Messing with the Comedic Potential, by David Bax
Christina Applegate was funny in Anchorman. Now, even though she had become known to us by way of a show that was, at least theoretically, comedic, she was not someone we thought of as a comedian. Yet she surprised us all by being truly funny, able to rise to the task alongside Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, etc.
Coincidentally (or probably not) Christina Applegate is also pretty. It would be scientifically questionable to assume, given only these facts, that pretty women are all funny. Hollywood, not renowned for its scientific prowess, has been making that assumption for a long time.
This is why we so often get mainstream comedies with comedic male leads and pretty but unfunny romantic interests. I recently saw Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and I liked it. It was funny and the film’s female lead (Entourage’s Emmanuelle Chriqui) is certainly attractive. Sandler and crew are clearly aware that she has little apart from attractiveness to offer, though, as there is not even any attempt made to give her anything funny to say or do. This poor casting choice punches large gaps in the comedic tension necessary to propel a film comedy forward because, whenever she begins to talk, there is a promise that nothing funny is about to happen.
Why, when we have a Vanity Fair cover article proclaiming, for any of us who doubted, that women are funny, we have woman headlining the casts of some of television’s most successful comedies (30 Rock, The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Sarah Silverman Program), and female-led films are doing so well (Sex and the City, the ostensibly funny The Devil Wears Prada), are we not allowing them to play alongside Hollywood’s funny men? Is there really a divide between male and female comedy? As someone who has, at one point or another, laughed at at least half of the things listed above, I don’t see it.