On Monday night, at the Glamour “Women of the Year” awards, Amy Poehler told the girls of America, “If boys say something that’s not funny, you don’t have to laugh.” Sure, it was said with humor and naturally she got a laugh from the crowd, but her advice really hit me. As women, we are taught to be polite, to laugh at men and their jokes, and to sacrifice and compromise ourselves for the sake of their egos. That’s why Amy’s comment was profound—its meaning was multi-layered. Not only was she encouraging us to honor ourselves but she was also urging us to find something that makes us laugh—to make our own comedy. And that’s exactly what she’s been doing since she made the transition from “SNL” to a show conceptualized, written, produced, and acted by her—“Parks and Recreation.” If you haven’t seen it yet, you should.Being funny and making other people laugh has always been one of my primary concerns in life. Gilda Radner was the first woman who made me roll on the floor and ever since I’ve vowed to return the favor. I’ve been watching “SNL” religiously since childhood, working on my impressions of people, and going the extra distance for a laugh. (In case you were wondering … prat falls are still funny.) But when I was pursuing my acting career I often felt discouraged when going out for “comedic parts.” There were so few funny parts out there for women—well, at least things that I found funny. Where was “30 Rock,” “The Sarah Silverman Program,” and “Strangers With Candy” when I needed them? Pretty much non-existent. And please don’t even get me started on the pressure to look a certain way to be considered funny. My options were drop-dead gorgeous, or overweight and kooky. It was like I had to fit into the mold of the “comedic female” created by men. I had to laugh at their un-funny jokes, play their un-funny parts, and vie for membership into their boys-only club. No thanks.
My comedy nowadays is limited to making friends and co-workers laugh (and hopefully the Friskyverse, when I can). But I’m seriously inspired by female comics like Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler, and Amy Sedaris. Not only are these ladies rising to the top of their field, but they are also writing and producing ground-breaking comedy that genuinely makes me pee my pants. Each has their own unique voice and brand of humor to share with the industry and they are taking their versions of funny all the way to big and little screens. To add to Amy’s advice: “If boys say something that’s not funny, come up with your own funny thing to say back.”