Competing For Laughs

Debra Messing, and Rachel Dratch speak during the "Look Whose Laughing" panel discussion at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival on April 29, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for TFF) Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for TFF

At a Tribeca Film Festival panel on Sunday, TV stars Debra Messing and Rachel Dratch, among others, talked about why popular comedians like Will Ferrell don't have female counterparts.

Comedians Rachael Harris, Samantha Bee and Susie Essman were also in attendance at the discussion, which was prompted by a recent study that, in so many words, found that women aren't funny.

"The Daily Show" comedian Harris, who stars in the new ABC series, "Notes From The Underbelly," says that you may not see many funny women out there because they often don't have many choices when it comes to comedic roles.

"I think for women to start to writing their own material and say, 'Well, we can compete with the men,' is sort of a new thing," she said. "I think that's part of it, is that I don't really necessarily see a lot of women writing their own material."

Emmy-winner Messing said that the reason funny women don't star in big films (ala "Talladega Nights") is because they don't get a lot of support.

"I also think it's about who's going to back them. It seems like all of the 'SNL' men, who have gone on to massive success, I mean, they needed to have financial backing," she said.

2She also said that standards of physical appearance are higher for women than for men. "It's like aging in America, it's the same thing," she said. "It's like women are expected to be beautiful in an unrealistic way in their 50s and 60s and men can, you know, age normally."

Dratch said that Hollywood is filled with the same types of women. "Hollywood wants its women hot and funny … there's not a lot of super hotties that are also funny," she said. "But men can come anyway they want, men can be fat, men can be bald, men can be old, whatever. I think it's kind of hard to have both of those things."

Dratch added that there are situations that audiences will respond to more if a man is the one performing.

"People want to see Will Ferrell fall down with no clothes on but they don't want to see me do that," she said, which prompted many laughs from the audience. "Men are allowed to be raunchy and gross and a lot of people don't want to see women (do that). Even at the 'SNL' table, sometimes like, there's a scene where if a guy was saying the same thing it would get laughs but if a woman's saying it, if it's too crass, just as an audience, people are like, 'I'm not used to this.' "

All the panelists agreed that they don't think about gender of the people watching them when they tell jokes. "You have to just follow your gut, and let it happen," Messing said.
  • Amy Bonawitz

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