This past July, the Yale College Council sent an email asking students to vote for a Fall Show comedian from a list of 22 men. Of these, 17 were white men. That’s CRAZY! On this wide-ranging list of potential funny people, there were zero women? YCC, what’s up?
When I got the email, I was studying comedy in Chicago. I was doing improv five hours a day and watching improv seven nights a week. I’m in the Ex!t Players improv comedy group here at Yale, and I’m also a lady.
When I joined Ex!t as a freshman, there were two female directors, Claire and Tessa. I remember watching Tessa play a preteen girl with a webcam and a LiveJournal account who started a dating show in her basement. It’s hard to explain it after the fact, but guys, it was really funny. I learned how to be funny by watching women like them onstage, acting with them in scenes and generally trying to internalize their confidence and comedic timing. I wanted to be like them — to graduate and go be funny out in the big wide world. But then the YCC told me that women aren’t funny, or at least not funny enough for the Fall Show. (Which is the center of comedy in America. That’s why I’m concerned!)
When I first got the survey, I had many questions: How could they think this sums up the comedy world? What about all the brilliant female comedians they overlooked? Also, what is the YCC, and why?
Googling guy after guy named in the YCC email made me wonder if there was any point to my caring about comedy at all. Would any student government ever want me on their short list?! That list made me feel totally invisible. I assume the YCC didn’t intend it this way. But it sends Yale the message that female comedians are either non-existent or not worth looking into, and that’s sad, frustrating and untrue.
In Chicago, I saw tons of funny, smart women doing exceptional comedy. Maybe it’s true that fewer women than men are involved in comedy in the first place, but if the YCC wants us to choose from the top 22 best performers that we can afford, there are at least a dozen, and probably a MILLION, women who make the cut. The Fall Show isn’t a gender-specific event, unlike a football team practice or a no-girls-allowed treehouse party, and so it’s absurd that only male performers were on the table.
I am a big fan of John Mulaney, who will be performing this Saturday — he’s sharp, hilarious and coincidentally the brother of Ex!t vet Claire Mulaney, who is a comedy badass AND a lady. Yeah, I’m excited to see him perform. But 22 men? As the sum total of all possible funny people in the country? I’m not so excited about that.
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