposito. “So if you watch other women tell jokes, something switches in your mind where you realize that you can tell jokes.” P.S. You can also be president.