Okay, ladies, this is it. It's time to stand up for your sex, once and for all. Enter the contest: we're going to make Christopher Hitchens laugh.
I must admit, I was pretty excited when I saw that Mr. Hitchens had written a new Vanity Fair piece called "Why Women Aren't Funny." Finally, I thought, this issue is getting some attention! I've long wondered why we have no Jacqueline Black or Owena Wilson -- is it simply a glass ceiling? Is it because we're afraid of drawing attention to ourselves? Of hurting people's feelings? Of looking ugly, or too smart? Or could it be that we don't need to joke, because we're allowed to cry? Foolishly, I thought that perhaps Mr. Hitchens could shed some light on this topic.
But of course, this is a Christopher Hitchens piece -- i.e. pat, flip, glib, twee, smug, lazy, and so misogynistic it makes me feel downright pukey. It cites poor H.L. Mencken, Rudyard Kipling, and the ancient revelers of Saturnalia (!) to place women back on that insulting pedestal, where -- "innately aware of a higher calling that is no laughing matter" -- they needn't worry their pretty little heads about the "sordid mess" beneath them. "Men have to pretend, to themselves as well as to women, that they are not the servants and supplicants," he explains. "Women, cunning minxes that they are, have to affect not to be the potentates. This is the unspoken compromise." (Unspoken indeed. Those cunning minxes under the Taliban were secretly winking at each other through their burqas!)
Anyway, it's not just that the article is dumb (Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag? Stop the presses!). It's that I already know exactly how its dissenters will respond to it. Their knee-jerk response will be to list a bunch of prominent comediennes (better make sure they aren't "hefty or dykey or Jewish," because according to Mr. Hitchens, they don't count), then declare victory and move on. "Are you kidding?!" they'll exclaim. "What about Tina Fey and Samantha Bee and the Amys Sedaris and Poehler? What about Wanda Sykes and our own Huffington Post's Nora Ephron? Oh, SNAP! Case closed. What's for lunch?"
And it gives me a pang, because it essentially closes the door on an important and potentially fascinating discussion. It would be so easy to write the article off as the ramblings of a gynophobic choad, but loath as I am to admit it, there is a faint miasma of truth hovering in that tumid swamp. The truth is that when the unremarkable blonde starlet Anna Faris is continually held up as the Funniest Woman Alive, and even so her most recent role was Luke Wilson's secretary in My Super Ex-Girlfriend, there's got to be a problem.
Why aren't more women being recognized as genuinely funny? Whence is the cultural assumption that they just plain aren't? And -- the $64,000 question -- could it possibly be true?
This is something I struggled with a lot last year, when I was the only girl in a sketch comedy group. At the time, I loved the feeling that I'd sneaked into the boys' club -- and it was unquestionably a boys' club, run by the kind of guys who considered it droll to expose their testicles to each other at unexpected moments -- but the honor came at a price. People assumed I must have gotten into the group by sleeping with one of the guys, and the highest praise I ever received was "Frankie's really funny -- not just funny for a girl, but, like, actually funny."
I also discovered the catch-22 of female comedy performers: I was rarely cast in male roles because girls in drag aren't funny, and I was rarely cast in female roles because guys in drag are funny. When I finally complained, raising my voice to assert myself, they were aghast. For the rest of the year, this was referred to as "the time Frankie totally flipped out" or "the time Frankie got hysterical."
"Women aren't funny," we would constantly declare, my voice defiantly loud among theirs.
"Except Frankie," someone would invariably add, "but she's not really a woman."
"No," one of them once agreed. "She's a lady."
And there you have it. Humor, be a lady tonight! How can we take revenge on Mr. Hitchens?
Remember, getting mad won't help. That will serve only to confirm his thesis, demonstrating our "womanly seriousness" and prove his point that "women, bless their tender hearts, would prefer that life be fair, and even sweet, rather than the sordid mess it actually is."
No, it seems to me that the only way for us to rebut (heh, "butt") the premise of "Why Women Aren't Funny" is to flat-out disprove it. How? By making Mr. Hitchens laugh.
And so I hereby declare a worldwide Ladies' Contest to Make Christopher Hitchens Laugh. This contest is open to all ladies -- young and old, famous and anonymous, Democrat and Republican, even the hefty and dykey and Jewish. If you think you have what it takes to tickle Mr. Hitchens, post your ideas here, or e-mail me at avenueF@gmail.com. I know we can do it!
Some suggestions on how to please him: Make it filthy. Make it disgusting. Make it acknowledge that life is a sordid mess. Most of all, make it funny.
I'd help, but I can't do it now -- it's almost my time of the month, and I think I'm about to get my Christopher Hitchens.