Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fearless Females In Comedy...

Buried under a mountain of dick jokes and sweaty, hairy men, the one shining go-to for laughs in Universal Studios' Funny People was supporting actress Leslie Mann. No stranger to the boys' club, Mann is a graduate from the Apatow school but has proved herself to be more than a worthy opponent when stealing scenes regardless of whether or not the man behind the camera was in her family. Though she has been in this business for almost twenty years, Mann has only been getting the critical acclaim she so richly deserves in the last few.

Mann can be seen playing both funny and surprisingly serious alongside Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen in Funny People, out on DVD next Tuesday, November 24th. However, she is not the only fearless female in comedy finally getting their due; she simply leads the list.

Sure, the obvious choices would be Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Kathy Griffin, but let's face it: all of those women have been front and center in the spotlight for at least a few years now. While that shouldn't take anything away from their particular brand of humor or their wicked smarts, there is a whole other generation coming up with Mann who are worthy of sharing her company.

Kaitlin Olson is best known as Deandra "Sweet Dee" Reynolds on FX' It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where she, too, is the lone female in a bar filled with neanderthal-esque man-children. Though the role could have easily become the stereotypical matriarchal type that just rolls her eyes and wags her finger disapprovingly at the boys', Olson's own knack for sick and somewhat twisted jokes at her own expense made her part of an ensemble instead of simply fading into the background. She has more recently parlayed her penchant for zingers into film roles in the independent relationship comedy Weather Girl as well as the upcoming Amy Adams helmed Leap Year.

Wanda Sykes toured the country doing stand-up comedy for years, but though her fellow comics called her one of the funniest in the business, she didn't become a household name until much more recently. Her own, self-titled (Wanda at Large) show was short-lived, but once she popped up on The New Adventures of Old Christine as the sassy best friend and moral compass for the title character, Sykes found herself with legions of new fans. Splitting her time between that sitcom and her own late night talk show just means double the chance for audiences to be splitting their sides with laughter.

Two years ago, there was a comedy on-air about a group of misfit blue collar workers who decide to get rich quick by robbing Mick Jagger (The Knights of Prosperity). The show fell flat amongst most audiences, but one actor stood out among the rest: Sofia Vergara. Now, it is two years later, and Vergara has found herself on another television comedy, Modern Family, playing the second (and much younger!) wife to Ed O'Neill's character. Vergara may be a repeated offender on Maxim's Hot 100 list; she may have a thick accent; and she may be a natural blonde, but both of those things only worked with her to surprise everyone with her natural aptitude for comedy. Thanks to her impeccable timing and ability to hold her own opposite comedy greats, her role on Modern Family is not simply a ditzy, one note trophy wife; instead she steals focus week after week.

Chelsea Handler says what is on her mind whether she is delivering a monologue to a live studio audience, writing a book about past relationships, or interviewing the very person of which she is making fun. Handler manages to ride the line between sassy and just plain abrasive, though, mastering it in a way that certain female comedians before her could not. Always opinionated and never one to fall victim to filters (either self-imposed or imposed by her network), Handler goes up against a handful of other comics on her own show every night and always manages to come out on top.

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