Iliza Shlesinger Came After Other Female Comics, and It Did Not Go Well

ilizaAs the host of a new late night show on Freeform, Iliza Shlesinger has been having a very successful 2017 so far, but this week the standup has come under fire for some comments she made about women in comedy. It all started with an interview with Shlesinger Deadline posted on Monday, in which she’s asked for her thoughts on the way women are represented “or represent themselves” in comedy. Here’s the full response in question:

As a comedian, I have a set of morals. I have a specific point of view. I think a lot of what I see out there, out in comedy clubs, watching contests, watching TV, watching movies—gathering data from these different matrixes…

When you’re a woman in comedy and you get a break, people get so excited about it, but while we have to work hard to get that attention, I do think many women think, “Oh if I just act like a guy, if I go for that low hanging fruit…” Everything’s about sex, or how weird I am. It all just kind of runs together.

I could walk into The Improv, close my eyes, and I can’t tell one girl’s act apart from another. That’s not saying that 30-something white guys don’t all sound the same sometimes, but I’m banging my head against the wall because women want to be treated as equals, and we want feminism to be a thing, but it’s really difficult when every woman makes the same point about her vagina, over and over. I think I’m the only woman out there that has a joke about World War II in my set.

I think shock value works well for women, but beyond that, there’s no substance. I want to see what else there is with such complex, smart creatures.

That’s why women like Tina Fey do well. It’s smart, and men can laugh at it, too. I consider myself one of those comics, and quite frankly, I’m appalled by what is expected of women, and what women offer in response in that.

Over the past 24 hours, tons of standups have been responding to Shlesigner’s comments on Twitter, and to say the least, the reaction has been pretty brutal:

Shlesinger has been extremely active on Twitter throughout the backlash, and while she’s firmly standing by her comments, she deleted most of her tweets today. Here they are, edited together:

Shlesinger followed up today with a new round of tweets announcing a Facebook Live event tonight, where she will apparently be discussing her comments further. But those tweets have also been deleted:

Perhaps there’s a case to be made here that women in comedy who call out fellow comics for what they perceive to be hacky jokes face way more criticism and backlash than their male counterparts, but there’s an added level of complexity when sweeping, stereotypical generalizations are made about female comedians by fellow female comics in particular. Women are still underrepresented in late night (not to mention women of color, who currently aren’t represented at all), they’re much less likely to land a special at Netflix or Comedy Central than men, and there are still, in 2017, entire networks that have no shows created by women.

In other words, women face enough of a battle every day when it comes to dealing with and responding to a constant onslaught of sexism and the tired “women aren’t funny” argument, so to see Shlesinger use her success and newfound platform in an attempt to separate herself from the majority of female standups – essentially saying “I’m not like the other girls, who are mostly hacks, by the way” – is disappointing, if not damaging. Obviously Shlesinger has every right to say what she wants, just as any other comedian has the right to respond. I do think, though, that she should take her own advice:

This “use your platform” garbage when you are yelling at someone you know nothing about is self serving and is the reason that women are known for being catty- Bc we love to tear down women for the smallest thing to make ourselves feel better. Isn’t it possible that other women are different and have knowledge you don’t and that you can separate opposing views from feelings?

Anyway, here’s a good thread by Conan writer Laurie Kilmartin:

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