Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Funny, You Don’t Look…

People who generalize suck.

(Thank you. I’ll be here all week.)

Today’s subject, ladies and gentlemen, is women.

I have, in this space, previously noted that I was brought up in a household in which gender didn’t define worth … and that I grew up (K through 12 and college) surrounded by a pack of friends and acquaintances that included some, um, fairly strong women, who demonstrated their worthiness as human beings, gender aside, most all the time.

So, please to forgive the broken record vibe that I may be sending out.

But there are just people in this world who need to check their whole entire worldview at the door. Or at least, they need to go out and get themselves a weapons-grade filter which they can slam down in front of their mouths just before The Foolish emerges.

Today’s example:

Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner declared, earlier this month, that “the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman. By far. They usually – boy am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online – but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny.”

He said this at an event called the “Aspen Idea Festival”. Interesting idea.

He said this on a stage that simultaneously contained the actor Goldie Hawn – the “you” whom he was pointing out as an exception to his own rule. As if that was going to buy him some time to get off the stage unremarked-upon.

Fella’s got testicular fortitude, I’ll give him that. … Or maybe what I should give him is a copy of the above paragraph containing the words “The Foolish”.

Online articles chronicling this intriguing declaration popped up soon afterward, and gave the man a proper working-over.

The entire premise that the entertainment industry should be seeking out women that 73-year-old men like Eisner find ‘unbelievably beautiful’ is flawed,” said one. “No one is lamenting … that male comics like Louis C.K., Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan don’t look like models.”

[Ed. note: you may judge for yourself, as people are entitled to their opinions; but Ye Olde Blogge does not necessarily think that Messrs. Sandler and Rogan are especially funny, never mind runway-worthy.]

This summer has been filled with pleasant weather, fun barbecues and some impressively sexist commentary from random dudes about women’s bodies,” said another. “Suggesting half the planet has a humor deficiency correlated with shifting, societally sanctioned social norms about beauty is not only highly inaccurate, it’s obnoxious as hell.”

Anyway, since I’m not an entertainment executive, I’m not locked into these Mad Men-era-esque requirements. So I feel a sense of freedom, the freedom to make my own damn decisions about who’s funny and who’s beautiful and who’s both and who’s neither.

And almost unbidden, I began to compile an unscientific list, upon reading these accounts of grievously foolish remarking. The list contained names of some Famous Persons whom I think are funny … and whom I know are women … and whom (depending on the day) I may find physically attractive or not but that’s not really the point is it? … and whom, at the end of whichever day it is, I tend to respect for their intelligence and their humor and the fact that they’re human beings and human beings deserve at least that much.

In one sense, I hesitate to write down one of these lists, in case you should think I’m poring over lists of celebrities (“hmmmmm, whom shall I include?”) and having my attention drawn to certain ones by those pesky societal norms. In fact, says one of those online articles that took Mr. Eisner out back and slapped him around, “It’s clear rating women isn’t something teenage boys do in their parents’ basements – it’s something that grown men believe they can do on the record, or for all to hear.”

Erm…

Hey. I’m admiring, here. Strictly and only that. No “out of 10”s, or leaderboards, etc. Just names, in no particular order, of Famous Persons whom I think are very very funny … and whom I know are women … and whose beauty is readily apparent because their senses of humor help them appear (at the very least) to be decent human beings.

Just some folks who came readily to mind:

Paula Poundstone. “I was in North Carolina once, and they have bugs there that are huge! And the people there don’t seem to think they’re all that big. ‘Awww, that’s just a lil’ ol’ broom-bug; he won’t even hurt cha.’ Really? It’s Got a Dog in its Mouth!…”

Sarah Vowell. She is funny in a much more “This American Life” way than a conventional American sitcom way (and “TAL” is where I first heard her perform her own pieces). Her voice, which can sound like Betty Boop recovering from a bout of laryngitis, definitely helps in this.

Alison Krauss, better known for her dulcet bluegrass tones. But heavens! … get her going on the subject of her bass player’s love of “huntin’ videos” and you’re good for nearly eight minutes of world-championship deadpan humor.

The Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin. Wait, an athlete makes this list? Yes. Por ejamplo, during her obligatory press conference, just after she won a gold medal in Sochi last year, she made a genuine funny … and the only reason it didn’t get a bigger laugh was that your average press type doesn’t expect those Olympic athletes to say anything but “I thank the good Lord and my coach and my mother.”

The singer Neko Case. She got on NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” as part of their “Not My Job” segment, and managed to bring the house down with an utterly improvised riff on, of all things, the Ken Burns Civil War documentary style.

Allison Glenzer, an actor with the American Shakespeare Company. The ASC very often takes the Bard’s work and infuses it with humorous references anyway, and its roster of performers is quite skilled in this area generally. Over the course of my four or five trips to see ASC shows, I figured out that Ms. Glenzer competes hard for the title of Best Of ‘Em. And here’s the thing: she makes it look so easy to be funny and a great actor that when you walk out of the theater, you’re thinking, “that would be such fun to do. I could maybe do that.” You can’t, of course; but that’s the sign of a great performance.

The actor Jennifer Lawrence. Yes, that one. Yes, the international superstar actor person, from the “Hunger Games” movies and all that. Massively popular at the moment, and likely to remain so for awhile. Well … I didn’t necessarily want to put Massive Superstars on this list, but … I think she’s very, very funny. Probably not at all on purpose; not at all in the same way that a professional comedian crafts her material and polishes her delivery. But instead in a goofy way that smacks less of carefully characterized goofy, like the aforementioned Goldie Hawn in “Laugh-In”, than an innate willingness to say any old thing that pops into her head – or perhaps to say any old thing even before it gets to her head’s editor. Watch almost any of her red-carpet or movie-PR-press-junket interviews and see if you don’t agree with me.

The late journalist Molly Ivins. About a recent Congressman from Texas, she once wrote, “If ignorance ever goes to $40 a barrel, I want drillin’ rights on that man’s head.” Check out, from your local public library, any of her books about politics in her home state of Texas. Go. Now. Do it.

The comedian Erica Rhodes. I don’t list her here because she decided to Follow me on the mighty Twitter machine, some time ago. I have no earthly idea why this successful standup comedian could possibly have felt the need to do this, aside from perhaps being polite and Following me after I’d Followed her. (Here’s the thing – I went back and did a little digging … and I hadn’t Followed her first.) I do list her here, though, because she is one of those wonderful comics who gets out there on stage, and looks and sounds a bit tentative, and you start to root for her because the jokes are funnier than their slightly nervous delivery, and you start to think she should be much prouder of her material than she appears to be, and about eight jokes in you realize that this was exactly her plan all along.

This is hardly a comprehensive list. For the moment, I hope it’s helped me to advance this one thought (as concludes the online article whose initial purpose was to give the ol’ Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot treatment to the former CEO of one of the most powerful entertainment companies in the world) …

[The idea] that women should value their bodies more than their minds … is getting old and boring, just like Eisner’s views on women.”

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July 17, 2015 - Posted by | Famous Persons, humor | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I still at least grin, if not laugh out loud, when I remember that Molly Ivins’ nickname for George W. Bush was “Shrub.”

    Comment by DD | July 17, 2015 | Reply

  2. […] oft, to note the ridiculous behavior of public figures when it comes to treatment of women. (Here, here, here, and […]

    Pingback by The Most Recent Last Straw -or- How Did We Get Here? « Editorial License | October 7, 2016 | Reply


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