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Funny women in Hollywood
by Alison De Souza

"Women aren't funny," the late writer Christopher Hitchens declared, arguing that men have evolved a better sense of humour because they needed it to impress women.

But although male comedians continue to dominate Hollywood, more women are breaking through and making a name for themselves in mainstream entertainment.

The 2011 comedy Bridesmaids was hailed as a turning point in this regard. Here was a movie written by women, with women as its main characters, and almost everyone loved it. It was co-written by its star, Kristen Wiig, one of a wave of new female comic auteurs developing their own material and shows, often with great success.

Here are some funny females who have been messing up Hitchens' theorem:


Leading the charge are comediennes and actresses who have developed their own material and shows, often drawing on their neurotically hilarious experiences in their work and love lives.

Tina Fey (right), 42, started out in improvisational comedy and became a performer and head writer on the esteemed comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live. She then wrote the screenplay for the hit film Mean Girls (2004), and created and starred in the award-winning TV series 30 Rock.

Lena Dunham, 26, created the acclaimed TV comedy drama Girls, an unvarnished look at the lives of a group of dysfunctional 20somethings in Brooklyn. Since its debut in 2010, it has remained one of the most talked-about shows on US television. Dunham also received US$3.5million (S$4.3million) last year to write her first book, a collection of essays titled Not That Kind Of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned.

Mindy Kaling, 33, was a writer and actress on the US version of the sitcom The Office before she created her own show, The Mindy Project, about the romantic misadventures of a young doctor. She also produces and stars in it, a first for an American actor of South Asian descent.

Zooey Deschanel, 33, landed her own show last year, the comedy New Girl, which is based on creator Elizabeth Meriweather's experiences sharing a flat with a group of men. The New York Times named Meriweather, along with comedic writer Diablo Cody (who penned the 2007 movie Juno), as a member of a female "Hollywood powerhouse writing posse who call themselves 'The Fempire'".


Anna Faris, 36, and Isla Fisher, 37. These gorgeous goofballs and delightful ditzes have appeared in a succession of sophomoric but high-energy comedies rife with toilet and bodily-fluid jokes, such as The Dictator (2012) and The House Bunny (2008) for Faris and Bachelorette (2012) and Wedding Crashers (2005) for Fisher.

Romantic-comedy veterans such as Julia Roberts, 45, Jennifer Aniston, 44, Sandra Bullock, 48, and Katherine Heigl, 34, have all done an attenuated version of this character: the beautiful but luckless/clumsy/neurotic woman. However, their individual comedic talent in these roles is somewhat debatable.

Aniston and Bullock have also gone on to do non-, or at least less, romantic comedies - Aniston breaking type as a nymphomaniac dentist in Horrible Bosses (2011) and Bullock developing a little sideline in playing cranky police officers (Miss Congeniality, 2000, and The Heat, 2013).


Although their energies are rather different, Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, 2011), 42, and Rebel Wilson (Bachelorette, 2012), 27, both trade in a brand of shock comedy that seems to turn on saying and doing the most outrageous and unexpected thing in any given situation, and on subverting stereotypes about femininity - for example, with comically oversexed personas.

Aussie girl Wilson also openly defies Hollywood's ideas about women's bodies. Her role as Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect (2012) is widely seen as the highlight of the movie - she won the MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Performance and was nominated for a handful of other honours.

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