Where Are All the Famous Female Stand-up Comedians?

Big-league male comedians abound; not so women. Why?

Is there something in our culture that still keeps women from performing in front of groups? Do audiences discriminate? Do we accept certain types of humor from men, yet not from women? Do television shows snap up female talent more quickly? Is the lifestyle too undesirable? Do women have a less-appealing sense of humor?

Where are all the female Chris Rocks, George Carlins, Jay Lenos, David Lettermans, Jerry Seinfelds, Johnny Carsons, David Brenners, Rodney Dangerfields, etc. etc.?

(Sorry for not opting for the female version of comedians.)

I’m not intending to be sexist here (though I’m sure I will be seen as such), but I’ve never yet seen a female comedian/“comedienne” who has made me laugh. Maybe it’s just the sheer number of male comedians in relation to female ones; if one in a hundred males is funny, and you see 300 of them, you’re bound to get a good one occasionally. If one in a hundred females are funny, and I’ve only seen, say, 75 on TV or in person, maybe I’ve just not found the funny one yet.

Well, there’s Paula Poundstone . . . she’s the only one I can think of right now. You can catch her on the Comedy Channel occasionally.

I’ve only seen two female stand up comics who have made me laughed(and I’ve seen a lot of standup). Ellen Degeneres(before her show she was quite funny) and Paula Poundstone(who was very hit and miss but had a lot of hits).

All the others seem to focus on female issues. PMS, men-being-pigs, things like that. I guess they feel they have to do that. It’s kinda dumb. There could easily be a female Jerry Seinfeld.

Personally I really liked Stephanie Hodge when she did stand up. She made me actually laugh aloud, which I normally don’t. (I generally kinda chuckle) Judy Tenuta wasn’t too bad either.

Julia Sweeney (of SNL) just did a great standup act on the Late Friday Night comedy show after Conan.

When I watch female stand-ups, they invariably spend much of their time putting men down. The guys in the audience understandably aren’t eager to sit through that a second time.Or you get someone like Margaret Cho, who is basically complaining on stage.
Ellen Degeneres WAS quite funny and unpredictable when she did stand-up.

 My favorite comedian is Steven Wright, whose humour is very creative and surrealistic; close behind him is Emo Philips. And where is Joel Hodgson?

Margaret Cho, Julia Sweeney??, Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, Stephanie Hodge??, Judy Tenuta??–we’re not exactly talking superstar talent here.

Where’s the beef? Er, the cheesecake.

Roseanne Barr’s comedy act was pretty good at the beginning. Her whole personality quickly overwhelmed whatever stand-up talent she had, but I originally found thought she was laugh out loud funny.

You’ll have to go back to the early '60s, but Anna Russell is absolutely hysterical, bashes men not at all, is intelligent, and down right funny.

I hunted for years to get a full collection of her comedy albums and I treasure them.

They’ve released the first two albums on a single CD, with the order screwed up (the first and second tracks should come after the last one) but the final track on the CD is one of the two or three funniest comedy recordings of all time. Anna Russell, (who sounds something like the Beverly Hillbilly’s Miss Hathaway), gives an explaination for the common folk of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.


Paula Poundstone is the most hilarious comedian ever, male or female! You should check her out. I have two of her shows on tape (one from the early 90’s, and one that’s rather recent, I think, at Harvard). Every single time I watch her, even though I’ve seen her many times, I laugh until I get stomach cramps and nearly pass out from lack of proper breathing (I’m not exaggerating, either!). I literally cry my eyes out. She had the best audience interaction too - brilliant, off-the-hook stuff.

Rida Rutner cracks me up too. I used to have some of her stand-up taped, but I think I taped over it. Back in the early 90’s, she was hilarious. She would come out in these huge fancy ball gowns and act very proper, but the things she would say - I wish I still had that tape.

Laura Kiteflinger (I’m not sure about that last name) is pretty popular on Comedy Central, but she mainly bitches about relationships and such - I don’t think she’s too funny.

Paula and Dana Carvey (a guy) are my most favorite comedians, and Paula rates higher than Dana. It has nothing to do with gender, just their ability to crack me up.

Clever women, with well developed senses of humor are generally snapped up by astute men when young, and because they are so incredibly rare and desirable are usually impregnated early and often or otherwise jealously worshipped as goddesses and held close. This makes standup comedy careers problematic.

I liked Judy Tenuda, too.
Some of her “Judyism” material was hilarious.

Rita Rudner was very funny early on, and still can be. Laura Kightlinger is good as well. I was never a big fan of Paula Poundstone, though.

Felicia Michaels was very funny. Some of you might remembers her–she had a very high, squeaky voice. She eventually ended up doing some work on Full House as Dave Coulier’s girlfriend.

Wendy Liebman, if you’ve ever seen her, is hysterical. Absolutely, rolling on the floor laughing kind of funny.

I have a friend from high school who is a professional female standup–she performs as Tammy Pescatelli. Lots of good material.

Going back many years, Joan Rivers was very successful at standup. And before her, there was Moms Mabley, who was quite popular.

Back to my OP: where are all the FAMOUS female stand-up comedians? Most cited are obscure and forgotten, even though they have made you laugh. Why?

P.S. Astro–single, eh?

One tape that I still play after a decade (in fact it’s in the VCR at home now) is a compilation of Elayne Boosler shows I taped from Showtime (or was it HBO) back when I watched television. Her “Top Tomato,” “Party of One,” and “Broadway Baby” shows are still topical and funny.

Second the Paula Poundstone, a lady who thinks well on her feet, as witness the number of time David Letterman sent her to cover various events.
Brett Butler of “Grace Under Fire” fame was a superb standup prior to her successful TV series. Unfortunately, she fell prey to the “can’t handle success” syndrome that sets in for a lot of male comedians.

Sandra Berhnard not only does killer standup, but plays on Broadway in one-woman shows.

Speaking of which ** Lily Tomlin ** does the same, also with insightful social commentary.

Rosie O’Donnell parlayed her wit and talent into a dynamite talk show, and Broadway (Grease), etc.

Not only can **Bette Midler ** have an audience rolling on the floor with laughter, but she has hit records as well. How many male standups do the same? (I’m definitely NOT counting Bill Cosby’s “Little Ole Man” here. When was the last time you went to a Cosby concert?)

Oh, yeah. There’s **Joan “Can we talk?” Rivers ** who spends most of her time lately critiquing other people’s clothing, but who at one time was a serious candidate for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show gig.


Define “famous.” I’d stack Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller up against George Carlin (they all started at roughly the same time). I think Roseanne can reasonably be described as “famous.” Lily Tomlin, Rosie O’Donnel, Sandra Bernhard – I’d recognize them if I bumped into them on the street.

Joan Davis honed her act in vaudeville and radio before becoming a television pioneer. Totie Fields had her career cut short. Kaye Ballard was far better known (and much funnier) as a standup than an actress.

Paula Poundstone is female?

Let’s not forget Joy Behar, currently on “The View” and I believe her own radio talk show in NYC.

Rita Rudner and Judy Tenuta are two of my favorite comediennes.

craiger: LOL!

I like Paula Poundstone somewhat, but her attitude of “I’m mischevious and cute and a rascal and I pretend I don’t know it but I really know it and the audience knows I know (etc.)” is just annoying, kind of like Elmo. :slight_smile:

Chris Rock, George Carlin, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Johnny Carson, David Brenner, Rodney Dangerfield, etc. Famous enough for you?