I Can Take a Joke, Maybe You’re Just Not Funny.

I’m so in love with Lindy West right now. Mostly I love how shocked some of my male friends were at her latest New York Times Op Ed that dares to answer why men aren’t funny. 

For years I had been asked why I was so sensitive, why I couldn’t take a joke.

Funny thing is that I can take a joke. What ya got?

Some puns, a pratfall, a nifty callback? Oh, I know about comedy. I’ve read a bit about comedy.  From vaudeville to Drunk History. Rusty Warren to Patton Oswald. Want to talk comedy with me I’m all ears. I’ve read up on the subject, Kilph Nesterhoff’s The Comedians; William Knoedelseder’s I’m Dying Up Here; Lawrence Schiller’s Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce, to name a few. I’ve read  books by comedians including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bill Hicks, and Steve Martin. Then the Improv books, Viola Spolin’s Improvisation for the Theater, Jeffrey Sweet’s Something Wonderful Right Away, Mick Napier’s (fantastic) Improv: Scene from the Inside Out.

I’ve interviewed a few comics, watched hours of stand up and did a little performing and (invariably) teaching myself. I reference my Friar’s Club Encyclepeodia of Jokes like the Bible (thanks to comedian Susan Sussman for giving me her extra copy).

I have a feeling that you won’t talk with me about comedy. You probably don’t want to talk with me at all. I’m middle aged, chubby and highly unlikely to run away to a hotel with you. You’ll ask me to buy cookies for your kid’s fundraiser, ask me if I know where the bathrooms are, ask me if I’ll volunteer to cook for your church event. You’ll ask me to clean up too.

You’ll talk with your young waitress…although she just wants to do her job.  You’ll chat with the receptionists. Of course not anything creepy… you’re just being polite, right?

I like your blouse

That’s a nice necklace

Or maybe you’re just joking around. Because, naturally,  you’re hysterical.

Hey! C’mon I’ve got a joke for you.

Smile, you look so serious

I am serious you jerk, I’m at work.

This is what she hears:

I’m watching you, not the work that you do but you…you as a person. I see your clothing, your body your jewelry. I notice your face, your tone of voice your gait when you’re walking to the copier.  I know where you are at all times, You going to lunch? You going to the file room? You going to Office Max?

Watched at all times, noticed for the smallest change in appearance.  Because women like that. Right? Why would she wear that if I’m not supposed to look?

No matter what she wore, you’ll have an opinion: That skirt is too long, that shirt is too short, that skirt makes you look like an art teacher. Your sweater is too tight, your sweater is too loose, too long, too short.

Now you’re a fashion designer? Great Calvin Klein because I have a few questions for you in that case: Why is clothing made for women’s so expensive?  Why must every pair of jeans STRETCH? Why are t shirts made of tissue like material that make them completely transparent? Why do I have to buy a shirt to wear under my shirt? Why do my clothing fall apart after being washed three times?  Must the ass of every pair of pants have the work “Pink” written on them?

It’s hard to be a woman, It’s hard to be a young woman, it’s hard to be a old woman. What is surprisingly easy is being a middle aged woman.

Finally unshackled by the predatory eyes of so many men….My eyes have steeled, my belly has grown and there are very unsexy rogue hairs growing from my face. You look right past me, and I am reborn. Reborn into a world where I can just exist.

I can read my comedy books in peace. I’m mostly at home now but I can actually go out to a coffeehouse all alone, unbothered. It’s amazing.

Now I can express an opinion and not worry that I’m going to be fired and I have a credit rating solidly in the higher 700 range and I will use this. I have high speed internet and a laptop and I will write, and I will criticize and you’re right to be cautious around me.

At this point, this lovely point in my life, and this lovely reckoning of so many male transgressions, I’m just not interested in being particularly sensitive to men. They weren’t particularly sensitive to me for many, many years.

There is a moment in many really good jokes where there is a pause. A moment when your perspective changes and you see things that you thought were one way can be seen from another. This is that pause and I’m savoring every tiny second.


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