Friday, December 22, 2006

Catherine the Great

We finally got around to seeing For Your Consideration and while it was not really successful, it did feature Catherine O'Hara, one of the funniest women in the world. She managed to give her character, aging actor Marilyn Hack, both hilarious moments and actually warm and touching ones as well. Celebrated first when she and Andrea Martin anchored the otherwise male cast of Second City Television, who can forget her wonderful Katharine Hepburn or the borderline suicidal ex-star Lola Heatherton? She is the center of the film despite the star-studded cast, including most of the other truly funny women working today: the wonderfully loopy Jennifer Coolidge (her short scene with Ricky Gervais is just priceless), the razor sharp Jane Lynch, the fearless Parker Posey, and an almost unrecognizable Rachael Harris. In part, that may be the biggest problem -- an embarrassment of riches that distracts from the connections, and like A Mighty Wind, there's a little too much fondness for the characters (not all of them! wow -- there are some brilliantly oily Hollywood types). Comedy requires distance; we can't laugh at people we care for and as ridiculous as O'Hara's Marilyn becomes, we pity her desperate vulnerability. A mixed bag, the film has some wonderful moments through out, some laugh out loud, some so tiny but wonderful (Larry Miller proves once again a master of minute) that while ultimately a failure, I'd gladly watch it again.

And while I'm on this tack, I want to rant a bit about Christopher Hitchen's ridiculous tirade "Why Women Aren't Funny" in the January issue of Vanity Fair. First -- huh? As a woman surrounded by funny intelligent women, I say again -- huh? There’s the usual folderol about how women can’t do stand up because they’re too busy birthin’ babies, then backed up by examples Fran Lebowitz, Nora Ephron and Roseanne Barr.

Old much? At least two of those women used to be funny, so that’s something, but get with the times, Hitch. Leaving aside for the moment all the funny women from his native shores (off the top of my head, let’s just mention Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield, Emma Thompson, Imelda Staunton, Julia Davis, Kathy Burke, Caroline Aherne, Tamsin Grieg, Julie Walters, Patricia Routledge…and the list goes on and on and on) there are so many funny women on these shores that it’s impossible to list them all. Even going back farther than Hitch himself does to mid-century stars like Totie Fields and Phyllis Diller, their crowns have been more than adequately carried forward by contemporary women like the ones mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, as well as, oh let’s just mention, Lily Tomlin, Gilda Radner, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr, and the ever fabulous Julie Kavner.

Two words, Hitch –- Amy Sedaris.

The fact is there have always been funny women -- admittedly, a lot of Hrotsvit’s jokes were lost behind the pious posturing of her Christian moralizing, but still! But humor does generally require intelligence and there is a certain kind of Neanderthal male that fears any show of intellect on the part of women. Fortunately, the world is full of smart, funny men who like smart, funny women (and in my case, marry them).

Of course, this is not too surprising coming from a man who has gone from a Trotskyite to a neocon. Men do tend to get more conservative as they get older, but it’s a pity Hitchens’ self-imposed cocoon has kept him from experiencing some of the best comic minds out there -- just because they happen to be female. Open your eyes, Hitch, and your mind. You’ll laugh a lot more.

1 comment:

The Queen said...

I just love Catherine!

I'll have to have a look at the piece in VF - how can anyone say women aren't funny? Sadly, I've had women say that to me as well - 'I just don't LIKE women comedians.'

I tend to think it's discomfort with women who can engage in physical & tasteless comedy....