“But women just aren’t funny!”
It’s a trope almost as old as misogyny itself. Yeah, we know it sounds like we’re pandering. Oh well — if you clicked on this article with the headline above, you had to be expecting it. But our point is the funniest female comics can stand against their male counterparts any day. And any guy who says otherwise is probably bitter over losing a gig to a girl.
Don’t get us wrong. We think there are plenty of women who are totally unfunny. Just like we think the same about a whole bunch of men. Even some of those who make their living being “funny” strike us as pretty dull. But if you’re being honest, you have to admit that a sense of humor doesn’t discriminate.
The funniest female comics face unique struggles.
But once they get a microphone and an audience willing to give them a chance, they shine. And that’s the true test of an entertainer, no matter the genre or gender. So in a way, the funniest female comics are pioneers in an industry becoming more integrated. At the same time, they also represent so many other experiences. Overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream? Yeah, sounds like something almost anybody could appreciate.
Now let us get off of our soapbox and let the women do the hard part of making you people laugh. First of all, here are a few factors we considered:
- A wide audience – We’re not saying everybody has to laugh in order to be funny. But whatever your gender, you have to have broad (pun only partially intended) appeal.
- A great perspective – Again, you can talk about the same thing as everybody else, but what’s the spin? If you’re regurgitating old premises all day, even if it’s kinda funny, we’ll pass.
- A deep set – Some comics talk about everything. Others focus one one or two topics. Whatever the funniest female comics do, it goes deeper than the surface.
Of course, these are the same criteria we use for judging male comics. What? Did you think it would be different for women. That’s pretty sexist of you, but we’ll let it slide.
After a lengthy period of research, we were able to select the funniest female comics.
Okay, fine. We just sat around for a while and thought about the women who make us laugh. But that’s about the closest to a scientific study you can expect from us. Take it or leave it, here’s what we got.
As usual, we present our findings in no particular order. And if we left off your favorite, we’re sure it was just a clerical error.
1. Kathleen Madigan
Whether she’s discussing her family’s antics or whatever minutiae has her upset that day, she’s hilarious. Kathleen Madigan is certainly one of the funniest female comics. After proving herself in all types of arenas, we think she’s up there among the best of all time. She’s entertained the troops and audiences around the world. But the biggest testament might be her biggest fans: fellow comedians who think she’s brilliant.
2. Whoopi Goldberg
Most of her fans from this millennium probably know her best from “The View.” And we’re glad she got the deserved steady gig. But if you don’t remember her as one of the funniest female comics, you’re missing out. She dominated the circuit for much of the ’80s and ’90s. And that was back when competition was tighter than ever. She combined a fierce and fearless style with clever, quality punchlines. That quick and biting wit makes an appearance on “The View.” But we wish she’d put together another stand-up special! Oh, and her participation in the Comic Relief charity series is another plus.
3. Ellen DeGeneres
She’s another one who has found a great home on television screens every weekday. But she injects her rapid fire wit into every episode. And we don’t necessarily give extra points for bringing people together, but she does. She’s one of the most likable celebrities we can think of. But it’s her status as one of the funniest female comics in memory that we’re thankful for.
4. Rosie O’Donnell
We’ve got a fun fact about Rosie O’Donnell. She’s more than an applause line during the second hour of Donald Trump’s latest rally in Possum Neck, Alabama. She made a reputation as one of the funniest female comics in the circuit. Then she built on her acting career, got a talk show and became an icon. She might be known for her political musings these days. But her comedic chops are still on display all the time. And we’ve got tons of classic clips like the one below.
5. Paula Poundstone
So much of her career has resonated with us through the years. But it all converges with the unique angle of her stand-up routines. Paula Poundstone truly is one of the funniest female comics we’ve seen. She was one of the hilarious voices bringing the “Home Movies” animated scripts to life. And her appearances on NPR are among the main reasons we sit through so much Mozart.
The funniest female comics: Honorable mentions
Just because we don’t necessarily consider many favorites among the top, we like their style. And there are a few categories, along with several comics within them, that we felt deserved attention.
- The oldies – Frankly, we stuck to comedians whose prime occurred in our lifetimes. That means hilarious women like Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers didn’t make the cut.
- The overachievers – There are women like Iliza Shlesinger and Amy Schumer who seem to always be working. Stand-up specials, tours and movies keep them busy — and keep fans laughing.
- The ‘others’ – Since we’re focused on stand-up for this list, a lot of funny women are left out. From writing to sketch comedy, Tina Fey, Carol Burnett and many others led the way.