out this week, 8/2 & 8/9: Tig Notaro…the next great female comic…
Posted by Brad Schelden, August 18, 2011
I have been a huge fan of strong female comedians since I can remember. My first memory is probably of Joan Rivers on the Muppet Show or in The Muppets Take Manhattan. If you have not yet seen her recent documentary A Piece of Work, you must do so right now. Amazing stuff.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love Bea Arthur. I was too young to watch Maude, but I was instantly in love with The Golden Girls. I think I honestly just wanted them all to be my grandmothers. How awesome would it be to go to Miami for the weekend to stay with Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia. I am sure this was not every kids dream. But it was mine. I didn’t have some Harold and Maude type fantasy. I was gay after all. But I just wanted to hang out. Talk about current events. Make fun of celebrities or people in general. I loved that sarcastic and humorous outlook on life. And The Golden Girls might have been the first show that I remember to feature gay characters. There were other shows of course. But not many. golden girls Dorothy’s old friend visits and turns out to be lesbian and falls in love with Rose. Blanche’s brother visits and comes out to her in his golden years. And of course the very first episode features a gay housekeeper. My favorite character was of course Dorothy, played by the amazing Bea Arthur. If there is one celebrity I could go back in time to hang out with or have dinner with, It would probably be Bea Arthur. She was hilarious and sarcastic. But also brutally honest and warm and sincere. She loved her friends and her family more than anything. But she understood a good joke and could never be mad at anyone for too long. She was sort of my role model. And she also got me in love with the female comic. Gay guys have always flocked to the female comic. There just are not that many out gay male comedians. At least there weren’t in the ’80s and ’90s. So these comics were all we had to relate too. And honestly, they were a whole lot better than any of the gay male comics that I had seen or heard about. Female comics were sort of outsiders just like the gays. Bea Arthur probably opened the doors for a lot of these women. At least the TV comic. There would probably be no Roseanne without Bea Arthur. I seriously can’t imagine my life with either one of them.
Bea Arthur did for the TV female comic, Joan Rivers did for the stand up comic. Joan Rivers was also brutally honest. Like Sophia on The Golden Girls, she never held back. She said what was on her mind. I don’t think there could be a Kathy Griffin, Janeane Garofalo, Wanda Sykes, Sandra Bernhard, Margaret Cho, or Sarah Silverman without Joan RIvers.
There are obviously different styles of female stand up comedians. Most of the good ones end up with their own sitcom or talk show, which is sort of the goal — a stable job that doesn’t involve the crazy kind of travel needed to be a stand up comic. Sarah Silverman ended up creating one of the most brilliant shows ever. The Sarah Silverman Show, unfortunately, didn’t last long enough. But she and Brian Posehn together is magic. Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell ended up with two of the most successful daytime talk shows. Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar ended up hosting The View. Joy Behar also has a nighttime news show. While I am not a huge fan of The View, I am a huge fan of the comedy of both Whoopi and Joy. Whoopi Goldberg has been in some of my favorite movies…at least some of my favorites of the ’80s. She gave us Jumpin’ Jack Flash in 1986, and Burglar and Fatal Beauty in 1987. Ghost in 1990. Sister Act in 1992.
Ellenjumpin’ jack flash DeGeneres was the star of a very successful sitcom and now that Oprah has left us, Ellen probably has the most successful daytime talk show. I was never really a fan of Kathy Griffin until her reality show started. I just didn’t really know much about her, and I was not about to watch some sitcom starring Brooke Shields. But how can you not love somebody who is such a supporter of the gays? And so hilarious. I was hooked after the first time I saw her perform. Going back much further, I do have faint memories of Phyllis Diller — probably from Scooby Doo or The Mad Monster Party — but I did always love her. She got her start at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, so how can I not love that? I was also obsessed with Lily Tomlin. Two of my other favorite movies as a kid were 9 to 5 and The Incredible Shrinking Woman. Lily Tomlin was another stand up comedian that I just somehow related to.
I have also always loved the female comedians of Saturday Night Live. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are saturday night livetwo of the best comedians that show has ever seen. They now star in two of the best sitcoms on television, 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation. Kristen Wiig is one of the funniest people to ever exist and one of the main reasons to still watch SNL. She is already a movie star; please watch Bridesmaids if you have not seen it! I also see a TV show in Kristen Wiig’s future, but maybe not for another ten years. SNL has also give us the brilliant Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, Jane Curtain, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, Jan Hooks, Cheri Oteri, Nora Dunn, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Janeane Garofalo and Sarah Silverman may have not had the most successful careers on SNL, but they were both cast members that just happened to go to do amazing things afterwards. Some actresses went on to better things and some did not, but they have all done amazing comedic work at some point in their life.
My love of the female comic has never gone away. Most of these women are still as funny as ever. Joan Rivers is still going! And a whole new group of female comics are right around the corner. I first saw Tig Notaro in The Sarah Silverman Show. She played a lesbian cop that Sarah thinks she falls in love with. Tig also has an amazing podcast called Professor Blastoff. Her humor is dry and somewhat sedated, but I love it. The podcast is super nerdy and all about science and philosophy. I am hooked. Tig has also just released her first comedy album on Secretly Canadian. The music label that brought us Jens Lekman, Antony & the Johnsons, and Yeasayer is now bringing us an amazing comedy album. Sub Pop has been putting out comedy albums for years, but I am glad to see Secretly Canadian getting into it as well. I love the comedy album format. There is nothing like listening to a comedy album in your car or on your headphones. I am sure people think I am crazy while I am cracking myself up driving down the freeway listening to comedy albums and podcasts. Hopefully by now they know I am just listening to a comedy album. Although, I do always forget about those weird ear piece phones, and often think people are walking down the street talking to themselves. Tig’s new album is called Good One. And it is a good one. It is worth it alone for the Taylor Dayne story. I am hoping for big things from Tig Notaro. She is not as crazy and obnoxious as Margaret Cho or Sarah Silverman, but she’s just as good. Think of her as an indie rock version of Ellen DeGeneres…an equally nerdy more edgey version. I love this lady.