A team effort by some of the Women’s Center staff!
So in 2015, UMBC brought Hannibal Buress to campus as our homecoming comedian. We rejoiced. We love him as Lincoln in Broad City, we appreciate his stalwart bend toward social justice, and he’s hella funny.
We were ALSO frustrated. For every UMBC Homecoming comedy event, we have invited men. Nick Offerman. B.J. Novak. Bo Burnham. Donald Glover. Lewis Black. Hannibal Burress. All funny folk, but also male folk. And we’re not trying to pretend this is an issue isolated to UMBC. The general global representation of women in comedy is dismal. So at the time, we wrote it out and we compiled a list of awesome women in comedy with the hopes that someone at UMBC would say, “Oh wow. Sexism. It exists here, too. You know what would exemplify our campus values of inclusive excellence and commitment to diversity? A lady!”
Unfortunately, our naive hopes were dashed again this year. Trevor Noah is coming.
Don’t get us wrong, Trevor Noah is a cool dude. But he’s a cis male dude.
A dude who is critical of oppression and injustice, but also one who has a past that includes some disturbing episodes of sexism.
So again, the Women’s Center is dusting off its trusty soapbox and presents our dear readers with a humble compilation of awesome comedians who also just so happen to be women. ❤
Aparna Nancherla – Amelia’s Pick
Maybe she’s born with it, maybe she’s born into a societal prison of impossible standards.
– Aparna Nancherla, “Just Putting It Out There”
Aparna is a comic that has been all up in my social media feeds, podcasts, and Netflix-ing, so I decided to check her out—and now I love her and am a huge fan.
Aparna is a stand-up comedian. She recently released her debut album, “Just Putting It Out There” (the first release on Tig Notaro’s new comedy label Bentzen Ball Records), which I can’t recommend enough. Her subject matter is dry, observational stuff, but she’s also just goofy and off-kilter. She talks a lot about being a woman, a woman of color, a woman with anxiety and depression, and all of these things at once (that’s called intersectional humor, friends). At one point she describes her anxiety as a really bad, but enthusiastic improv group who keep taking suggestions from a sadistic audience—and that description is the closest anyone has ever come to defining what my anxiety is.
Aparna is a writer and performer on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, has done work on Master of None and Bojack Horseman, can be heard on a whole bunch of big popular podcasts, has features in really notable papers and magazines, and has opened for numerous big names like John Oliver, Tig Notaro, Maria Bamford, Kristen Schaal, and Hari Kondabolu (just to name some of my favorite folks).
Kristen Becker – Marie’s Pick
In 2006, I had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with Kristen Becker while she was performing in Santa Fe, New Mexico on a Dykes of Hazard Tour. She has been named “One of America’s Funniest Lesbians” by CURVE magazine, and has opened for national comedy acts, and even for Ani DiFranco.
Not only is Becker hilarious, she works extremely hard as an LGBTQ activist and supporter of social justice. While touring with her current project “Loosen the Bible Belt,” she was able to successfully complete her first “Summer of Sam” endeavor in her hometown of Providence Rhode Island. If you have a few minutes to check out her comedy…do it..it will be worth your time!
Samantha Bee – Hannah’s Pick
The first version of this post pointed to a gender disparity in comedy on a level greater than UMBC—there were no female late-night talk show hosts. But even though we are still writing this article, progress is being made; Full Frontal with Samantha Bee broke that glass ceiling in February 2016 with Bee as the creator, writer, executive producer, and host. Before that, she was the longest tenured correspondent for The Daily Show, and was the only woman for five years before being joined by Kristen Schaal (who is another great woman in comedy you should definitely check out).
In addition to her humor, I love the fact that she uses her platform as a woman in a male-dominated field to do good for others. In hiring writers, she and the producers set up a blind process which hid the gender, race, and experience level of the applicants. As a result, the writing staff is about 50% female and 30% non-white. Additionally, proceeds from the show’s merchandise go to organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Karam Foundation, Distributing Dignity, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Hispanic Federation
Negin Farsad – Sydney’s Pick
I first came across Negin when researching many, many women for this post. I was instantly intrigued with the short clip I saw in which she made jokes about dating while being Muslim and her mother’s expectations of her as a Muslim woman. Negin considers herself a social justice comedian who uses her platform to discuss pressing issues in a way that makes them easier to talk about and get a dialogue started. She was named one of the Funniest Women of 2015 by the Huffington Post and one of the 10 Best Feminist Comedians by Paper Magazine. Due to her work in social justice through comedy she was also named a TEDFellow (watch her TED talk here), has written for major networks, published a book, and hosts a podcast. She also has a documentary, The Muslims are Coming, which follows comedians across America as they try to combat issues of Islamaphobia while facing backlash from both non-Muslims and Muslims throughout.
Leslie Knope (AKA Amy Poehler) – Jess’s Pick
Okay, I know Leslie Knope isn’t a real person. Amy Poehler is the real person who makes Leslie Knope come alive on a regular basis in my living room via Parks and Rec. This show makes me laugh and rejuvenates my soul after a long work day. Leslie is also present in the Women’s Center, because she makes me giggle in my office when I’m looking for the perfect reaction gif (almost always from Parks and Rec) to send in an email.
Thank you, Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler.
Ellen DeGeneres – Samiksha’s Pick
I really struggled to think of female comedians when I was asked to write about them, my mind was blank. That is until I watched an episode of Ellen interviewing Michelle Obama, and it clicked. Ellen is definitely a female comedian, but sometimes we forget because she’s become so ingrained in our lives. She’s the funny best friend we’ve always wanted and the big sister that always makes us feel better when we’re down.
The Ellen show has been airing new episodes since September of 2003 and still going strong. That’s 14 years, and most of my life. What’s great about her humor, in the words of Barack Obama, is that it “has a way of making you laugh about something, rather than at someone.” Ellen’s humor doesn’t need to put anyone down to get a laugh out of you, and trust me, she will have you laughing till you cry. After watching her show, I guarantee you will have a smile on your face as I always have.
On top of that, Ellen is a prominent humanitarian. Ellen has used her show as a major platform to do humanitarian work; she has given away more than $50 million dollars on her show to various causes. She has been involved with causes like fighting breast cancer, Hurricane Katrina disaster effort, St. Jude’s Children Hospital, and for families struggling economically. It’s hard not to find something to love about Ellen!
This is not an exhaustive list by any means! Who are the funny women you would add to the list? Let us know by commenting on our social media pages.