4 Women Who Are Breaking Comedy’s Glass Ceiling
Like many American institutions, the world of show business has long been a boy’s club, and comedy is by no means an exception. When you think of all-time great comedians, some names that come to mind might be Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy and George Carlin. Women have historically been boxed out of the comedy scene, and sexism both on the stage and behind the scenes has been a problem for female comics for generations.
But gender equality is progressing in the comedy world. Rockstar comics like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer and Samantha Bee have helped pave the road for women across the country (and the world) to carve their own path in comedy. Latent chauvinism among male comics—which was the norm even a decade ago—has become largely unacceptable.
It’s easy to look at household names like Fey and Poehler as indicators of comedy’s glass ceiling beginning to crack, but there are many, many other comics at every level of fame who are improving gender equality in the comedy world every day. Below, we’ve highlighted four women who are breaking comedy’s glass ceiling and dancing on its shards.
Anne Libera is the director of comedy studies at Columbia College Chicago and The Second City. During her time as a comedy professor, she has helped shape, inspire and drive a countless number of comedians and comedy aficionados in Chicago. Libera is a local comedy guru, but you’ve probably never heard of her—you’ve probably heard of some of her students, though.
Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comedian, writer and actress whom Vulture.com, Essence and Esquire have named one of the top comedians to watch. Most recently, she created and starred in Refinery29’s web series “Woke Bae” and, alongside Jessica Williams of “The Daily Show,” she is the creator and co-star of the hit WNYC podcast “2 Dope Queens” as well as the host of the new WNYC podcast “Sooo Many White Guys.” During the course of her career, Robinson has tackled issues like race and feminism in a manner that’s both illuminating and hilarious.
Negin Farsad was named one of the Funniest Women of 2015 by Huffington Post, one of the “10 Best Feminist Comedians” by Paper Magazine and was selected as a TED Fellow for her work in social justice comedy. She is the author of the recently released “How to Make White People Laugh,” a memoir-meets-social-justice-comedy manifesto. She has sued New York State’s MTA over the right to put up funny posters about Muslims and won. Farsad’s work directly challenges common stereotypes about Muslim women while making audiences crack up in the process.
Former Second City Mainstage peformer Chelsea Devantez is poised to become the next star comedian to come out of Chicago. She’s currently writing for Jon Stewart’s new political satire project on HBO. She is a hilarious jack-of-all-trades comic with stand-up, improv, writing, acting and more in her repertoire. If you’re curious as to what the future of comedy looks like, look no further than Devantez.