My name is Emily Syrja. I am an aspiring lady comic (that is, an aspiring comic who happens to be a lady, since I’ve already achieved ladyhood), as well as the founder and co-editor of Feminist Film. I’m just getting off the ground in the comedy world, but I’ve already encountered some hurdles in the very male-dominated scene at my school, Michigan State University, and the surrounding area. After performing at one particularly triggering group show, where I was subjected to rape joke after rape joke from my male peers, I retreated to the makeshift cavern of blankets and pillows I call “Sadtown USA” and devised a plan to travel to Boston, attend the 2012 Women in Comedy Festival, and blog for Feminist Film about my experiences with specifically female-branded comedy.
I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t at least partially a personal journey, but let’s be real: I’ve never had a personal journey that I didn’t share with the internet immediately. While attending WICF, I’d liveblog my experiences for Feminist Film; reflect on themes of safe-space creation in the comedy world; write profiles on each of the lady comedians I encounter; and, if I can manage to milk Feminist Film’s “prestigious blog” status hard enough to earn press credentials in time for the festival, interview said lady comedians about their own experiences and comedic philosophies.
Some of our followers have commented in the past that we have no place posting so much about women in comedy on a blog called Feminist Film. I’d argue that, in fact, we do: comedy, like film, is an arm of the entertainment industry in which women and their perspectives are dramatically underrepresented. Furthermore, there are so few full-time, professional stand-up comics—especially where women are concerned—that most women comedians also work as actors, as well as television and film writers and crew members. To put it simply, women in comedy are women in film.
With this blogging project, I hope to reignite a discourse surrounding the particular challenges that women comedians face, because they are too often forgotten. While some more established feminist comedy icons have risen above these challenges and are able to dismiss claims of sexism in the industry, recent blog posts by women comics like Gaby Dunn and Jen Kirkman remind us that discrimination, bias and blatant misogyny still run rampant in the comedy world. Blogging provides a platform for lady comedians to share their experiences—both their challenges and their successes—and I want to help expand that platform.
Of course, women aren’t the only ones who are underrepresented in comedy: people of color, queer and trans* folk, and people with disabilities face similar, though not identical, problems. I do intend to question the implications of a comedy festival created specifically for women, and, as a queer woman with invisible disabilities, will undoubtedly comment on the intersectional dimensions of life as a female comic.