In comedian Ari Shaffir’s 2012 Comedy Central special, Passive Aggressive (recently aired on television for the first time), there’s a segment that has no purpose but to talk about how unpleasant he finds comedienne Damienne Merlina, whom he mentions by name. First and last. There’re no punchlines, just abuse. And the takeaway seems to be that she has the audacity to be a fat female comedian with one arm.
Not only that, but as you’ll see by the timestamp, it’s part of his very first bit.
And of course, this type of behavior isn’t new. Mainstream comedy is largely a boys’ club (the weekly sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live has only ever had one lead female writer in its 40 year history). This isn’t due to a lack of funny women (no matter what some idiots say), but from insulting, exclusionary outlooks like Shaffir’s.
By now, everyone’s aware of the Daniel Tosh incident in 2012 where he said it’d be funny if a woman in the audience got gang-raped by five men. Tosh’s incident seems to be the touchstone for misogyny in comedy, but there’s plenty of smaller incidents providing a nice glow of background radiation.
For instance, it seems that whenever Cameron Esposito (noted lesbian and comic) posts her bi-weekly column at the A.V. Club, the comments are unusually brimming with anti-gay, misogynist hostility compared to any other A.V. Club comments thread (In fact, a commenter on this week’s column even mentioned the lack of hostile comments in the comments.)
Merlina herself responded to Shaffir’s hateful rant in a vulnerable, teary-eyed video where she asserts that we don’t need to insult other people’s physical appearances to be funny. In fact, to counter Shaffir’s ad hominem attack, we’ve posted two additional videos of Merlina below where she’s downright hilarious.
But considering that Shaffir’s hateful rant can be part of a nationally-aired TV program, are we surprised that comedy continues to favor men over women.