SiriusXM’s new channel devoted to female comics is the laugh we need right now
The demand for female comics on SiriusXM was growing louder.
The broadcasting company had conducted internal research with its subscribers to get a sense of what they wanted. One thing was beginning to stick out like a sore thumb: Listeners wanted more comedy by women.
“So we decided it might make sense to do an all-female stand-up channel because there has been a real renaissance in female comedy over the past few years and there are more great female comedians now than there ever have been,” said Jack Vaughn, Sirius’ senior vice president of comedy.
That’s why on Wednesday, SiriusXM launched She’s So Funny, a radio channel dedicated to a wide spectrum of diverse female comedians.
Among them are Amy Schumer, Tiffany Haddish, Aisha Tyler, Ali Wong, Wanda Sykes, Tig Notaro, Whoopi Goldberg and the late Moms Mabley and Joan Rivers. Up-and-coming comedians such as Rachel Feinstein and Jo Firestone will also be spotlighted.
Much of the content will feature minutes-long clips of recorded routines and interviews with stars including Schumer, Aidy Bryant, Pamela Adlon and the Queens of Comedy. Listeners can also tune in for exclusive new releases from Aisha Alfa, Paris Sashay, Katie-Ellen Humphries and the Queens themselves. (SiriusXM made all of its streaming programming free online until May 15).
The channel features a wide range of material, with jokes about kale, motherhood, guys who look like Nazis and yes, even therapy animals. In one segment titled “Loose Animals,” Sara Schaefer quips about seeing more loose animals on airplanes — including an owl — as people become increasingly anxious about flying.
“It’s kind of messed up to bring a bird on a plane … it’s like putting chicken in an omelet,” she remarks to a live audience.
In another clip titled “Dork on the Loose,” Aisha Tyler recalls her dorky childhood days as the only black kid in school.
“During Black History Month, I was the exhibit.... [I was] the only tall kid, only black kid, only poor kid. I used to come out onto the playground at recess just, like a giant furious blackzilla stomping people’s sandcastles and kicking toys.”
Tyler, who said she’s “kind of retired from comedy” because of her busy schedule, hopes the new channel brings exposure and opportunities to women comics. Still, it’s frustrating because “there shouldn’t have to be a female comedy channel.
“There’s just as much diversity within the range of female comedic voice as there is within the range of the male comedic voice, and the idea to group all men together, and that’s somehow how comedy is, is just ridiculous,” the “Criminal Minds” actress said.
Tyler entered the comedy scene in the 1990s and recalls the tough competition among women for stage time.
“Most women will tell you — and I think this still exists — is that typically, if there was one woman booked on a lineup ... they wouldn’t book another woman,” yet that attitude never existed for men, she said.
Women have long been underrepresented in the male-dominated comedy industry. In the realm of late-night television, for instance, female hosts remain a stark minority, even as the number of women writing for late-night shows continues to grow.
Other entertainment companies like Netflix have come under fire for the lack of diversity in its comedy roster. The streaming giant has begun spotlighting more female comics, particularly those of color. Last summer, Netflix launched a series special, “Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready,” in which the “Girls Trip” comic introduces six of her favorite female comedians.
There’s still work to be done, but it’s a start.
“I think it’s great that this is out there,” Tyler said about She’s So Funny, “because it’s going to amplify female voices until we get to the point where we understand that women are not a monolith and that as many men love female comics as women love female comics, and we are able to not just broaden our reach but our perspective.”
Stand-up legend Lisa Lampanelli said the new channel will give up-and-coming female comics quicker national exposure — visibility she had to build over time and through local markets when she began her career in the 1990s. As for the established witty ladies featured, she thinks the channel will “really help people get a more historical view of funny women throughout the ages.”
She’s So Funny won’t make up for the comedy world’s history of discrimination against women, she said, “but at least it’s a little bit of reparations on the part of women comics who were kind of brushed under the rug.”
As far as timing goes, it’s purely coincidental that the channel is launching amid the coronavirus crisis, said Sirius’ Vaughn. “It couldn’t have come out at a better time because especially in these days, people just want to laugh.... There’s so much stuff happening and sometimes people just want a break.”
Making it in Hollywood is no easy feat, and doing so as a woman is even more difficult.
The rise in listeners seems to support that. Since the start of this year, the number of people listening to SiriusXM’s online comedy channels has skyrocketed, a company spokesperson said. The company saw an 80% jump (through March 22) in online comedy listeners over last year.
For women trying to break into the world of laughs, Tyler offers this very unsexy advice: “Just don’t stop ... it’s a very hard job. It’s a very hard job for everybody.... And yes there’s discrimination, yes there is exclusion, and it’s absolutely an all-boys club, but in the end the only way forward is to go forward.”
And finding a support group of other female comics is crucial, she said.
“This job, more than any other creative job, is definitely a marathon, not a sprint.”
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