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Women shut out of Grammys comedy album category. That's no joke and no surprise

Women shut out of Grammys comedy album category. That's no joke and no surprise
The soundtrack to Rachel Bloom's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," left, Hannah Gadsby's "Nanette" recording and Ali Wong's special "Hard Knock Wife" were eligible for a comedy album nomination. (The CW, left; Ken Woroner; Ben King / Netflix)

The nominations for the 2019 Grammys Awards were announced on Friday morning, and this year's contenders for best comedy album are — surprise! — all men.

Patton Oswalt ("Annihilation"), Dave Chappelle ("Equanimity & the Bird Revelation"), Jim Gaffigan ("Noble Ape"), Fred Armisen ("Standup for Drummers") and Chris Rock ("Tamborine") were all recognized.

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Solely nominating men for this particular prize is nothing new for the Grammys. This year's announcement marks the 60th year that a version of the comedy album award has existed.

Its nominees all have been male 19 times (not counting years that cast-wide albums from "Saturday Night Live," “Monty Python” or “National Lampoon,” or releases like 2005's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents ... America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction," 1991’s “The Best of Comic Relief ’90” and 1982’s “Airplane” and have been included).

Only three women have ever won the award as a solo act: Lily Tomlin ("This Is a Recording,” 1972), Whoopi Goldberg (the recording of her Broadway show, 1986) and Kathy Griffin (“Calm Down Gurrl,” 2014).

In her acceptance speech, Griffin expressed surprise and pride. “In the history of best comedy album, only two other women have won: Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg,” she said. “I stand in great company.”

Two additional women have triumphed as part of a male-female duo: Jo Stafford won in 1961 for "Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris," her musical comedy album with Paul Weston, and Elaine May won in 1962 with Mike Nichols for their spoken-comedy recording "An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May."

With six nods, Griffin is the category's most-nominated female. Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Tig Notaro, Amy Schumer, Lisa Lampanelli, Ellen DeGeneres, Marsha Mason, Joan Rivers, Julia Sweeney, Rita Rudner, Sandra Bernhard, Bette Midler, Judy Tenuta, Erma Bombeck, Gilda Radner, Mrs. Miller, Betty Comden and Alice Pearce also have been nominated. That’s fewer than two dozen women throughout the award’s six-decade history.

Occasionally, these women were included as part of a duo act with a man; oftentimes, they were the only female nominated for the honor that year. And that’s not counting the only time an all-female compilation was nominated in 2002: "The Queens of Comedy," featuring Adele Givens, Laura Hayes, Mo'Nique and Sommore. So technically, the count is up to 27 — which is more, but still not great.

Busy Philipps, pictured with Tracee Ellis Ross, hosts the E! late-night talk show "Busy Tonight."
Busy Philipps, pictured with Tracee Ellis Ross, hosts the E! late-night talk show "Busy Tonight." (Jordin Althaus / E!)

Comedy has historically been a male-dominated field, but women have made significant strides in the past year. Michelle Wolf’s epic set made waves at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and Busy Philipps scored a late-night talk show, "Busy Tonight," on the E! network. The Emmy Awards showered their praise on Amazon’s comedienne series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” And HBO picked up specials by “2 Dope Queens” podcasters Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson.

On the flip side, many women — such as Griffin, Samantha Bee and the victims and critics of sexual-assault offenders Bill Cosby and Louis C.K. — have also faced vitriolic criticism for their work.

So it's a shame that the 2019 nominees for best comedy album — a category that now includes spoken comedy and musical comedy — only lauds men. The albums released during the eligibility window (Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018) included Hannah Gadsby's "Nanette," Ali Wong's "Hard Knock Wife," Notaro's "Happy to Be Here," Iliza Shlesinger's "Elder Millennial," Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher's "The Honeymoon Stand Up Special" and the third-season soundtrack of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," among others.

Though these releases might not necessarily have been snubbed — as with all Grammy categories, contenders must be submitted for consideration by the voting membership — the wider praise for women in comedy remains well overdue. The Grammys, which has been plagued with issues of female exclusion across many of its other categories as well, can and should be part of that chorus.

For now, such hopes will have to sit on the shoulders of comedic firebrand Tiffany Haddish, whose recording of her autobiography, "The Last Black Unicorn,” is the lone female entry nominated for the spoken-word album award.

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