What’s So Funny? Feminism, Catholicism, and Humor in Contemporary Women’s Literature

  • Jeana DelRosso


From satirist to comic-book writer to stand-up comedian, the humorist is most often gendered male in Western culture. As Regina Barreca puts it, “Generally speaking, commentators on comedy continue to treat the subject as a necessarily all-male pastime, rather like writing in the snow” (Last Laughs 3). Despite Barreca’s own recent rise to popular attention, with her frequent guest appearances in Gene Weingarten’s column in The Washington Post Magazine, women’s comedy remains overshadowed by men’s. June Sochen tells us that “it took a very long time to overthrow long-held notions about women’s alleged lack of capacity to laugh and to create laughter,” largely because “humor thrives in an oral setting, in a performance mode, not as written and read material… And performance, especially in the nineteenth-century, occurred in a public place, clearly the male territory, not the female one” (10, 12). It is hardly surprising, then, that many of today’s famous women comics, ranging from writers such as Erma Bombeck to television celebrities like Roseanne Barr, use domestic scenes as the object of their humor. This use of the domestic is perhaps less threatening to a twenty-first-century culture that still holds contemptible, maybe even dreads, female comedy and laughter—perhaps in fear that the jokes may be aimed toward the male purveyors of that culture.


Jewish Identity Catholic School Psychic Distance Catholic Church Woman Writer 
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© Jeana DelRosso 2005

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  • Jeana DelRosso

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