To the Funny Girl in a Serious World
Are you the girl who claims to “only have guy friends?”
I was the girl who had very few girlfriends and always stood out like a whitehead about to pop. The challenge with being the funny one of the group is that most of my girlfriends never truly understood my humor. I always felt as though I had to censor myself or play small in order for others to be comfortable around me. To take it further, the women in my own family never did (and still don’t) get me either. I often wondered if I was adopted and then when I learned that I was wasn’t adopted, I was pretty disappointed — this was my gene line. That is not a punch line, it’s the actual truth.
Being the funny girl changes throughout the different phases of life.
When I was a teenager in the nineties, I wanted so badly to be like my girlfriends who cared about fashion, shopping, going out, and attracting boys. Some of those things were fun at times, but they just weren’t at the top of the list of fun things to do. In those younger years — the years of constant change, insecurity, and emotional turmoil, I always felt like I didn’t belong. I would sit in my room and fill up countless journals as I got lost in the friendships I created in my head and then in my stories. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I had an imaginary friend, but if I did, I’d totally go out partying with him. I often felt I was many people in one body. I could glam it up and put a little black dress on with some fancy heels, and the very next day I could throw on a ball cap and a hoodie and hit the batting cages. I never really knew anyone like me. The saddest part was that I didn’t really accept myself either. Eventually the real me got locked in a closet as I tried to fit in with the girly girls of my generation.
Even as an adult, I often bite my tongue daily.
I always felt closer to my father and my brothers. Though we were and still are very close, I was nothing like my sister, the beautiful sensitive soul that she is, or my mother; and so I developed a knack for rolling with the boys. When I was little, I was influenced by the likes of John Candy in Who is Harry Crumb, Leslie Nielsen in Naked Gun, Police Academy, and Space Balls. Then SNL icons such as Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Dana Carvey, and Martin Short. (How have you not seen Jiminy Glick?)
I was always drawn to males because guys, to me, were just funnier and a lot less sensitive. Girls often hated me, (oooph, hate is a strong word, but… I promise you, that’s how it felt.) I could never understand why this way, but as much as I craved a huge group of women as portrayed in maxi pad commericals. It always seemed that when I was with my guy friends, a sarcastic comeback always landed beautifully. They were often challenging to me Finding a “tribe”of women with comedic timing as I was growing up was next to impossible.
It wasn’t until I discovered the SNL girl greats like Rita Rudner, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Jane Curtain, Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, and countless others that I discovered I found my people. Granted, they were women I never met and probably never would, but they were people I found that I could relate to.
I felt lost because as far as comedy was concerned. Finding women to collaborate with was near impossible.
I am yet to meet a group of women who want to watch Judd Apatow movies and then go out for drinks and quote them. It was always my brother and his friends that I could sit around and quote the comedic greats of the nineties like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and then in the 2000’s we had Anchorman, Dodgeball, and Zoolander. That’s just naming a few!
As time passes, we all eventually become who we truly are. It’s inevitable. I credit most of my wit to my father, who has a knack for comebacks. My sense of humor took time to develop and to be honest, it is always a work in progress. Whenever I did get a laugh or any kind of a positive reaction, I’d make a note of it in my head and look for ways to keep doing it. When someone around me makes me laugh, I want to be with that person at all times. I love people who make life light and breezy.
“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for. It takes years to find your voice and seize your real estate. “
— Amy Poehler
When I met my husband in 2007, I kept my personality at bay because my dating history was less than funny. Most of the men I was interested in liked the ‘girly girls’. A true class act is a woman who can hold her own in any situation.
If you’re the funny girl in your life, I have some advice for you. You didn’t ask for it, but I’m going to offer it anyway.
- Spend time with people who don’t take life too seriously. Believe me. I had to learn this the hard way. I was TRAPPED, thinking I was super negative all the time, but in reality, it was much of my association. It is a fact that you become who you hang out with, so STEER CLEAR of people who don’t laugh at life. Even if they have their own brand of humor, be with the ones who enjoy things.
- Always make it a priority to grow as a person. The opposite of growth is staying still, so if you want to be inspiring then you have to do the work to be inspired. Get coaching, find someone who has more dues paid than you do, and learn from them. If you’re the funniest, smartest, most talented person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.
- Write it down! Whenever you have something hit you that would land well, whether it’s a punchline or a story, an idea, whatever it is — write it down! I use the notes app in my phone, so I don’t forget. I can’t tell the number of times I’ve had a good bit but then forgot to write it down and then it was completely gone.
- Stay grounded. Not every joke/comeback/punchline will be funny. You have to learn what’s bad and what’s terrible. You will fail, a lot. This is especially true if you want to be a comedic performer of any kind.
- Know your audience and adapt to them. If you are at a wedding and you’re sitting at the single’s table (which I often did) you have to know that jokes about marriage and having children aren’t going to land well. This is an example of curtailing your conversational skills to the world around you. Develop your brand and nurture it. This also means that not EVERYONE will think you’re funny. I personally think I’m hilarious, lol, and that’s enough for me. But seriously, just be aware.
- You do NOT need to be vulgar to be funny. Jim Gaffigan and Anjela Johnson are examples of this. Using vulgar and crude humor add the shock value, it doesn’t necessarily add to the comedic timing. Rude, crude, racist, trashy, sexist, self-deprecation and lots of profanity are not a necessity, so if that doesn’t coincide with your values, don’t degrade yourself to that level.
- Know that there is a story in every single aspect of every single day. Every day isn’t always funny, but there is funny in every day if you look for it. It’s a choice. Much like we choose to be offended, we choose to be upset, we choose to be pissed off about things; we can choose humor too. The more you train yourself to see the humor, the more it’ll be a default tool you’ll use.