The Sexist

Maxim Recognizes Female Comedians—As Sucking!


While writing a preview of Paula Poundstone's upcoming D.C. stand-up gig for this week's newspaper (full disclosure: I was kinda into to Poundstone as a kid, during my cat phase) I stumbled upon Maxim's list of the "Worst Comedians of all Time." Of the 12 comics listed, six—Judy Tenuta, Kathy Griffin, Sandra Bernhard, Margaret Cho, Whoopi Goldberg, and Poundstone—are women. And I'm pretty sure it was deliberate.

First of all, all of these women are listed as less funny than Carlos Mencia, which we all know is impossible.

Second, Maxim rarely recognizes women as accomplishing anything other than being hot, so it's a bit suspicious that the one time the magazine takes note of women who are actually successful at their jobs, it's in the context of them sucking at them.

Third, why isn't Dane Cook on this list? I'm so on to you guys!

Fourth, while devoting half of the list to female comedians may appear to level the playing field—women are so successful at comedy now that we can point out when they're unsuccessful at comedy!—it's still much more difficult for women to be taken seriously in the comedy business. So when Maxim picks six unfunny men, they're picking from a pool of thousands of funny guys. When they pick six unfunny women, they're choosing from a pool of, like, seven. Essentially, Maxim took a list of successful female comedians and changing the name to "Worst Comedians Ever," because it's easy.

Finally, while the men on Maxim's list are criticized for making careers out of one-note comedic shticks—Yakov Smirnoff does the "Communist" thing! Louie Anderson does the "fat" thing! Carlos Mencia does the "Mexican" thing!—the women on the list are basically all derided for doing the "woman" thing (also, for being ugly). But Mencia isn't not-funny because he's Mexican-American, Anderson isn't not-funny because he's fat, and if you think these women aren't funny, it's not because they're women. It's more likely that you don't find them funny because you are not a woman.

And that's why Dane Cook isn't on the list. Sure, he's not funny, but at least he's not-funny in a Regular White Dude Who Likes Chicks way, and not in a fat post-Communist Mexican woman way. The list, actually, is built entirely around the same terrible one-note jokes Maxim pretends to reject—Kathy Griffin isn't funny because she looks like a "gay man"! Sandra Bernhardt isn't funny because she's "ugly"! Margaret Cho isn't funny because she talks about Korean shit!—instead of the actual skill of the comedians. Just because Maxim readers aren't into jokes about tampons or whatever doesn't mean that the jokes suck. Similarly, targeting Maxim crowd—making jokes about getting drunk, sexin' hot chicks, and being a dick—can be pretty unfunny as well.

  • Anon

    Any list of worst comedians that doesn't include Dane Cook can't be taken seriously.

    On another note, did anyone see Carlos Mencia's stand up special before he got his own show.

    It was surprisingly funny. Sometimes I wonder if comedians get played out because they try to push their timetables too much.

    I wonder if Mencia would be funny if he only had to come up with a half hour of jokes per year.

    Maybe he just stole all the funny jokes in his original special.

  • Former Staffer

    Speaking of Whoopi Goldberg, Amanda, did you notice in Gene Robinson's chat on WaPo today, someone quoted Whoopi on The View this AM as saying Polanski didn't "Rape rape" his victim.

    There's a blog posting for you in the making.

  • Joe Schmoe

    You seem to have stumbled onto the fact that magazine articles are written for their readers. Congratulations! How old are you?

    A few months ago, Popular Mechanics had an issue with the 100 Skills Every Man Should Know (or something like that). Predicitably, some women chirped up about why these weren't skills weren't what "women" needed. The response was classic, something to the tune of "Almost all our readers are men. If that doesn't sit well with you, we have a sister publication called "Good Housekeeping" that you are welcome to subscribe to." You don't see guys writing to that magazine bitching, "Wh, what about "Dad's" cupcake secrets?"

  • Dorian

    @Joe Schmoe: I am going to point out that Popular Mechanics pointing women toward Good Housekeeping is, uh, not really a solution. Seeing as how they cover COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TOPICS, and all. So women looking for something in PM, and disappointed by its gendered reader expectations, are not likely to find the same information in the other magazine.

    As a side note, I, as a guy, would find it really refreshing if Good Housekeeping published an article on 'dad's cupcakes'. And if Popular Mechanics published one with '100 skills everyone should know' (see how easy it was to fix that headline? It's even shorter!). I'm just saying.

    @The Actual Article: It's such a shame how it's apparently impossible to be funny at all if you don't cater to the dominant archetype. I feel like that leaves a lot of people out in the cold.

  • BritPixie

    I don't read maxim, I'm not really their audience, I don't really care what they have to say, and I'm not at all surprised. At first I thought, "hey! they are trying to be inclusive, that's kinda nice. I know I hate when women get left of 'best __ of all time' lists." Then, not so much when I saw who was on the list.

    That said, Margaret Cho is hilarious, and I love her. That video will probably be the best 9 minutes and 20 seconds of my day. Thanks Amanda!

  • Bastian

    Um. Ms. Hesse should have noted that the list she's referring to is on and at least nine years old. That's a pretty lazy and/or convenient omission. But then again, most of Ms. Hesse's posts reek of this similar journalistic laziness. (And didn't Maxim put Sarah Silverman on the cover?) Anyway, I assume this is how her latest post came about: 1.She had a half baked notion "women don't get respect in comedy." 2. She Googled and stumbled upon a dated Maxim link. 3. Write wordy diatribe 4. Remember that old Vanity Fair article (actual journalism) on women in comedy she half read (or heard about) from two years ago and include link to provide "credibility." The Post editors should take note.
    She is correct, Dane Cook is not funny.

  • Conrad Davis

    1. He Misspelled the author's name 2. He disingenuously refused to mention that the list is on the front page of, despite being "nine years old" 3. He dismissed many other links as a "wordy diatribe" 4. Remember that the Post editors don't give a shit about some half-baked post some goon makes in the comments.

  • calvin

    Ms. Hess,

    Women complain that they are not included when it comes to comedy. Meanwhile, the Maxim article included BOTH successful male and female comedians.

    Yes, Dane Cook should be on the list. As could several other male AND female comedians.

    And I know - women are SO oppressed when it comes to entertainment... it's not like almost EVERY mainstream network and show is geared towards women. Note the sarcasm.



  • boo ya

    female comedians are ugly and weird. also overly liberal

  • Mona

    I don't think women comedians are usually funny. But I think that nature and society share the blame for that, not the women themselves.

    There are always exceptions to the rules, of course. Funny chicks DO exist. Probably more than we would venture to guess. But to reach a wide audience and gain any significant amount of public exposure is no easy task, regardless of gender, so there's a good chance we are presently missing out on many of them.

    In my opinion, it is far more challenging for women to be thought of as humorous than it is for men. I believe this is also somewhat responsible for the lack of good women comedians. It sure seems to me like the more masculine a woman's thought process tends to be, the greater chance she has of being funny to others (especially men). But what makes it especially difficult even then, is she has to somehow deliver all her entertaining thoughts and insights in a way that guys can relate to but also in a way that doesn't cross over into embarrassing them or hurting their fragile pride.

    Not an easy task.