Women have always been funny—they just haven't always gotten credit for it. Say Ricky Gervais lived in France circa the 18th century and was told the peasants had no bread. If he had shrugged and said, ￼"Let them eat cake," everyone would have LOLed. But when Marie Antoinette said it, she was a total bitch.
Comedy is a contact sport, and no one wants to get beat up by a girl, right? Fortunately, that's starting to ￼change. In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey credits Amy Poehler with helping bring about a "cosmic shift." Fey recalls a moment in the Saturday ￼Night Live writers' room when Poehler made a "dirty and loud and 'unladylike'" joke, which prompted Jimmy Fallon to protest, "Stop that! It's not cute! I don't like it." Poehler responded, "I don't fucking care if you like it."
And the fewer fucks you give, the more laughs you get. Because when you stop caring about being "cute" or making people feel "comfortable," you get much better comedy. You get scenes like the one in Bridesmaids (oh, you know the one). You get "the pegging episode" on Broad City. You get movies like Trainwreck—in theaters now, written and starring Amy Schumer—which opens with Schumer in bed with a one-night stand. She makes her needs clear when she pushes his head down her body and then fakes passing out after he's done to avoid returning the favor. Behold the end of the "manic pixie dream girl" and the birth of the "unapologetic, in-your-face real woman."
Funny female megastars are nothing new. Gertrude Berg, Lucille Ball, and Moms Mabley started this fire long ago. Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, and Margaret Cho continued burning down the house. Today, from Melissa McCarthy to Jessica Williams to Chelsea Peretti and on and on, a pattern is forming. And that pattern is that there is no pattern. Each woman is uniquely funny. And the more we celebrate comedians for their individuality and not their gender, the closer we get to equality. That would be something to smile about.
This article appears in the August issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands July 21.