Jewish World Review May 26, 2011 / 22 Iyar, 5771
Are women funny?
By Barry Koltnow
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | This is a serious question that silly men in Hollywood have been asking each other since the birth of the spit take.
It is hard to imagine a more insulting question. You don't have to be a woman to be insulted. Any human being with a basic understanding of comedy would be insulted at such a question.
And yet, the question of whether a woman can be funny has persisted to such a degree in the executive suites of the movie studios that there was endless speculation in advance of the opening of the comedy "Bridesmaids" as to whether it could make any money.
It didn't matter that the movie was getting incredibly good reviews before it opened. That wasn't the point. The point was that so-called experts were wondering if the movie public would bother to buy tickets to a female movie comedy.
"Bridesmaids" opened better than expected, although the expectations — even by the studio that released it — were intentionally kept low because of the ridiculous idea held by the studios that the public believed that women could not write and star in a funny movie.
Well, Annie Mumolo is funny. And she's a woman.
Mumolo had a small role in "Bridesmaids." She plays a nervous airline passenger who sits next to Kristen Wiig. Annie would have had a much bigger role in the movie — as one of the bridesmaids — if she had not been eight months' pregnant at the time of the filming.
How does she know she would have had a bigger role? Oh, did I forget to mention that Mumolo was not only a co-producer on the film, but wrote the comedy with Wiig?
And they're both women! How is that possible?
The strong showing at the box office not only settled the argument over whether women are funny, but it made a star out of Wiig, and turned Mumolo into one of the hottest screenwriters in Hollywood. She already has signed to write a second movie ("Bridesmaids" was her first screenplay) with another cast member from "Bridesmaids" — Melissa McCarthy.
Mumolo, Wiig and McCarthy met while members of the Los Angeles-based improvisational comedy troupe the Groundlings. Apparently, The Groundlings forgot to read the memo about women not being funny.
"I don't quite get that whole women can't be funny thing," the screenwriter told me last week. "That's crazy. Have people never seen a Goldie Hawn movie? Or a Lily Tomlin movie? Or a Madeline Kahn movie? Or anything with Gilda Radner?"
Hey, what about Lucille Ball?
Mumolo acknowledges that there is this myth in Hollywood about women, but she and Wiig were undaunted when they started writing "Bridesmaids" in 2006.
"It never crossed our minds," she explained. "This project started just because we wanted to write something that we could put all our funny friends in. We tried to get as many of them as we could into the movie, but there are still so many waiting in the wings. There are so many funny women."
The mother of two small children, Mumolo said she and Wiig never concerned themselves with the possible roadblocks in front of them caused by ignorant studio prejudices.
"We weren't even aware of those feelings until just before the movie opened, and all these articles started to appear about whether women were funny enough to carry a movie. Suddenly, the fate of women in comedy was hanging on how well 'Bridesmaids' did at the box office.
"Our goal was just to get a movie made," she added. "We never set out to save the world of comedy for women."
But that's how it works in Hollywood. If one person — or in this case, two women — can show studios that something is possible, the town will change. You can bet the funny farm that studios are clamoring to make comedies with women.
The success of "Bridesmaids" changed some backward thinking in the industry, and it's moving Mumolo's career forward.
"I'm not sure how much my life has changed," she said. "It's only been a week, and I'm still living in my little blue house in Burbank, with 15 loads of laundry ready to go.
"But I do think that some of my crazy ideas are being taken a little more seriously now. I just sold a pitch, there are offers on the table and even TV is possible."
Mumolo attended University of California Berkeley as a history major. She dabbled in theater, but didn't get serious about show business until after college.
"I grew up in love with the movies, and I somehow wanted to be involved in making movies."
Well, she's involved in making movies now, even though she's just a funny woman.
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