JOAN RIVERS: If I had to choose between funny and beautiful,
Don't tell 'em. Fucks the whole hour.
I knew from the beginning, I knew very early on that I had this ability
to make people laugh with me and like me because of that.
I knew I had a terrific weapon.
KIM WAYANS: I am one of those people
who came out of the womb knowing exactly what she was gonna do.
Even though I didn't know how to become a comedian,
I think I always knew I wanted to.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: I had no idea I was gonna be a storyteller.
I didn't know that. I thought I was just gonna be an actor.
And then discovered that people actually thought that
some of what I was doing was funny.
So they kept trying to make me a comic.
I had made the decision pretty well
by the time I was in high school, when Letterman came on,
that I wanted to be involved, in some way, in comedy.
SHERYL UNDERWOOD: When I could joke my way out of a whupping
that's when I knew I had to be a comic.
Any time comedy came on television I wanted to watch it.
Everybody was always kind of funny to me.
My aunts, my uncles, my mom, my dad.
I'm not sure that I knew I wanted to be a stand-up.
I didn't know the difference
between stand-up and something else and just being funny.
AISHA TYLER: I was not a comedy nerd
and I'm often humiliated to admit it out loud
that I was not one of those sweaty 11-year-old boys
just, like, licking his Richard Pryor albums in the basement in the dark.
I know I didn't want to do stand-up
until I thought, "You know, I just want to yell at people."
And, you know, that's the best way to do it.
RITA RUDNER: Never wanted to be a comedian. Only wanted to be a dancer.
I'd been dancing on Broadway for 10 years
and I said, "You know, I'm not gonna get any better as a dancer.
"This is kind of it."
And then I found out I loved stand-up.
NATASHA LEGGERO: I didn't understand stand-up until was in my 20s.
Like I thought you had to be an old man in a suit
telling jokes about your wife.
I wanted that funny cocktail hour stand-up act.
My mom would actually let me stay home
from school and watch comedians.
I had no idea I was embarking on my future,
and pure happiness.
You know, like, "Oh, finally."
When I got my first laugh, and then I got another laugh,
it was like God had spoken to me.
Stand-up comedy for a woman is not a calling.
I don't think anybody says, "I want to get on a stage
"and grab a mike and say, 'Where you from?'"
But it's much more than a vocation.
It's just... It's a lifestyle.
And it's a very tough lifestyle.
It's a very lonely choice of vocation.
Why would a woman
subject herself to going onstage?
I have no fucking idea. (LAUGHS)
Who chooses to be a comedian? It's miserable.
It's a miserable life. It's lonely,
sad, fraught with alcoholism and dissatisfaction.
And ending with you in some kind of smelly
pee-stained condo in some valley,
not even any valley, chose your valley,
chose your state, then add a valley,
then that's you in a pee-stained condo.
Living is easy, it's comedy that's hard.
I don't really believe that I chose comedy.
I think comedy kind of chose me.
When I told my parents I wanted to be a comedian
they tried to dissuade me, once again.
And by the way, my mom brought this up last week. She's 92.
She still would prefer that I am a dental hygienist,
or a "stew,"
which is what flight attendants
used to be called. Stewardesses.
There's seven of us, seven kids in my family.
The only expectation I was aware of,
you were supposed to go to college.
After that, I think there were too many of us
for anyone to focus in on anybody and really care.
I don't think they knew what to make of me.
'Cause I was the first one in my family
to ever express an interest in doing
anything other than nursing, doctor,
or, you know, electrician.
My parents were South Korean immigrants.
And so, obviously their first choice
would've been for me to be a doctor,
or a lawyer, or marry a doctor/lawyer.
And that, I think they knew from the get-go, that was not gonna happen.
'Cause I was always kind of a sassy, mouthy broad
who didn't like to do what I was told.
The Dominicans wanted me to be a lawyer.
My mother wanted me to be a secretary. (CHUCKLES)
When I was telling my family that I want to do stand-up,
everybody seemed very confused.
My dad's big plan for me was to become a dental hygienist.
Because you made $100 a day,
and you could make your own hours,
and raise a family, and do all of that.
And then I got a degree in history from UCLA,
and I was supposed to go to either law school or business school,
and I just was not cut out for a straight job.
It's funny that my stepfather thought that
my comedy was a waste of my intelligence.
Because I felt like all I'm doing all day long is thinking and writing.
I didn't tell anyone I wanted to do stand-up. I just did it.
That way, if I failed, no one would know that I did it.
I really do remember my whole life, as long as I can remember,
trying to kind of convince my family and people around me,
"This is something I can do. This is something I should do."
They did not talk to me for a year.
Literally, for one solid year.
I moved... Ran out of the house in pedal pushers,
and slept in my car till I got enough money to get into a hotel.
And did not talk to my family for the first year that I was a stand-up comic.
The first time I got onstage, I almost shit my pants.
It was terrifying.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: My first time onstage, I felt like it went really, really well.
And then it just sort of moved from there, and it felt fantastic.
Now my experience the second time,
was that I died a hideous and painful death.
I remember my first time I did stand-up,
both my feet and my hands went numb.
I mean, literally, that day I thought
I was going to throw up, like, 12 times.
And afterwards, I didn't even know if I could walk.
JANEANE GAROFALO: My first time onstage was oddly good.
I don't know why. I mean, I was a bit drunk. I don't know how.
But I won the Funniest Person in Rhode Island contest.
Now that's more a testament
to what was going on in Rhode Island at the time than to my talent.
The best advice ever given me
was, "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."
Don't come to my show and expect me to be anything but what I am.
You came to me.
I remember this day, you know, just like it happened yesterday.
I had on a red sweatshirt,
and I was so, so nervous, and it was open mike night,
and I went up there, I had my five minutes' worth of jokes,
and I killed. It was wonderful.
If you're a comic, and had a good first night like I did,
I bet you're lying if you tell me you didn't go outside
and look up at the stars, and go,
"All right. One year from now, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson."
'Cause that's really all you wanted.
JUDY GOLD: The feeling I got the first time I did stand-up comedy,
I guess, it's like a crack high for the first time.
There's nothing that compares.
There's nothing that makes me feel that way.
Nothing. I have a better night's sleep when I do a set.
We got to the airport, LAX Airport,
and they have the new body scanner at the airport.
You know what I'm talking about? Where you walk through
they can see your clit and everything. So I walk through...
No. I walk through, I get to the other side, and the TSA agent says to me,
"Thank you very much, sir." I'm like, "What?
"Aren't they supposed to keep that stuff secret? God!"
I remember I was telling my jokes, and then there was laughter,
and it startled me.
And I was like, "That's right. I am not alone in my studio apartment.
"These people are here."
I didn't expect anyone to laugh.
And so, when I was talking, and they were laughing,
it just felt like these waves coming over me,
and it was a visceral, almost an out-of-body experience.
And it might've been drug induced.
SANDRA BERNHARD: I felt very much at home because
I had done so much of this off the cuff,
you know, performing for friends and family,
it just seemed like the natural evolution for me.
Every comic, I don't care male or female, will tell you
the first set they did, they knew
if they were going to be a comic or not.
In that first set, as miserable, and abject,
and without, like, one single laugh as it was,
I was like, "This is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life."
I think being a female comedian (CHUCKLES)
is the lowest form of life to this day.
If you would say to anybody, "I'd like to come to dinner.
"I either will bring a wonderful young girl opera singer,
"or a wonderful young girl comic."
Who do you think they're gonna pick?
I don't know if female comedians
bring a lot of problems to the stage.
But you're not a normal person if you do stand-up comedy.
I was an okay student, but I cheated on all the teachers that I dated.
I wanted an A.
They wanted an F.
But I had...
You have to be a good bullshit artist,
really, to be a performer, I think.
Any great comedian, or funny comedian,
There is no real, sane person who is funny.
There is an element of crazy.
Not like somebody you hide in an attic
'cause you don't want the neighbors to know,
but it's a very weird life to agree to.
And I think that's why every female comic...
Road. It's doing the road, I have to qualify that.
That's really doing it, even if their act sucks,
I still respect them because I know if the crazy train came,
I'm on it with her.
I don't know. Maybe I am crazy. I might be, so...
I guess you have to define crazy before.
I think most of us have something terribly wrong,
i.e., unhappy, inside us
to go up and take that mike to start with.
Speaking of sawed-off pricks,
I was thinking of Rush Limbaugh on the way over and...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUDING)
Oh, stop. It's too easy.
Let me say something about him first.
I don't know. People go, "He's not such a bad guy."
Right. Hitler was a street mime with an attitude, you know?
And people go, "He's not really a reactionary."
Bullshit. I was at Schindler's List, and he started the wave.
People say that, "How do you do that?
"How do you stand up onstage? I could never do that."
People who do that usually have to
because they did not get enough love
from at least one of their parents.
There's my whole thesis
about having a crazy mother turning you into a funny person,
which I honestly believe is true.
I think the crazier the mother, the more defensive the child,
the more that you take those defenses,
and you learn how to sling something back with them.
It's like I was saying before, it's a way to re-write what's in front of you.
So when my mother would be giving me
a lot of crap for all my flaws,
I would be re-writing them in my head
and finding a way to make them attributes
to the point where really, seriously, at some point,
I started parading my flaws as my attributes.
I never got hugged, or kissed, or said,
"You know, great job, Judith, great job. How was your day?"
I would get, "Oh.
"Well, I guess that's what you're wearing."
The beaten-down and the stomped-upon,
end up with a better sense of humor.
Let's look at most of the famous comedians of the world.
They would be Jewish, black, Irish.
Now let's name all the funny Germans we know.
What I think stand-up comedy should be
is a platform for people who are the bullied.
I do kind of fit into that cliche
where, you know, I was the picked-on kid, and the bullied kid,
and, you know, I don't know if we called it being bullied then?
We just called it being fucked, I think.
For kids who are on the outside,
who never expect anything to be handed to them,
they just naturally become more tenacious, and more interesting.
They express their weirdness fully
because who gives a shit, no one's listening anyway.
At one point during Last Comic Standing, when I was a judge on it,
I heard one of the producers say,
"Well, she's not hot," and, "He's not hot."
And I'm like, "We're not hot, you moron.
"We're comedians. If we were hot, we'd be models."
KATHY NAJIMY: I didn't look like how you're supposed
to look in Southern California.
I was not a tall, thin, over-the-line girl
with long, blonde hair and a tan.
So I think you cultivate whatever seeds the Goddess has given you.
I was six feet tall when I was 13.
I grew up in a suburb of New Jersey.
I was a complete and utter misfit.
I walked into school, and it was a barrage of, "Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Orc."
It was like every fucking day I would hear...
My mother told me never to say anything. "Ignore them, Judith.
"Judith, just ignore them. They're jealous."
I'm like, "Ma, they're not jealous.
"No one wants to be fucking six feet tall in eighth grade, okay.
"They're not jealous."
The funniest people are the silent awkward ones
in the corner of the room observing everyone else.
That's what true stand-up is, is making really sharp observations
about society, and about people around you and about yourself.
I think a lot of comics will tell you they were weird kids,
they were isolated kids, there was
some aspect of their life that was other.
And it also enables them to look at the world just differently
because they don't worry about conforming.
Popular kids are always worried about
what other people are going to think about them.
And a big part of comedy is never caring
what anybody thinks about you. Ever.
The very pretty little girl is not the very funny little girl, usually.
Tell me one good quip
that ever came out of Angelina Jolie's mouth.
Nobody ever said, "Angelina, (LAUGHS) stop. You're killing me."
People are absolutely born funny. It cannot be taught.
All these schools to go and learn to be a comedian,
save your money and buy a nice outfit.
It's in the DNA.
And if you look back,
the same as a painter usually finds
there was a painter somewhere in the family,
you will look back, and you will find
you father was funny, or your aunt was funny.
It's absolutely genetic.
I don't think that being funny is something that you can learn.
I think you can learn how to do a comedic scene,
but I don't think that you can learn how to be funny.
That's just something that you're gifted with.
I think you have sort of an innate sort of timing
when you are a comedic person naturally.
You know, when you're at you wits' end, it all starts to get funny.
Great comedians are people who were born at their wits' end.
And it all starts to look funny.
It's a lot less likely that you're gonna see a comedian
that didn't already have something there.
That just was this robot that went and took a comedy class
and now they're hilarious.
Like, I just don't think that's highly likely.
Even though that's exactly what I did.
I was in New York, I was trying to find the subway
and I asked these two guys coming out of a bar at 2:00 a.m.
This one guy, he just lunges towards me. He's like,
"Will you make out with me? Will you kiss me?"
And his friend is like, "No, dude."
He's like, "No, dude, she's got a bad haircut."
The first half of that sentence, I'm like, "Aw, that guy is cool.
"He wanted to save me."
Turns out he just wanted to save his friend.
I love that my haircut's so bad
that it saved me from a violent sexual attack.
I have twins. I have 8-year-old twins.
One of them is hilarious, and the other one,
she has no sense of humor.
All I know, is that I popped out wearing...
This was her IUD.
You know, I have a natural funny
and then I took a class from a very talented woman
who gave me some structure,
and showed me some techniques, you know?
Showed me the rule of three.
I don't think you can teach people to be funny.
I think it's an orientation. Sort of the same way
you can't teach people to be a meticulous surgeon.
You either have that orientation, or you don't.
I remember years ago in San Francisco there used to be this guy,
and the irony is, he was a very unfunny guy, he was a stand-up comic,
but not very good at all, who used to teach comedy classes.
And I always felt like that was such a snake-oil thing.
I have tried to coach people,
And they don't get it.
I don't think that people can learn to be funny.
If you don't have it, then you ain't shit, if you ain't got it.
I got to apologize to McCain
because I, as a comedian, talked about McCain baby-arm.
I was wrong for that.
But it was just too... It were open... The baby-arm... You know.
'Cause I said, "How you going to be the Commander-in-Chief
"if you cannot salute the very troops
"that's marching in front of you
"because you arm only goes yea high?"
Like the black people saying, 'cause
we thought he was doing the robot,
we thought he was pop lockin'... We were like, bam, bam.
That's Electric Boogaloo right there, that's...
It's hard to tell with a baby.
You know they don't speak English.
So, you know, they'd tell jokes and then they're like... (LAUGHS)
And you think, "Okay." You know, so I don't know if they are.
But let's hope so.
I don't think you can learn to be funny.
Here's how you learn to be a stand-up.
You do open mike nights,
you think of things that you think are funny,
you probably write them down, at least in the beginning,
you then go onstage for your five minutes on an open mike night,
and you tell them.
And afterwards, you sit and have
some juice, or a soda, and reflect.
And then repeat that hundreds and hundreds of times.
SANDRA BERNHARD: The essence of great comedy is truth-telling.
Down to the core.
As an art, you're allowed to express yourself, no matter what it is.
You do what you like, you do what you feel,
you do what's in your gut and your heart.
And you want to express it, and you want to connect with that audience.
I mean, I think that's what all performers and artists do.
Every stand-up comic puts their life on the stage.
My first objective is to relate,
and get people to trust me, and then give them the funny.
That takes a lot of courage.
You know, it takes a lot, a lot of courage to just say,
"Here I am. This is what I think. I'm opening up my heart,
"I'm opening up my mind, and I'm telling you my truth."
When Joan Rivers and I were at Buckingham Palace,
talking to Prince Charles,
and I know it sounds like I'm making this up, but I'm not,
Joan said, "This is my friend, Kathy Griffin. She's an American comedian."
And Prince Charles said to me,
"Where would we be today without newspapers and comedians?"
And I said, "I knew that.
"I didn't know you knew that, Your Highness."
He said, "Well, they're the only ones telling the truth anymore."
There's no shortage of people who demand the truth or the lie.
That's the birth pangs we're in.
That's why Nancy Grace is possible.
Because she takes the scab and the wound and goes,
"Look. This is what's true, my friends.
"And the devil is dancing tonight."
No, the devil only dances when you keep picking the scab of it.
The truth is an imperative thing.
We all do the best we can with it.
Everything I wanted to do, I wanted it to have relevance
to the human experience.
And somehow illuminate some idea.
If you're going to stand there and tell stories
and personal things and stuff like that,
then I think it should be true,
or people are going to pick up.
It's like a dog smells fear.
They're gonna know there's something off.
I was walking down the street in Vancouver, Canada,
and in one hand I had a lit cigarette,
and in the other hand I had a hot dog,
and this 20-something girl leaps out of an alley
with a Greenpeace folder,
and she goes, "Excuse me, ma'am,
"can I talk to you about the future?"
"You better hurry up.
"I could have a stroke by the time you're done talking."
I'm like, "Honey, I clearly don't give a shit about myself,
"What are the odds I care about what's in your folder?"
If you don't come at it
from some sort of really, really strong personal take,
then don't even bother with it.
That's what I tell everybody who's starting off.
It's like you've got to know who you are,
and you've got to know what is, you know, authentic for you,
and what you're really trying to say.
And always stay on target
because there's just too many people out there trying to be funny.
And telling a joke doesn't necessarily
reflect who you are as a personality.
Somewhere inside of you, you've got to know,
"I am funny. I am right."
That's one tremendous skill.
The second tremendous skill is to be able to take rejection.
You definitely have to have a certain amount of confidence.
Well, you gotta have thick skin, and know who you are,
and know what you find funny, what you find entertaining,
and kind of just stick to your guns,
and do you, and do you well.
Stand-ups are really fearless, because they go out,
and, you know, because it's subjective,
you don't know if it's going to work.
'Cause what works on Monday doesn't necessarily work on Tuesday,
and then what works on Tuesday,
sometimes some of Monday works,
but some of Tuesday doesn't.
I mean, you never know. So you just get out there.
So, yeah, you're always scared.
But, man, what a way to be scared.
It's not like jumping out an airplane.
You know, it's just like, "Can I do it?"
All comedians are brave
because what you're really doing
is giving people a chance to judge you.
Female comedians, all comedians, come right to the cliff,
where if you didn't laugh, they fail.
When I think of the women that have made the most impact
those are the women that weren't afraid.
You know, Phyllis Diller, 37 years old.
Thirty-seven years old, going out and doing stand-up.
When there were really no female stand-ups in the clubs at the time.
And then I look at Lucille Ball.
Lucille Ball was really gorgeous.
But at the same time, she was fearless.
She was just very put together. And it's inspiring.
And now I feel like sometimes when they
make parts for women who are that age,
it has to all centered around their age,
and, "How do you feel about that?"
But she sort of defied all of that,
and was just this glamorous woman.
Any woman who dares to step into a field
that is a predominantly man's world is courageous.
That was something, like, really kind of new to see, like, a woman
getting herself in the kind of situations she used to get herself in,
and using her body in the ways that she used her body.
The first stand-up that I ever saw
was many years ago on Ed Sullivan.
It was Jean Carroll, who only died recently.
She was really somewhat subversive
because women didn't do stand-up,
didn't stand up and tell jokes.
And she told them, at the expense of her husband,
and her children, and being a mother, and so on.
You know, she'd talk about her kid,
and she'd throw away as an aside, you know, "Rotten kid."
But you just didn't see that in those days.
This is way back, late '40s, early '50s.
The first stand-up was Moms.
She pre-dates everybody. She was on the T.O.B.A. circuit.
Probably since 1930.
She never stopped working.
And lots of people got to see her
who then went on to do... And become stand-ups.
It's the women who didn't act like women.
Just to stand up and defy an audience to accept a woman
is saying raunchy, ribald, kind of outlandish things
and talking against the conventional norm,
they're just not taking a submissive or subservient role.
I saw this plaque, and it said,
"Women who behave don't make history."
And that's what I think of the greatest female stand-up comics.
We're socialized to be precious and adorable.
You know, fuck all that.
I think the obstacles that women are facing today
are very minor to the obstacles when I came along.
If you were halfway human, they wouldn't laugh at you.
You would automatically be thought of,
"Oh, she's a singer. She's not going to be funny."
And you had to be so outrageous, that was one big obstacle.
You had to come on, and either be... (MUTTERS)
Even Phyllis Diller, whose lines,
just her sheer verbiage was so brilliant,
but she just couldn't stand there
the way a male comic could, and say it.
She had to have the crazy hair, and the crazy laugh,
and the cigarette-holder, and the stupid outfits.
'Cause they wouldn't think she was clever enough.
In the '50s and '60s, it seems like society's view of women
and what it would accept in terms of content from women
was pretty much all in the context of a wife and a mother,
and a very... Kind of a pure, pristine wife and mother at that.
I mean, it was a separate-beds kind of a situation for Lucy.
And Phyllis Diller, God bless her,
you now, her whole context, as funny as she was,
was making fun of herself as a terrible wife.
That's why a woman was not supposed to be beautiful, or sexy, or...
And so many women played on the old days,
you know, being scatterbrained,
or being overweight, or being homely.
Even Joanie, who has a lush figure, Joanie Rivers,
she used to, you know, pretend she was flat-chested.
Like she couldn't get a man. (LAUGHS)
The women who were funny
were told exactly how, and why, and when they could be funny.
They were told what was funny to us,
and that's what they did. Right?
And I'm sure there was a well of other crazy comedy inside of them,
and point of view, and observation.
But it's like we said, "Hmm, you can't really be pretty,
"and if you're going to be funny, it's has to be on our terms."
And it was all the stuff about,
"I'm so ugly," and, "I'm so flat-chested."
And really that's not a female point of view,
I mean, what do women care if they're flat-chested?
It's only men who care if women are flat-chested.
So that whole Phyllis Diller, and, kind of, Joan Rivers stuff
from that period was so... I mean, that was the way to succeed.
There is a boys club in comedy
and it was much stronger and more
prevalent and dominant sometime ago.
Women were supposed to be well-behaved
and when you see something out of the '50s,
I mean, it's really frightening.
I was on a show with a guy who has puppets.
"So who's gonna go on first?" And the guy with puppets goes,
"Oh, ladies first."
I remember thinking, "Puppet boy, you gonna die now."
If you're gonna be sexist
and put your fist up the ass of a cloth object that talks,
then I have a problem with it.
When I stated doing stand-up in '85
there were club owners and things
that would say out loud, out loud,
"We can't have more than one woman on a show
"because we'll lose the audience's interest."
Or, "We had a black comic here last week.
"He didn't do well. We're not gonna have black comics for a few weeks."
They would say that out loud.
Now, there are some who may still think it,
they do not say it out loud anymore.
So, that's the progress we have made.
Comedy only, only comes from a place
of tragedy, or anger or being hurt. When you are happy...
The worst thing that can happen to a comedienne
is fall in love and be happy.
You're screwed, get out of the business.
You have nothing to talk about.
The best thing that could happen is when
you're being dumped all over by a man,
or something awful happens, there's a total rejection,
you can go onstage that night and give it back to them.
It's the weird curse of the comedy writer and the comedian,
that whenever you're faced with really, truly terrible stuff,
instantly a voice starts going off inside
of you, where you start looking for the joke.
I start looking for it just about instantly, no matter how grim.
In fact, the more grisly, the more painful, the more scary,
the sooner that little voice starts trying
to figure out where the laugh is in it.
For me, when I was a little kid in Catholic grade school,
and was getting my ass kicked, by the way, while the nuns watched,
'cause they were scared of the mean girls as much as I was,
I finally stopped getting my ass kicked
because I was able to joke my way out of it.
Okay, you know how guys get all freaky
about having their balls kicked in?
You know, they get all like, "You don't know!
"You don't even know that kind of pain! Oh, you can't even imagine!
"Oh, it's so... Don't even joke! I can't watch it in a movie!
"I can't even watch it in the movie!
"You don't even know!"
It's our ability to laugh, I think, is a survival.
I think we need... We need humor to survive.
(LAUGHING) Every time I have a tragic moment in my life,
every time I have a really hard... Something really devastating,
I convert it into comedy.
I think of, "How can I give it that funny spin?"
The more you dig into any tragedy,
there's always some kind of horrible, absurdist humor.
Happy children should not become actors or performers
because they don't have
whatever that ache or that hollowness is, or that need is,
that produces whatever the juice is
that makes for a performer's "thing."
I would say the biggest lesson I've learned is go where the pain is.
The stuff that makes me most nauseous to talk about
is the stuff that... Really, where all the real comedy is.
When everything is perfect, it's just not funny.
I still hope a lot of tragedy occurs to me
'cause it's really good material.
You have to be complaining about something
'cause it's not just funny if you're like,
"My life is so beautiful. Oh, my God!"
Humor is a great way to talk about things that are taboo
or would otherwise be like,
"We can't talk about that 'cause it's gonna get awkward."
A lot of comedy comes from stuff that's fucking harsh.
I went on stage right after I was diagnosed with cancer
and talked about everything
that had happened in my four months.
And that was very...
A huge departure from my typical comedy,
but I had felt at a loss.
And comedy is what I do,
so I needed to work it out.
And so, I went onstage and talked about it.
So, I found comedy in the middle of, uh,
a horrific time.
I dealt with my husband's suicide immediately onstage.
And I would walk on, 'cause I knew that the audience knew
and I knew that there was a tension there when I walked on,
and my first line for a long time was,
"My husband just killed himself
"and he left in his will that I have to visit him every day.
"So, I've had him cremated
"and I've sprinkled him through Neiman Marcus
"and I haven't missed a day."
Humor, to me, is a coping mechanism.
I know they say that it's the best medicine, it really is.
I mean, feel your body after your crack up.
I'll make a cancer joke like nobody's business
and I don't believe in those rules.
"You don't talk about AIDS."
Well, I believed that until I performed at an AIDS hospice.
And then, I realized those folks wanna
laugh about this more than anybody.
It's a kind of purging process probably for the performer
and if they really speak to an audience,
you share a common humanity, a common discussion.
I feel very thankful to be a comedian in...
In a time like that because it kept running through my mind,
"What do people do to express themselves and get through that?"
I think that humor is the most palatable way
and the most non-threatening way
to get the most intense point across
or something really relevant across.
I think comedy is the greatest gift to mankind
because it's a way of looking at a nightmare, a horrible situation,
and just doing a re-write on it
so you've changed it, you change it entirely.
And I think that's just... Just the greatest thing.
RIVERS: Comedy is not a woman's field.
If you really look at comedy,
it is a very male, masculine profession.
Historically, I don't think men have particularly been
champions of women in the comedy business.
And again, the way that you can look
is just go on IMDb, look up any of your favorite shows,
and see how many women are on staff.
Stand-up is a male-dominated profession.
It's always been men. They didn't let us in. It's not easy to get in.
Stand-up comedy is all dicks and balls.
I think everything is a male-dominated profession.
(LAUGHS) There isn't a profession I've found that isn't male-dominated.
I think there is a very tight boys club everywhere.
It takes a lot for a woman to get her big shears out
and cut the hell out of that.
Stand-up is a male-dominated profession,
but it makes no difference when I step out onstage.
I do not consider comedy a male-dominated profession,
but I do believe that stand-up comedy
is a masculine thing to do.
When you're a woman doing comedy, you have to grow a few cojones
'cause you got to go out there and like,
"All right, I'm gonna tell you somethin' and you're gonna like it!"
The one thing that people don't know about female comedians
is that we have balls of steel.
You just can't seem them, they're invisible.
Mine are right here.
Look, comedy is so not feminine.
It's the most unfeminine profession in the world.
Look, here's the situation.
You get onstage, it's you, it's a microphone,
and you're in control of people's emotions and feelings.
And when we think of someone who's being in control, what do we think of?
Even to this day, most men don't really
know what to make of a funny woman.
I think that men tend to put us
so in the whore, or Madonna category,
that I think when you fall in between,
that maybe it's a little confusing.
You know the straights. I can't figure 'em out.
I think men definitely find female (LAUGHING) comedians threatening.
Mostly because they think that if they date you,
you're gonna go onstage and tell everybody how small their penis is.
Did you guys hear they are now giving... They have...
I was at Rite Aid and they have now, paternity tests.
Not pregnancy tests, paternity tests.
So, you're going through the aisle with your kid,
"Let's get some ice cream. You want some... We need some toilet paper.
"Hey, you know what, why don't we find out who your daddy is?"
It should not be that convenient.
Oh, and then, check this out. The DMV...
While you wait in line at the DMV, has anyone seen this?
They're giving free AIDS tests.
The only thing worse than waiting in line at the DMV
is finding out you have AIDS.
So, now, they've managed to combine the two.
Or maybe because the truth is that
a lot of men are put off by funny women.
They find them intimidating,
a lot of men don't like a witty quip coming back at them,
especially during a fight.
I mean, boy, there's nothing a man likes less
when you're having a big fight with them
than a nice acerbic barb.
I think certain men are intimidated by funny women
and that's probably why they think women aren't funny. (LAUGHS)
Mmm-hmm, that's what it is, like little boys on the playground.
Just by looking at the statistics,
you know that men don't think women are as funny
or they would have more women around.
Adam Carolla recently stirred up a lot of controversy by saying
flat out that women aren't funny.
The men that have said that women aren't funny,
I'm pretty sure, are men that hate their mother.
I just really take 'em with a grain of salt.
It doesn't make me feel anything except
sorry that they feel that way.
There are people running around
that are saying the Earth is flat.
God fucking bless them.
In the Gilded Age, they believed
that if a women read college-level reading,
that her ovaries would shrivel up.
I don't find a lot of male comedians funny,
in fact, I only find a small percentage of them funny.
But it would never occur to me to say, "Men aren't funny."
He thinks I'm not funny,
but I do think he's saying what a lot of men believe. I really do.
I wish that wasn't true, but I think he's expressing...
At least he has the balls to say it.
And my guess is for those men,
those are not the first incorrect things they've said.
I'm gonna say this again.
I did not have sexual relations
with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.
I don't know, they must be half-unconscious.
That would be like me saying,
"All men aren't good in bed." I mean, that's what you've had.
I guess if you're a guy who dates unfunny women
and you're gonna draw generalizations from your own life,
well, you're gonna think that just the women around you aren't funny.
That doesn't apply to all women.
I wonder how his wife felt about it and his little daughter.
"Daddy, why aren't I funny?"
MADIGAN: Jerry Lewis sat at the Aspen Comedy Festival,
and they said, "Are there any women comedians you like?"
He's like, "Nope, they're not funny."
And then, I think the reporters thought, "Oh, he's old and half-crazy.
"Let's give him a chance." "You didn't really say that."
And they go, "What about Phyllis Diller?"
"What about Roseanne?" "Don't think so."
Like, he went through 'em all.
And I'm like, "Really? But falling on a banana peel is hilarious.
"It's so hilarious that when Dean Martin left you,
"you had to go to France, a place where they don't speak English.
"And that's your fan base? Non-English speaking people is your...
"That's who gave you a medal of honor."
Jerry Lewis, sometimes you acted like a girl to be funny!
Christopher Hitchens wrote a piece maybe five years ago
called "Why Women Aren't Funny." Hitchens quoted,
I think he's a neuroscientist, and he said,
"This guy did a study that proves
"that men are funnier than women."
Hitchens completely misinterpreted the research.
But what they found was that women were more discerning
and that men's expectations and threshold was much lower.
Ergo, Three Stooges, like you just have to
hit somebody in the face, like... (MAKES PUNCHING SOUND)
And they think that's funny, and that women had higher standards,
which I thought was kind of interesting.
There is a sensibility.
Women won't stand around farting
in front of each other, but men will.
I mean, they have a larger... They take up more space in the world.
Or at least they kind of feel entitled to it.
Adam Carolla and Christopher Hitchens both really made me sad
because I independently liked both of them until they said that,
and then, I had to reconsider whether I actually really liked them.
Men talk about women not being funny.
Please, you know, tell that to Joan Rivers
or Moms Mabley.
Christopher Hitchens, dead. Okay, that's all I'm sayin'. Mmm-hmm.
Rent my movies, motherfuckers.
You know, I actually don't mind the whole "Chicks aren't funny" thing
because I've been able to be very, very happy
making my living in stand-up comedy and comedy in general.
Maybe they don't want to see women as funny.
Maybe they just prefer to see us
as sexualized beings and not...
'Cause maybe funny isn't sexy to them.
I think comics will respect you
no matter who you are if you're funny.
That's the bottom line for comics, period. There are dicks everywhere.
The world is lousy with dicks,
so I'm sure that there are guys
who will never respect female comedians,
but they're also not getting laid.
Laughter is the great equalizer. There is no difference.
Whether you're a man or a woman, you gotta get laughs, okay?
Otherwise, you're a newscaster.
One of the reasons I think women aren't funny
is because we're so busy thinking about
when we can give our next blow job,
it's like, our brains are so crowded up with that,
we can't, we don't really have time
to think of funny things to say.
I think it's in a woman's best interest to ignore all of that
and just be good, be great at what you do
and don't waste your time worrying about what people are saying.
The more we can get back to funny
being funny, the better off we'll be.
It's still mostly a male-dominated culture
and some things are theoretically unseemly for women,
but if somebody is funny, they're funny.
It does not matter if you're a woman comedian or a man comedian,
what you have to be,
and this is important, you must listen to me,
what you have to be if you're a comedian,
is you must be a funny comedian.
You're either funny or you're not. It's just as simple as that.
They don't care if you're a monkey scratching your head.
As long as you make 'em laugh, the audience loves you.
A penis is the difference between
a female comedian and a male comedian.
Otherwise, you better be funny or it doesn't fly. It doesn't matter.
Funny is funny is funny
and thank you, God, that is the gift we've been given, all of us.
SCHIFF: It is encouraging,
although it's still a minority of women who are making movies
and I do feel like it's harder for women.
I think if women make a successful movie like Bridesmaids,
the interpretation is, it's an aberration.
This is engrained in the studio philosophy.
Males are a bigger draw. Vehicles with males are a bigger draw.
There's no evidence to really support this
because that's what keeps being given.
So, yes, people go see it.
(SHOUTING) It's just not fair!
Entertainment and comedy just reflects the rest of the world.
There is just a lack of women moving up
and getting their due and being successful.
Women being underrepresented in TV and movies is...
Again, speaks to the same issues
that people think men are more exciting,
that men can have more adventures.
There was this fear that women didn't wanna see dirty films,
they didn't wanna see edgy comedy.
And of course, we're dying. We're so much edgier than men.
Oh, my God, stuff comes out of us all the time.
Are you kidding, we're so edgy.
I feel like the movie Bridesmaids has been a long time coming.
I believe there have been movies
made like that, but society wasn't ready.
Society was not ready for women
to be silly, stupid, or sexual like that.
People went crazy for that movie
and they're just like, "Women taking a dump in the street?"
They went over a little bit into boy comedy
or what is conventionally thought of as boy comedy.
And I'm glad they did just so that
they could level the playing field
and be able to make more movies.
The success of Bridesmaids has made everybody realize that a woman-heavy film
will have all genders come out.
It does feel like things have shifted a bit since then.
It seems like it's that breakthrough movie.
It's not even that it seems that way, it is.
It is that breakthrough movie for women.
But again, it goes back to
people don't want to see...
In the movies, they want the heroine to be pretty,
they want the heroine to be soft,
they want the heroine to be the one to take home to Mother.
And you don't wanna take a girl home to your mother
when she brings her a pie, puts it in your mother's face.
GRIFFIN: If you call your local comedy club
and ask them to recite the lineup on a Saturday night,
I guarantee you, the ratio is still probably gonna be
9-to-1, 8-to-2, 7-to-3.
Unfortunately, as with most societies and most eras, females,
they are held to different standards aesthetically,
they are held to different standards behaviorally.
We have to fix how
the comedy clubs and how society views female comedy.
That's been a big part of the job of the female comic,
is to change opinions.
We are funny, we are strong,
we can do what you can do and be just as funny.
RIVERS: When you go onstage as a woman comedienne,
you cannot go on as sex symbol.
They're not gonna laugh at you. You have to let them relax.
You have to almost take sex out of the equation,
and so, you find yourself just mentally
un-sexying yourself, de-sexying yourself,
absolutely trying to be as androgynous as possible.
Maybe the men, okay, they can look at you
and think, (CLICKS TONGUE) "I wonder..."
But the women have to know
they could leave their husband with you
for 27 years and nothing would happen.
You come onstage and you have your little sexy on, the women get mad.
First of all, they're like, "Hmm, who does she think she is?"
So, they're not gonna laugh at you. The men are like, "Yeah-ah!"
They're not listening.
I do think that sometimes men find it easier to laugh
at someone who isn't as threatening sexually.
When I go onstage, I feel certain that
people have different expectations of me,
but because I'm so androgynous and so self-centered,
I really don't care.
You wanna be cute, you wanna be attractive, but you don't wanna be too...
You don't wanna go up there with a tight shirt on and tight pants.
Well, for me, of course, beauty has always
been the card that I play first
because I grew up as a high-fashion model.
A manager at a comedy club, one time, he told me...
I got offstage and I was like, "Man, I just can't get 'em."
And he actually was like,
"Take your lipstick off, put your hair back in a ponytail,
"and put your hoodie back on, and then, do that for the next show."
So, I did, and it was completely different.
Like, if I'd dumb myself down a little bit,
if I don't have too much makeup on and things like that,
then I found that people accepted me more.
I've got sisters that are way gorgeous.
Guys don't even fucking hear you when you look that good.
GOLD: And being androgynous is very helpful
because it's non-threatening.
When you go out there, it's like you're fightin' a war, man.
Well, it's like two things at once.
You're fighting and you're dating.
'Cause you're dating the audience, you wanna win 'em over,
and you know how some dates are like,
"Okay, I don't think he has enough money for me."
WHITLEY: Before you hit the stage, you look at your audience,
there are women there, there are men there, so you have to kind of say,
"Okay, let me get the women on my side."
I never wanna divide the audience.
Sometimes I talk to everybody about
something male-specific or female-specific,
but it's... Everybody's there. Most people are on dates.
Why split the audience?
When you first start dating somebody,
every single thing they do for you is adorable, right?
When you're just like in the beginning of a relationship,
every gift they give you, no matter how busted and jacked-up,
homemade little craft people, you know?
"Oh, look, he gave me a coupon for a hug!
"That's so sweet!"
When you are married, that shit goes out the window.
There's no homemade gifts in marriage.
You're like, "Man, it is my birthday. Where is my stuff?
"Don't you show up with that jacked-up coupon bullshit!
"I want some jewelry.
"'Every kiss begins with Kay,' jackass!"
There are things that I would speak to as a woman
so I can get all the women on my side.
But once I get the women on my side,
now, I'm gonna flip the joke and go,
"Let me tell some jokes about what your man needs you to do."
Then you have all the fellows clapping, going, "Thank you, Sheryl."
So, what did you get?
You got the audience and brought 'em together.
All the male comics always go home with somebody.
If you're on a stage, and you're in a comedy club in Sheboygan,
you still got some girl sitting there that says, "He's cute."
When you're a girl alone in Sheboygan,
you go home to a very mediocre situation in a crappy hotel room.
So, it's not a vocation, it's just something you have to do.
TYLER: For men, I think it's easier for a guy
to be this kind of maverick on the road,
he can be alone, he can make friends, he can go...
Unfortunately, there are just more
female waitresses than male waiters
and then also, if you just extrapolate all the ugly ones,
there's like three hot male waiters in this entire country.
Just so you know, no women have sex with
the people who they're performing to, ever.
I don't know one woman who's slept with someone in her audience
as opposed to the men.
You're interacting with strangers, you're getting a reaction from people,
and then, suddenly, you go back
to your hotel or you go back home,
and you're by yourself, and it's that kind of strange disconnect.
There are days that I go to talk to a whole crowd
and I haven't spoken more than two words
with a human being all day long.
Being a stand-up? Yeah, I think it's definitely isolated.
Because it's just you, but it's much more freeing.
There's that hour that you're onstage
where you feel incredibly loved and connected with everybody,
and the most popular kid in the room
and then, you go back to a hotel room,
where inevitably, there is a Law & Order marathon going.
One of the challenging circumstances
of the earlier days on the road were,
the club owners would do,
since they knew that each week they were having three new acts in,
they would just rent an apartment,
what they called the "Comedy Condo."
And that's Latin for, "I don't want to rent a hotel room."
So, some of the places were scuzzy beyond belief.
There's some that, they can be nice, that's rare.
There was one in San Antonio
where I really sat there and thought,
"Where and how can I hang myself in this room?"
Well, there was one in El Paso and I'm like,
"Hey, guys, I'm not a diva, but there's scorpions everywhere."
I mean, seriously, I could end up in a hospital.
It's not even saying a roach.
They sting or bite,
I don't know, I'm not from Texas, I don't know what they do,
but I know it's not positive.
It was so repulsive
that whatever rodents were in there should not have...
They shouldn't have gone through that.
It's not a bunch of beagle puppies, it's scorpions.
Look, there are less female comics
in this world than male comics,
because it's really not an easy life.
I mean, what woman would choose this?
And when you're on the road and you're in the comedy circuit,
there's a certain amount of uncomfortability,
it's a male-driven thing.
But if you're on your game and you're funny and you're talented,
and you know why you're there, I think you power through it.
It's holidays away from your families.
Always holidays away because that's when you work.
It's New Year's Eve.
I never had a New Year's Eve with my family for 25 years.
Yeah, let's cut the shit.
To be a successful female comedian,
you have to sacrifice your personal life in a big way.
You have to accept that
and you have to really love those moments onstage
and then, you have to work to find a real relationship.
You're gonna have to sacrifice a lot of your personal life
if you want the traditional life.
I don't have kids and I'm not married and I'm divorced.
I think, though, that was partly a function of who I was.
It's like one of those "chicken and the egg" things.
Personal life? What personal life?
I kind of wish I could have been a wife and mother
and got tied to the stove and made pancakes for some pipefitter.
I don't know any female comedians who are
on the road right now, who have babies.
However, I know tons of male comedians
who are on the road, who have babies,
and it's because they have wives.
I never had kids,
so I didn't bring up children who will one day hate me
and talk to therapists about me forever.
I always gotta find a babysitter.
I've taken the baby to the club with me.
And you just hand 'em off to another comic, go do your time,
look at people crazy, say, "Whatever, whatever," and take the baby.
Like, he's not gonna remember it and you
put the baby in the car and you go home.
I would like to have a wife actually.
That would be nice.
Someone to take care of all this shit,
make me food, change the baby's diapers,
and I'll just go do my stand-up.
As women, you are the caretakers,
you are the mothers, you are the nurturers,
so if you choose to have a family,
chances are most of that responsibility
is going to be on your shoulders.
Unlike a man who could have a kid
and then, leave to go on a trip, I would have to breastfeed it.
I would breastfeed, 'cause I don't know how to cook.
I think to be in show business
is about the most stress you can possibly put into your life
in terms of just sort of developing relationships
and any kind of life that has coherence
that you build and grow and expand yourself.
I think throwing yourself into the showbiz mix to try and do those things
is just almost willfully dangerous.
The biggest tradeoff is when you're on the road
and not being able to be with your family
and sort of giving up family time.
Well, I did put off having a family,
which is why we adopted a child.
Because I didn't want a child when I was on the road all the time.
And my husband didn't want to be at home and he had his career, too,
and we didn't feel that was fair.
I'm talking about the road. To look at somebody and go,
"I'm not gonna be home for 39 weeks. I hope you're cool with that.
"And could you feed the dog?"
The tradeoffs would be time and the choices you make behind that.
Do you wanna have children? Even pets?
Pets are as needful and wanting as a 2-year-old.
There are female comics that can have the husband,
the children, the family life.
I'm not sure if I'm that girl.
There's nothing I want more in the world than a beagle.
But I'm not gonna do that 'cause
I don't think it would be fair to the beagle.
And I had a fish, and it actually committed suicide.
I had a tank, and I came home and it was on the couch.
It leapt out of the tank.
My life's not even suitable for a fish.
I can't even imagine being a traveling stand-up and having a baby.
I know they don't fit in the overhead.
And I don't even know... I thought about a cat.
And then I thought, "No, that'll get mad."
And that's the last thing I need is some cat...
Certainly, I sort of put my life on hold, my personal life on hold,
and I was just sort of very single-minded
in my pursuit of what I wanted to do.
I always chose my life, and my relationships,
and my personal happiness over career and over profession.
I don't feel I've sacrificed anything at all.
I think this is exactly the way I've wanted it.
I created my career in the way I wanted it,
too, because I pushed it through.
I left the stand-up comedy scene after King of Comedy.
And I started going out to these other venues
and creating a whole new realm for myself.
I feel like I've struck the best balance possible.
I'm lucky because I don't have sex.
All these young woman comedians come up to me,
"What should I do? How should I be? Who should I be onstage?"
Be yourself, and tell them what you're thinking.
That's it. That's it. Done.
Do whatever you think is funny at any point,
and not stick to "Oh, I'm this comedian and this is my persona,
"and this is the corner I'm gonna choose to back myself into."
I don't like to say you're one thing or the other.
You're a performer. You're a performer onstage.
And if you happen to be funny,
if you happen to be someone who can make people laugh,
then you could be considered a stand-up.
This is something new in the 2000s, this branding thing.
No one really understood branding.
It was just be funny, just do your passion.
And I think you find out from most comics,
they do what's comfortable for them.
I think the word "branding" is one of the worst, most despicable words
to enter our vernacular in the past four decades.
It kind of impedes you in some ways.
It's like, your focus should not be on creating a brand.
I think your focus should be expressing what it is you have to say,
and putting what it is you want to put out into the world out there.
My brand has never, ever, ever changed. I always do...
I've gotten older.
I talk about different things.
And I have to talk about things that are happening to me now.
I don't date anymore 'cause I'm married.
Men and women, we look at money so differently.
Men look at how much money is spent.
Women look at how much money is...
If a dress costs $300 and I get it for $150, what have I done, ladies?
Saved $150, of course.
My husband thinks I've spent $150.
What's it like in there?
With the amount of money I'm saving us, we're gonna be billionaires.
It's taken me 27 years just to feel comfortable onstage.
And I still haven't figured out what I wanna say.
When I first started, I had a hard time finding my own voice,
and I felt like I was trying to be
who I thought people wanted me to be.
You learn to be yourself onstage, I think,
by an audience ultimately accepting you,
and over time, a lot of people accepting you.
My branding is big hair, big titties.
I know that's not good sometimes,
but I think when people say, "Kym Whitley," they say, "Crazy."
I didn't plan that.
I'd rather be known as a child of God and quiet.
Okay, that's a lie. Mike check. Is this thing on? Come on.
They all talk about make a brand. "Make a brand, do this."
Rodney Dangerfield used to say,
"Have a catchword. I don't get no respect."
You know something, just get out there and be funny.
A lot of times, I'm viewed as out-of-date because I do what I do.
I have a lovely child, I have a fantastic husband,
and I have to find things that are wrong with me.
I was always much more drawn to character and doing culture types.
And then I finally struck on the idea of just being me,
and talking about worrying, worrying about everything.
So I developed a persona out of the real me.
I think when I started out, I would talk about
my family and dating 'cause that was my life.
So once I started working in television, my act changed radically,
because I started working and being around really famous people,
and I frankly couldn't believe their behavior.
So I would go onstage and say,
"You're not gonna believe what this person did on the set today."
So did anybody see Lindsay Lohan
stumbling out of the fucking club last night?
We'll do some breaking news. All right, so, Lindsay...
And I promise I'll get to my point,
'cause I really mean to have one.
But anyway, Lindsay Lohan is out. She's out of house arrest.
And it was a really rough hang for her.
She was incarcerated in her own awesome apartment in Venice.
And so last night... I know.
She was seen stumbling out of the Lexington Social Club,
and I think it was too many flash bulbs
from the paparazzi or a little blow.
It's up to you. You decide.
I don't need the truth. I just need a good rumor.
I'm not a good joke writer, not a strong joke writer.
So I've always just done stand-up sort of in a more casual way.
I made the mistake of trying to be like others
joke-wise early on in my career,
and it wasn't a good fit.
Another thing that happened... It happened at a coffee place.
I don't know if you've ever heard of it. It's called Starbucks.
But it's a great cup of coffee.
And the barista, a very nice person, said,
"I don't mean to offend you, but you look like Janeane Garofalo."
"None taken. None taken."
And then, of course, on the heels of that
was, "Whatever happened to her?"
"I wish I knew. I kind of liked her, too. She's...
"The '90s were good. '90s were so good."
Comics are like, "Bang, bang, bang,
"bang, bang. Joke, joke, joke, joke, joke."
I'm like, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, maybe joke.
"Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, maybe something amusing."
But it's not the crux of what I do.
I've been telling my little jokes for, I think, 33 years now,
and I still have no idea what kind of a stand-up comic I am.
I'm a low-key,
Your act develops as you develop.
I mean, you have life experiences,
and they definitely have a huge impact
on your act, and what you say onstage, and your point of view.
In four months, to have the physical
and emotional pain that I've gone through, it's...
I really don't know what's coming for me.
I have no idea, but I don't...
I just want to do what feels right,
and I'm curious and excited by it.
Let me tell you one of the wonderful things about being a female comedian.
There is no shelf life if you are funny.
They can prop you up, you can be holding an IV,
and if you got six good jokes,
they're gonna say, "And now here she is direct from the hospital."
There's something to be said for longevity
in this business or any other one.
But the one where you get up in front of
an audience and have a persona,
who can just get up and tell the same things is great.
I know funny does not fucking wrinkle.
If you're known as a funny woman,
you can work for the rest of your life, I think,
as I'm working with one right now, Betty White,
nearly 91, and on her game, fabulous, funny, beautiful,
has probably the longest career in Hollywood right now,
because she's a woman and she's funny.
I think women that have a sense of humor
about it, I think they probably live longer,
they live more youthfully, and they have longer careers. (LAUGHS)
Joan and I are competing to who's gonna supplant Betty White, I think.
And Betty White's probably gonna beat us both.
God bless Phyllis Diller and Betty White and Joan Rivers.
Not that you're that old, Joan.
You're not at all. But, I mean, over 30.
There's nobody saying, "Oh, you have to retire when you're 40."
You can be funny... We hope to be funny on our deathbed.
I remember when I was, like... I forget how old anybody is...
When you're eight or nine and you accidently see your grandmother naked,
and you go, "That's not gonna happen to me."
And before that thought even got in
my head, it was a great-aunt, she says,
"This will all happen to you, sugar.
"Everything puckers and points down."
I just remember thinking, "This horrific thing
"has happened to her body,
"and she's just making all these great jokes about it."
I think Phyllis Diller really shed some light
on this issue of age in stand-up comedy.
Once you're dead, you just can't do it anymore.
What makes a successful woman comedian?
Someone that can walk on a stage, connect with an audience,
which is a God-given gift,
you can't figure out how to do that, it's either there or it isn't,
and tells the truth, and is funny,
and makes every single person that is seeing them walk out and feel good.
That's our job, that when you walk out,
you feel better than when you walked in.
A successful comedian is somebody, at the end of the day,
who can lay in bed and be pleased
with themself, not have a lot of regrets.
I think if you can face yourself every day, you're doing fine.
The minute you can't look yourself in the face, there's an issue.
To me, being a successful comedian
is calling the shots the way I wanna do it.
Making decisions that are based purely on
happiness and what I wanna do and how I wanna do it.
If I am completely free onstage,
and excited to be up there having a conversation with the audience,
and also killing and also having bitches and Bentleys, that's success.
True success is just being who you are,
saying exactly what you wanna say,
and having people accept you for that.
If I write a joke and you laugh, I've succeeded.
If I book a show and I sell tickets for it, I've succeeded.
I will do the interview in broken English.
That way, people think that I speak Spanish.
All right? Let's just do that. What's the next question?
What was it like working with America Ferrera?
Okay. All right.
(IN HEAVY SPANISH ACCENT) When I finding out
that I gonna working with
I is so excited.
(AUDIENCE CHEERS AND APPLAUDS)
I want people to forget their problems
for an hour and a half and have a really good time.
That's what I want to do with my comedy.
And I think any comedian who achieves that is a successful comedian.
Someone came to my show when they were having just a regular old life
that has some ups and downs and some struggles.
And they had a great time laughing one night,
and they got an endorphin release from it, and that's that.
In my mind, a successful comedian is
somebody that sticks with it no matter what.
And so what's great about the people that we think of as iconic,
or go by a single name, or make us laugh through decades,
is someone that has been able to roll with
the tides and yet stay just plain old funny.
There's a lot to be said for not quitting. Don't bail.
That's why, though, I like Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller.
Phyllis Diller was still telling jokes at the end in a bar.
Joan Rivers is in the basement of the West Bank
doing shows to raise money for AIDS,
but she's still telling jokes in a club.
Any performer is someone who is good
or less good or more or less successful
at making a connection with the audience.
And by that, you have to finally express something
that the viewer understands and gives a shit about.
Even though they didn't know my name,
some cabbie or some truck driver would yell out,
"Hey, hey, I saw you on Merv last night. You were really funny."
That affirmation, that acknowledgment
was just as deep and rich and full
to know that you reached someone in any way at all.
When I feel that I've done a successful job in terms of comedy,
that I've been truthful, that I haven't edited myself.
A respect to the work that you're doing,
and that you also are happy with what you are doing.
I think people who are marching to their own drummer,
and who are working more in the service of the goal of art,
however that applies to comedy.
What we're really talking about, the human experience,
and the way things are in the world, and we're being honest.
To me, that's the real definition of success.
It probably doesn't pay very well.
The one thing that people don't know
about comedians is that it's a great job.
It is a fantastic job.
People come up to me and they say,
"It's so difficult. How do you get out there and do that every night?"
And I say, "It is the best job in the world, so don't tell anyone."
It just gives me such a sense of satisfaction on so many levels.
It is who I am. I am a comic.
I will do stand-up comedy, I think, for the rest of my life.
There's nothing, by the way, like a room that is solidly,
I've had this happen, completely sold out,
and people are laughing so hard
they can't contain liquid in their head.
It's coming out of their nose, they're pissing, they're...
And people that didn't want to laugh were laughing.
If you're watching television too late at night,
and you see that lovely white-bearded gentleman,
you know, wants you to feed hungry kids or something...
Like, "Whatever." (CHUCKLES)
It's awful. It's gotten so graphic.
He just picks one up out of a mud puddle and goes,
"You fed this little bastard lately? Hell, no.
"Shit, he's not even breathing. Wait, I'll get another one."
I'm sitting there at home with melted nacho cheese,
there's a pool outside, I look at my dog,
going, "I'm about to feel like shit."
So I got one $30-a-month kid, and they send you...
What? I don't have... I'm barren. He's $30 a month.
And you know they put a Bible in a blender,
and made him eat that before they gave him oatmeal.
No one can take the stage from me.
I can do what I do anywhere I am.
And I don't need, really, anything but two people.
As long as I have that, everything else is gravy.
It empowers you and it makes you strong.
And it reinforces for you
what it is you're capable of as a woman, as an individual,
as an artist.
I couldn't do anything else in my life.
To be a live performer, to have the luxury
of getting out there, to write material,
to be a reflection of what's going on
culturally, politically, socially,
that is a luxury that few people ever get to experience.
What it takes to be a woman who's holding a mike, it's powerful, it's...
Just like the Statue of Liberty with the torch, we got the mike.
Fuck, it's so awesome.
That feeling is so awesome.
And you could jump out of a plane, or you could walk onto stage.
Either way, you're gonna shit yourself.
But at least, there's drinks in one of those scenarios.
I love being a comedian because I get to
meet so many people across the country.
When I'm telling these stories and telling my jokes,
I get to meet so many people who relate to what I say.
Being a comedian is something, for sure, that I have to do.
If somebody took me out of my life and put me anywhere else,
I would be the most miserable human being on the planet.
I don't like the flying, I don't especially like being alone in hotels,
I don't like having to do phone conversations with my kids
just to keep family life going.
But the part where you go
and you're in a room with people
who've come out to laugh for the night
is absolutely magical,
and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
Let me tell you why I love, love, love being a stand-up.
First of all, you walk onstage and I say to them, "I'm so happy to see you."
Because they're friends.
They wanna be your friend when you're beginning,
but once you've made it, they are your friends.
Nobody has come not to like you, not to have a good time.
I think the future for women in comedy is bright.
I think we are finding more female leads that are funny,
we have female talk show hosts that are funny,
we have movies that are around all-female situations.
The times have changed, I think that the comedy world has changed,
and I think that men have evolved
to a place where they're not so territorial
about things like that anymore.
There's just a lot of stuff on the air with
women right now kind of out of nowhere.
At one point, women dominated television, and women were valued,
and then, all of a sudden, it's like,
"No, we want to get men to watch television,"
which is fine.
But for whatever reason, it swung back, so I have high hopes.
I have high hopes for the next generation.
The future of comedy for women will look similar to what it looks like today,
but maybe more respected.
As a woman, and as a comedian right now,
you really can say some cool stuff
that can make people think about things in a little bit different way.
I think it's really great to be talking about the idea of women in comedy
because we have been so unrepresented in this world.
I do feel like we're finally coming into our own
and we're building a critical mass and that's great.
It still is very frustrating to go to a comedy show
and have the lineup be 10 guys
just because it seems lazy.
If all of us who has ever touched a mike,
who's ever told a joke,
who's ever influenced another woman...
The future is just...
It's beyond our expectations because you have so much now.
You have podcasts and social network
and things that we can do ourselves.
The future of women in comedy (CHUCKLING) is the future
of humanity as far as I'm concerned.
I think all the way around, absolutely. I think that
women of every possible orientation
and color and choice
are on the forefront of comedy at this point.
Women are taking over the world.
What I like best that women are doing in comedy now
is that there's a lot more honesty.
There's a lot of just telling the truth,
and laying everything on the line,
and explaining what really the experience
of life is actually as a woman,
and then adding a punch line. I love that.
I'm so delighted by how young women who do comedy
have steered away from the more stereotypical kind of thing.
They have their own style, they write, they create shows.
They show their intelligence. They're not afraid to show that.
And if they want to be foolish, they can be foolish.
They can be nonsensical, they can be down and roll in the mud.
They can do whatever they want if they can make it funny.
And if they think it's funny, it probably will be funny.
I think the future for female comedy is going to explode,
and God bless those fabulous, fearless women who went before us.
I think that's been proven over and over again,
and I can't believe that this is still an issue.
I'm really looking forward to a time
when it feels like it feels to me,
which is that we're all just funny, we all just love comedy,
we love jokes, we love cracking each other up,
it's what makes our entire world spin,
and we're not separated by who has boobs
and who really wants to touch boobs.
I'm kind of shocked we haven't made
more progress in this whole department.
Let me just say, we've been talking
about this my whole freaking lifetime.
So that's really something that's
truly fantastic about Joan Rivers
is that when I was a kid, I thought Joan was
just the first of many, many, many women
that would be doing work with an equal playing field to men.
And she's been out there by herself for a while.
And she says Phyllis Diller was out there by herself for a while.
And Phyllis will probably say Moms Mabley
was out there by herself for a while.
So I'm just saying
I'd like to see things speed up
in the women in comedy department.
Someday, we won't think about women comics or men comics.
Someday, we'll just think about comics, you know, like people.
I feel like until we stop saying, "Women in comedy,"
even though people mean well or they're celebrating it or whatever,
people are going to be slower to accept that
it's no different than other humans doing comedy.
We'll be more special when we realize
it just shouldn't be that big a deal,
no matter what you are, or who you screw, or what you've done, or...
Just tell the jokes. The rest of it falls on top.
The deck is still stacked against women.
And in terms of getting writing jobs
on television and getting directing jobs,
and getting starring jobs, the deck is still stacked against women.
But it's better than it was when I started,
and it's better than it is in the Middle East
where they won't let you get a driver's license.
So, in some ways, it's a party here. (LAUGHS)
I hate when I hear the phrase, "Oh, she's my favorite female comic,"
or "She's my favorite comedienne,"
because when we're onstage, me and the guys, we do the same thing.
We're doing the same job, we have the same set of skills.
I just want to get to the point where they
say, "Hey, Helen, she's my favorite comic.
"She's my favorite comedian. She's one of the best comedians out there,"
and not have to put that little "female" or "woman" or "chick"
in front of the word "comedian."
Because that's when we get equality.
What year is this? This is 2012.
There's no unorthodox work for women. Women do the same shit men do.
This idea of trying to stick a '50s ideal on women in 2012
is just so ridiculous to me,
so I refuse to answer that question on... It's on merit, yes.
There is nothing like walking on a stage,
and turning to them and saying,
"This is what happened to me today and it was wrong because..."
And they all go, "Yes, it was wrong because..."
And then you all laugh.
It's having a million mothers out there that
say you're the best and you're the funniest,
and it's making
(VOICE BREAKING) a very tough existence for all of us in real life.
We all have an hour and a half together,
but we're just gonna have fun and forget how tough life is
and that maybe something bad has
happened to you or going to happen to you.
Comedy is such a warm blanket to put around everybody.
And you can do it and get a check at the end?
You can't have a better life.
Who said female comedians ain't feminine?
(SPITS) All right.
♪ That sucks a big cock because I was brilliant right there
♪ You motherfucker, yeah ♪
I think the (LAUGHING) longer this interview goes on,
the more I realize how little I think really about anything.
If you are not Asian, number one, don't do Asian accents.
That just would be my preference.
At least I've never had a Britney Spears shot getting out of a limo.
But anything is possible.
They're not going to accept me...
Really? That's what you're gonna do?
I was about to use a really big word.
If you don't know me,
let's not insist on learning how to pronounce my real Chinese name,
'cause you're gonna fuck it up.
My brother made up my name Tig.
It's not short for anything, but it is long for...
(MAKES "T" SOUND)
The biggest... (STAMMERS) What the fuck? I can't talk.
When you try to hit on me, try not to
tell me that your favorite food is sushi.
My ethnicity is just dying and not popular.
Nobody cares about Irish-Catholics anymore.
You go to the clubs, and seriously,
these are shows that are branded
Refried Fridays, Chocolate Sundays.
There's no Mashed Potato Wednesday.
If you're an older white man who probably has seen a war in Asia,
don't tell me about it.
(SHOUTING) I was on a roll!
MAN: Okay, everybody, quiet, please.
Probably choke your wife at home, don't you?
Well, you have to ask me that again,
'cause that was too much fun, Simon made me laugh.
Simon, you just a mess today.
(PEOPLE LAUGHING OFF CAMERA)
What the fuck are you doing?
Simon really is doing a lot, you guys. Simon needs a raise.
You all right, Simon? All right.
Don't ask me where the best dim sum is if you just met me.
I'm more than just food recommendations.
Getting onstage is conquering fear.
For example, let me just tell you one...
Oh, nice! Just what I need, bitch!
Somebody decides to have a cough in the middle of my show.
I would rather walk in on my boyfriend jerking off to porn
than have him have one of those
little headsets on playing Call of Duty.
That's the one where
you protect our country from your couch
while you're eating a sandwich.
The current thing to say is that
50 is the new 40, and 60 is the new 50.
Well, let me tell you, 70 is 70
and it ain't funny.
You act like I know something. This is the bad part.