Wenn, Johns PKI/Splash
Coming off the success of Bridesmaids last year, Hollywood is experiencing a Funny Girl revival. Bridesmaids brought empirical proof that women being funny in a female-oriented movie can appeal to men as well (which, duh, because funny is funny is funny, regardless of your gender, but Hollywood tends not to believe even obvious things until there’s box office data to back it up), and so now we’re being treated to a slew of female-driven comedies, led by Bachelorette and For a Good Time, Call.
Hollywood wants a new Funny Girl almost as much as they want a Leading Man, but I wish they would focus more on the Funny/Girls. What’s the difference? Put it this way: Olivia Munn is a Funny Girl. Emma Stone is a Funny/Girl.
A Funny/Girl is a girl who is funny. “Funny” is not her qualifier, it’s a trait, a TALENT she possesses. But Funny/Girls can be difficult. They’re more independent. They’re smarter, sharper; they’re not going to want to do the rom-coms and the pining best friends. They want to write their own material and often that involves subverting everything typically thought of as “funny girl behavior”. Funny/Girls don’t play by boy rules. They play by Funny Rules. That’s the difference. A Funny Girl is going to try to make boys laugh by being cute and reaffirming everything boys already think is laughable about girls. A Funny/Girl is trying to make the whole room laugh and she won’t stoop to do it.
What’s promising, though, is that as Hollywood is pushing for a new Funny Girl, the Funny/Girls are quietly separating themselves from the pack and establishing a base of power. Take Rebel Wilson, Bridesmaids’ one-off weirdo, who is now poised to break out. Wilson has killer timing and delivery and she’s got the physical chops to back it up. She should be a star, and I anticipate her making the difference between “so-so musical comedy” and “dude you’ve gotta see it” comedy for Pitch Perfect. Wilson will end up calling her own shots and she’ll do it by proving her worth with talent and accomplishment, not by adhering to an arbitrary standard of behavior for funny girls. She’s writing her own script.
Another one setting herself apart is Parks & Rec’s Aubrey Plaza. Everything about her flies directly in the face of the Funny Girl label, yet she is emerging as one of the most in-demand comedic actresses under 30. Ditto for Lizzy Caplan (Party Down forever), who could so easily slip into rom-com after rom-com, playing a string of ditzy but endearing bakers/gallery managers/marketing-wonks-who-secretly-do-art, but instead she is making her name playing complicated, often unlikeable but very funny women. They’re two of the sharpest Funny/Girls working right now.
But it’s not all smooth sailing for Funny/Girls. A friend—a Funny/Girl herself—recently told me about a casting director who keeps a drawer full of files on female comedians in their twenties but has nowhere to use them. Funny/Girls are making up a lot of ground these days but there’s still a gap (it’s the “that’s not cute, stop it” gap). So they have to go out and make their own work, which is why the Funny/Girl is rising to prominence in independent film even as Hollywood is trying to make Ari Graynor the new Funny Girl.
I’m for the Funny/Girls. I’m for Wilson, Plaza, Caplan, and every other girl who wants to make people laugh but doesn’t think she should have to be cute to do it. I’m for the movies that aren’t afraid to mine humor from the crass and mean sides of femininity without condescending to it. I’m for every female comedian, like my friend, who stares down a long hall of closed doors and starts knocking down the wall instead. They want us to buy the Funny Girl. We should demand more Funny/Girls.
Attached - Caplan at the Bachelorette premiere in New York.