Roush Review: An ‘Hysterical’ Look at Today’s Female Stand-Up Standouts
Ladylike? Bite your tongue. Or, as seasoned comedian Judy Gold puts it, “Shut your f***ing mouth!”
With a tip of the cap to the brash and hilarious pioneers who paved the way — Joan Rivers, Moms Mabley, Phyllis Diller, Jean Carroll (look her up) — a fearless new wave of female stand-up comics open up with pungent honesty about their craft and life on the road in FX’s Hysterical, a fascinating documentary from director Andrea Nevins (Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie) that more than lives up to its billing.
Having survived many challenging obstacles and savoring their triumphs, these women (including such cutting-edge breakouts as Nikki Glaser and Iliza Shlesinger) pull no punches in their often shocking acts. The same goes for their frank and revealing testimony, celebrating a sisterhood forged by years of sexist double standards. Jerry Lewis once famously remarked that he was “troubled” by female comedians who challenged conventions of femininity, and Norm Macdonald is shown declaring to Howard Stern that women just aren’t funny.
The many women speaking out in Hysterical — some familiar (Kathy Griffin, Sherri Shepherd, Margaret Cho), some rising stars (Fortune Feimster), others whose day is coming — would be happy to tell these jerks where to shove it. And they probably have.
“[An] even playing field? Are you kidding?” scoffs Shepherd, who fought for years in the male-dominated industry to get a decent time slot for her act. She and others recall the days when any new female talent on the scene wasn’t regarded as an ally but as a foe, competing for too little stage time.
“I had never understood sexism until I got to the comedy scene,” says Marina Franklin, who riffs on being a “Strong Black Woman … That never felt like a compliment. That always felt like work.” Franklin used her battle with breast cancer in her act, a risky and daring example of empowerment reminding us that these are no longer “little ladies” to be patronized.
Hear them roar. And hear us roar in return — with laughter.
Hysterical, Documentary Premiere, Friday, April 2, 9/8c, FX