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Stand up comedy is a solo art comedy style which is characterized by performing of a person in front of people speaking directly to them and addressing their responses. The stand up comedy is a self-correcting genre even if the topic the comic is presenting is not humorous (he/she can revise or delete it on stage). Flexibility is a very important aspect of the perception of the act by the audience. They will criticize and heckle at the comedian, but this should encourage improving the act and correcting any mistakes or weaknesses exhibited. Most stand up comedians are bold enough to criticize and rebuke directly and openly in a humorous manner. It is the reason for many people to see stand up comedy as a man’s art, forgetting that stand up comedy is all about wits and ability to cunningly deliver the message in a humorous manner. Over ages, women were forbidden of participating in stand up comedy by such constraints as economic dependence, cultural stereotyping and isolation. Similarly, due to historical underrepresentation in anthologies and critical studies, female humorists were unaware of the feminist humor. The stand up comedy by female comedians is currently quite reasonable and can no longer be ignored.
Armed with experience and prowess in stand up comedy, Suzanne Lavine and Joanne R. Gilbert discuss the women involvement in stand up comedy in their articles. They both agree that the involvement of women in the genre has provided an outstanding input in popularity of the genre and acceptance of it by wide audience. Lavine notes that feminist humor has been reconsidered since immemorial times because of the cultural belief that thinks of a woman as a wife and mother and a unifying force in the family, basic unit of the culture. Thus, women are identified with rightness and piety rather than relaxation and fun. Any act of activism by a female member was viewed with ridiculousness not only by men, but also by women themselves. Participation of women in stand up comedy might be a recent achievement but feminist humor appeared hundreds of years ago, mostly being initiated by male and female writers. Although they were not expected to be humorous, they were supposed to applaud the jokes of that culture and not to take themselves too seriously. Not all women’s humor is defined by feminist. It normally makes jokes of the social system and is characterized by its nonacceptance of oppression. As Lavine points out in her article, most women have an inherent absurdity that they relate or attach to the culture’s view and expectations of women. By doing so, they divert the ridicule that could have been directed to them to the culture that subjugates them, “it is quite a feat to turn what is defined as a ridiculous state of being into your own definition of the ridiculous, to take control of the quality of the absurdity, to turn it away from yourself…” (51). Lavine argues that female humor is more considerate than feminist humor referring to it as humor of hope.
Joanne Gilbert, in her article Women in Stand Up Comedy, defines humor as highly rhetorical as inciting laughter in others can be infectious, thus, ensuring continuous control of the situation. The notion that stand up comedy is a man thing derived from the belief that men and women speak different languages. Gilbert, however, argues that, “the major distinction between male and female speech behavior is the women’s lack of powerlessness in their speech…” (49). This genderless hypothesis can, however, be problematic because most people have confused the stereotypical bit of it with evidence. Joanne downplays this by arguing that stand up comedians from either gender can exhibit powerlessness in their speeches especially if they are inexperienced or low status speakers. Lavine agrees with Gilbert’s idea, and those of stereotypical school of thought, which assume that women are powerless speakers, base their argument on sexist social practices rather than on the speakers. Lavine concludes that powerless speech hypothesis should be separated from women performance in stand up comedy as the two are not related. Joanne Gilbert believes that the relationship between gender and communication is choked with disagreement citing the experience on stage.
In the past, Women were down looked as a stand up comedians, but their recent prowess in this area gave them possibility to gain popularity as a result of being talented and applied force with which to reckon. The number of women who become stand up comedians has grown tremendously in recent years. Their genre cannot be defined as feminist humor as they do not portray characteristics that violate certain sex stereotypes. Although most of these acts do not delineate against their gender, most male authors and scholars historically maintain that stand up comedy is a masculine genre. This is also concurred in the Lavine’s readings on women in stand solo performance. Generic criticism has led to differentiation between male and female acts by investigating the features unique to the text. For example, in the genre of stand up comedy, the performer is normally alone on the stage unlike other performance genres. According to Gilbert, those critics that classify genre as feminist or women’s humor should also classify men’s act or antifeminist stand up comedy. Criticism in stand up comedy is normally based on the comedians’ weakness for making mistakes. The comparative analysis and the recurrence of the weakness in relation to gender draws criticism on the parity between men and women role in evolution of stand up comedy.
Stand up comedy is viewed as contemporary analogue of fools who have a tendency to perform stand up comedy based on social critique with impunity. These attributes were traditionally attributed to men and meant to discourage involvement of women in this genre. Lavine, however, differs with this stating that stand up comedies are acts of creative minds that create amusement and humor among sections of an audience with an educative message to the society and critical approach. Joanne argues that the development of contemporary comics can be attributed to the persona of wise fools, who provide the foundation upon which the future comic generations are built. This is, however, controversial because comedy normally entails the current objects, ideas, and this does not require inheritance as some scholars presume. Most stand up comedians normally use current visible objects to connect the message with the audience. In the past, most comedians were viewed as fools and exploitative rogues by the society. They were versatile entertainers who had a passion for their acts and had both wit and stooge. They could not realize being professional laugh makers. The earlier comedians were different from the current comics who play professional comedy in the clubs and road shows to for living. Currently, comedians are viewed as contributors to the popularity of acting as most people become attracted to the act due to the laughter to relieve the life stress that they encounter in their daily chores.
Both writers, however, concur that as long as the stand up comedian has the necessary traits required to deliver the message humorously, gender differences should not be an issue. It will be even more exciting and real if feminine issues are delivered on stage by the correct gender. In the past, most male comedians could not criticize or expose masculine weaknesses, but the current comedy has been enriched through covering a wide range of cross gender issues. Stand up comedy is no more based on gender differences but on the talent of the performers.