5 must-watch performances by female comedians to get you through a bad day
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Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby has been on the scene in her home country for over a decade, but her recent special has turned her into an overnight global sensation. It’s caught the attention of celebs who’ve tweeted in praise (Ellen Page, Ben Platt), and is rapidly taking over our Facebook timelines as well. The show, called Nanette, is Gadsby’s experience of being a woman, a lesbian and someone who rejects forced gender roles. Nanette also reminds us that there are very few female comedians, even today. Closer home, only a handful of names like Aditi Mittal, Sumukhi Suresh and Kaneez Surka have made it big.
Take a look at our list of stand-up shows by female comics you can’t miss:
Who: Hannah Gadsby
Why: As a big-built lesbian, she’s often mistaken for a man, especially in small towns. “I wouldn’t want to be a straight white man, not if you paid me. Although the pay would be substantially better,” she says.
Gadsby delves into gender, sexuality and childhood turmoil. Angry is a word often used to describe Nannette – the material as well as the emotion it evokes. Gadsby’s hour-long show is deeply personal, and honestly, if it doesn’t touch you, we’re not sure you have a soul.
Who: Tig Notaro
What: Boyish Girl Interrupted
Why: “No, of course I’m not going to take off my shirt in my special,” Notaro waves off the audience. And then proceeds to do exactly that. A cancer survivor, Notaro did that to make a point about finding herself after undergoing a double mastectomy – male gaze, be damned. Throughout her career – which spans TV and radio too – Notaro has been unabashedly vocal about life’s tough parts. Her material touches upon her lesbian identity, her attempts at getting pregnant, and even her mother’s death. If dark humour is your thing, this will be right up your alley.
Who: Katherine Ryan
What: Katherine Ryan: In Trouble
Why: “I’m like Taylor Swift, but with a soul”, says Ryan in In Trouble (on Netflix). She’s also funnier. In her special, Ryan takes on the “perks” of women dating younger men, along with a whole host of anecdotes from her life – from converting to Judaism for a man to raising her daughter as a single mom. A Canadian who now calls Britain home, she says, “I love having a British child. It’s like having a tiny and ineffective butler at home.” Ryan, who’s often compared to Joan Rivers, uses mannerisms to evoke laughter without resorting to slapstick.
Who: Aditi Mittal
What: Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say
Why: One of the country’s first female stand-up comics to become a household name, Mittal broke into the boy’s club with her loud, unabashed sense of humour. In a delicious subversion, Mittal goes where male comics have always gone with full impunity. Yes, we’re talking of ‘bold’ themes like sex, anatomy, feminism, and more. In one gag, she likens saying ‘sanitary napkins’ to being in Hogwarts and saying ‘Voldemort’. In another, she calls breasts a conspiracy to keep the safety-pin industry functioning.
What we love most about Mittal’s show (on Netflix) is that her sari-clad alter-ego, Dr Mrs Lutchuke, a sex therapist, also makes an appearance. Fun fact: This special was announced two weeks after Mittal criticised Amazon for signing on 14 comedians, all of them male. Way to dismantle the patriarchy while being hilarious at it.
Who: Amy Schumer
What: Amy Schumer: The Leather Special
Why: Schumer owns her act like few others can. She’s supremely confident even as she cracks one self-deprecating joke after another. Sample this: “I tweeted a photo of myself wearing just underwear, and that’s when I learned the word you don’t want people to use when a nude goes viral. ‘Brave'”. In this special, where’s she’s dressed in all leather (duh), she touches upon dating, sex, and being famous, while being as dirty and graphic as she’s known to be. She gets a lot of flak from whining men on the internet who complain women aren’t funny. But she’s obviously had the last laugh – she is the first woman to make it into the Forbes’ Highest Paid Comedians list. We can almost hear the glass ceiling shatter.