Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Comedy and the Older Woman - How far can you go?

by Bad Girl (Melodie)

Today, I’m writing a serious blog.  (‘NO!  Don’t do it!  Don’t’ <sounds of heels screeching on floor as body is dragged offstage>)

I write comedy.  I wrote stand-up, and had a regular column gig for many years.  My books and most of my short stories are (hopefully) humorous.  My blog…well, that sometimes goes off the wall.

But I’m noticing that as I get older, the comedy seems to become more shocking.  Or rather, I am shocking people more.  They don’t know how to take it.  I see them gasp and act confused.  Did I really mean what I said just then?  Was it meant to be funny?

I don’t believe it’s because I’m writing a different level of material.  Nope. 

So why?  Why does my comedy seem to shock readers more than it did twenty years ago?

It’s not the readers.  It’s my age.

Writing comedy when you are thirty is ‘cute’.  I can’t tell you how many people told me that I ‘looked cute on stage’ as I innocently said some outrageous things that made people laugh. 

Saying outrageous things on stage when you are over 50 is not ‘cute’.  Women over 50 are never described as ‘cute’ (unless they are silly and feeble and very old.)  Women over 50 cannot carry off ‘innocent’ (unless portraying someone very dumb.)  Women over 50 are expected to be dignified.

Phyllis Diller was a wonderful comic.  She did outrageous things on stage, and we laughed with her.  But she dressed like a crazy-woman and had us laughing AT her as well as with her.  Some women I know dislike the fact that Diller made herself ridiculous in front of an audience.  I don’t, because I know why she did it.

Forgive me while I pull a Pagliacci.  Yes, I still write comedy.  But I don’t do ‘stand-up’ anymore.  I’ve found that women my age are not well received by crowds (especially liquored-up crowds). 

Women who are young and pretty can get away with murder.  Even better, they can get away with comedy.

BUT: A woman over 50 who makes fun of younger women is (often) seen as jealous.  A woman over 50 who makes fun of men is (often) viewed as bitter. A woman over 50 who makes fun of other women over 50 can get away with it, but the big audience isn’t there.

So my hat goes off to women like Rita Rudner, who do it still. I admire her so.  It’s a hard and unfair gender divide, believe me.

 Catch me at the Turner Park Branch of the Hamilton Public Library Thursday night at 7, on The Humour Panel!


  1. Okay, this is the third and last time I'm going to try and leave a comment here. Seems I can't do it using my Wordpress account so I'll use Google and hope this one takes.

    Identify with this? You bet I can. At 30, my silly comments and ramblings were cute, funny. Now, they give rise to rolling eyes and looks of sympathy that say "Poor thing, she's getting on." But that's okay. I just get more and more courageous and outrageous because quite frankly, m'dear, I don't give a damn anymore. Getting to old to care LOL.

    1. Viga, you are the poster girl for us all! (And I can say that now that I have seen you in action - grin)

  2. First, I have to admit to being confused for a moment. I mixed up Rita Rudner with Gilda Radner -- who I've always admired but haven't seen perform lately due to the technical difficulty of being dead.

    In the process of clearing up my confusion, I came across this Rudner quote.

    "I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life."

    Personally, I've never found anyone I've wanted to annoy for more than 6-10 years at a time. (Sounds like a prison sentence, doesn't it?)

    I think you're brilliant to have done stand-up at any age, Mel.

    1. Love that Rudner quote (I saw her deliver it) - and your addition to it! Sublime.