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Funny women own it

Jennifer Aniston recently revealed that she turned down an offer to join the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in the mid-'90s because she considered the show to be a "boys' club."

Kristen Wiig is as valuable to "SNL" as Eddie Murphy was in the early '80s, proving week after week that women can be as outrageous, goofy, creative and unpredictable as the men. She's not the only one.

Consider Jane Lynch's version of Idi Amin in track pants on "Glee" or Toni Collette's arsenal of whacked-out personas on "The United States of Tara." Admire Kaley Cuoco's perfect eye roll on "The Big Bang Theory" or Tina Fey's klutziness on "30 Rock." Shudder at Betty White's spunk in "Hot in Cleveland." Gawk at Sofia Vergara's beautiful destruction of the English language in "Modern Family" or Laura Linney's mastery of it on "The Big C."

Toast Courteney Cox's wine-guzzling antics on "Cougar Town" - and while you're up, raise a glass to Mary-Louise Parker, Lea Michele, Patricia Heaton and Amy Poehler, all undeniable evidence that TV has never been more welcoming to funny women.

"We're lucky enough to be on shows where it's not just about the man's journey and the woman is standing there shaking her finger or waiting for him to come back from his fart fest with the guys," said Julie Bowen of "Modern Family."

"These women have their own little story lines and their own little adventures, and sometimes you're in the front of the pack and sometimes you're not, but it's a huge change from the old standard Jackie Gleason format," Bowen said.

Lucy Ricardo was as animated as Daffy Duck, Carol Burnett made us glad we spent some time together and Laverne & Shirley turned in a fine impression of Laurel & Hardy.

But for the most part, women spent the first 40 years of the television era playing the "straight guys." And then Roseanne Barr rumbled onto the screen.

"For a long time, the woman was there to have the guy bounce his comedy off of, to make him look like an ass," said Martha Plimpton, who deserves serious Emmy consideration for her role as a clueless grandmother on "Raising Hope." "But Roseanne changed that. After her, women got to take part in the comedy."

It wasn't just her dry-ice delivery that made Roseanne a groundbreaker.

It also had to do with the fact that she ran her own show - sometimes with an iron fist, but it was her vision - a rarity before "Roseanne" premiered in 1988. It's not so rare anymore. It's not a coincidence that "30 Rock," "Tara," "Weeds," "The Big C," "Cleveland" and "The Middle" were all created by women.

Television's last male bastion may be late-night, which remains a fraternity in large part because most of the writers are men. Jimmy Kimmel said that when he launched his show in 2003, only two of the 120 submissions for writing jobs came from women (one of whom he hired).

Roseanne's reign also paved the way for such actresses as Emmy winner Lynch, no slouch in the looks department, but not the standard eye candy, either.

"I was never seen as the girlfriend of anybody," Lynch said. "When I first started, I did a lot of roles originally written for men. My agent would say to casting directors, 'Do you see a woman in this role?' And they would say, 'Yes, I do,' and walk about thinking they were geniuses."

TV's willingness to cast funny females who don't look as if they just walked off the Victoria's Secret runway explains why "Hot in Cleveland" is one of cable's hottest shows.

"I just think that we're sort of redefining what it is to be a vibrant, beautiful woman," said cast member Wendie Malick, who just turned 60.

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