Dueling Discourses: The Female Comic’s Double Bind in the New Media Age

  • Rebecca Krefting
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Comedy book series (PSCOM)


The belief that women are unfunny or not as funny as their male counterparts continues to hold sway in our society. For women comics, this belief informs hiring decisions, online traffic, income, and more. Another popular discourse maintains that the internet levels the playing field in the comedy industry, meaning anyone can succeed if they have good material. Invoking all the trappings of the myth of meritocracy, Rebecca Krefting calls this the “Content is King” discourse. Utopic fantasies of virtual parity obscure the real ways in which gender biases continue to play out in these so-called democratic spaces. These dueling discourses lock women comics into a double bind—the operability of one discourse means that the other cannot possibly be true. Using ethnography, textual analysis of women’s comic performances, and feminist discourse analyses of popular media, Krefting examines these competing discourses, the ways those discourses circumscribe women’s professional success as comedians and the funny ladies that challenge these discursive lies.


  1. Boyd, Danah. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2014.Google Scholar
  2. “That’ll Play Podcast Welcomes Comedian Kevin Bartini.” January 20, 2015. Accessed April 17, 2015.
  3. Farley, Christopher John. “Will Jimmy Fallon Get the Last Laugh on Social Media? #Hashtag #Tonight Show.” Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2014. Accessed June 9, 2014.
  4. Frye, Marilyn. “Oppression.” In Privilege: A Reader, edited by Michael S. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber, 13–20. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books Group, 2003.Google Scholar
  5. Gambone, L.J. “Local Comedian Looking for Laughs: Travis Tapleshay Making the Rounds With Brand of Stand-Up Comedy.” Hesperia Star, March 10, 2015. Accessed April 24, 2015.
  6. Hirsch, Caroline. Personal Interview. July 17, 2014.Google Scholar
  7. Hooper, Jade, Donald Sharpe, and Sam George Bradley Roberts. “Are Men Funnier Than Women, or Do We Just Think They Are?” Translational Issues in Psychological Science 2.1 (2016): 54–62.Google Scholar
  8. James, Carrie. Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  9. Leguizamo, John. Personal Interview. July 23, 2014.Google Scholar
  10. Leo, Alex. “Lady Comics: Who Needs Late Night? We’ve Got Tumblr.” Tumblr, May 16, 2012. Accessed June 9, 2014.
  11. Lepore, Meredith. “Female Comedians Prefer Social Media To The Late Night Talk Show Circuit For Their Careers.”, May 21, 2012. Accessed June 5, 2012.
  12. Kaplan, Marty. “Facebook and the Powers of Media Manipulation.” Highbrow Magazine, July 21, 2014. Accessed July 23, 2014.
  13. Mickes, Laura, Drew E. Walker, Julian L. Parris, Robert Mankoff, and Nicholas J.S. Christenfeld. “Who’s Funny: Gender Stereotypes, Humor Production, and Memory Bias.” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 19.1 (February 2012): 108–112.Google Scholar
  14. Mosely, Micia. Personal Interview. August 12, 2015.Google Scholar
  15. Schmeltzer, Eric. “Comedians Making Their Own Way in Era of Do-It-Yourself Comedy.” Huffington Post The Blog, April 18, 2012. Accessed June 13, 2014.
  16. Steele, Claude M. Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to how Stereotypes Affect Us. New York & London: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.Google Scholar
  17. Van Dijck, José. The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  18. Vivinetto, Gina. “Tig Notaro Won’t Tweet: Why the Comedian Refuses to Live Her Life on Social Media.” Forbes, August 21, 2015. Accessed September 1, 2015.
  19. “Woman’s Sense of Humor: Mr. Depew, May Irwin and Other Discuss Its Existence.” The Washington Post, June 23, 1901, 22.Google Scholar
  20. Women Aren’t Funny. Streaming. Directed by Bonnie McFarlane. USA: McVos Productions, 2013.Google Scholar
  21. Wong, Amelia. Personal Interview. July 11, 2014.Google Scholar
  22. YouTube. “Laughspin: Patton Oswalt—Keynote Speech—Just for Laughs.” Accessed June 15, 2014.
  23. Zvirbulis, Lara. E-mail. July 21, 2014.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Krefting
    • 1
  1. 1.Skidmore CollegeSaratoga SpringsUSA

Personalised recommendations