The Big Issue : Edition 489
THE BIG ISSUE 24 JULY – 6 AUG 2015 15 weekend, more than the total box office takings of the original film. Scott, evidently the head of the Film Critics’ Rebel Wilson Appreciation Society, again sang her praises, describing her performance as Fat Amy as “utterly crude and impossibly graceful at the same time, as if she were the solution to a complicated math problem involving Divine, Dame Edna and Doris Day”. In what is becoming a depressing pattern of events for women making a play for comedy stardom, however, the long arm of industry sexism has come grasping for Wilson. In a low point for digital “journalism”, Mia Freedman’s Mamamia website ran a piece in May this year revealing that Wilson was 36, not 29 as had previously been reported – with some help from Wilson. The entire world, and Wilson herself, wisely replied with a resounding “Who cares?” This age ‘outing’ was all done, supposedly, under the auspices of feminism; writer Alex Greig seemed at pains to use this “lie” as evidence that Hollywood is an inhospitable place for a woman over 30. But with friends like these, who needs enemies? And, really, who’d be a woman in comedy? They’ve been up against it since Christopher Hitchens’ dreadful 2007 Vanity Fair article ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny’. “There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians,” Hitchens wrote, “but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.” It got worse from there, both within the body of the text and also the impending and slow- boiling debate over whether or not women were funny. There were earnest and also apoplectic responses, including a Vanity Fair piece and photo-essay entitled ‘Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?’, which had a distinct tone of a school kid yelling “I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?” It all contributed to the genuine suspense upon the release of Bridesmaids as Hollywood asked itself, semi-rhetorically, will people go and see a film about women? The answer was, of course, a resounding “Yes!” But there is never a time when female comics can relax. Just as Pitch Perfect 2 conquered the box office, and Amy Schumer’s Inside Amy Schumer broke new ground for whip- smart sketch comedy, and Paul Feig announced a new Ghostbusters movie starring four of the biggest comedy stars working today (Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon), along came Michael Eisner. In July, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner declared, “From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman”. Once again, just as it was almost a decade ago when Hitchens sounded off, the industry responded with a flurry of rebuttals. Online news outlets ran with BuzzFeed-style lists of “beautiful and funny women”, as if they couldn’t bear the thought that plain or ugly women might also be funny. But through every storm of dim- witted commentary on women in comedy, Wilson has remained steadfast. Her growing catalogue of fine work is the biggest weapon in an arsenal designed to deflect muckraking online content-mongering. In an interview with The Guardian this year, Wilson was sanguine about her Hollywood prospects. “I’ve got into fights with some dudes – male executives, creators, [about] what they think is funny – schoolyard humour, like: ‘Aha, laugh at the funny fat girl’. Fair enough; one joke. But 10 disgusting jokes in a row? Enough is enough,’’ she said. “It’s been a boys’ club in comedy up until now.” That’s our girl. Clem Bastow is a regular contributor to The Big Issue. And a funny woman herself. LEFT: REBEL WILSON AT THE EUROPEAN PREMIERE OF NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (PHOTOGRAPH BY JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES); KRISTEN WIIG (PHOTOGRAPH BY KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/GETTY IMAGES); AMY SCHUMER (PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN LOVEKIN/ GETTY IMAGES); TINA FEY (LEFT) AND AMY POEHLER WITH JIMMY FALLON (PHOTOGRAPH BY THEO WARGO/GETTY IMAGES) WHO’D BE A WOMAN IN COMEDY? REBEL WILSON WOULD, WRITES CLEM BASTOW.