When you hear the phrase “women in comedy,” you probably think of it as a positive term that acknowledges women. However, the words are still triggering, as their roots lie deep in internalized misogyny. After the death of Saturday Night Live’s Anne Beats, it served as a reminder of just how far women in comedy have come, but the stride towards equity remains.
This theme of woman empowerment is the focus of the new Hulu documentary Hysterical. The new documentary focuses on the perspectives of female comics and the environment within the comedic business world.
The world has changed for the better, and more and more women are being recognized for their achievements, but Hysterical shows us just how uneven the playing field is and how women are still held to a much lower standard than male comedians.
The new film sets out to explicitly display a variety of talented women in comedy: Bachman, Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Gold, Kathy Griffin, Jessica Kirson, Lisa Lampanelli, Wendy Liebman, Carmen Lynch, Bonnie McFarlane, Sherri Shepherd, and Iliza Shlesinger. The documentary includes interviews, scenes of comedians and their shows, and clips to explore the challenges they have faced, along with a large amount of progress left to tackle in the comedy scene at large.
The documentary is set up in segments indicated by a specific word appearing on the screen, such as “confidence,” and its literal meaning and a more satirical meaning more suitable to the featured scenes. The typical inspirational songs you hear in other documentaries play throughout Hysterical, serving as an emphasis that what we are watching is incredibly important and must be acted on. In a way, Hysterical is a disfavor to the women featured, who are more humorous and upbeat performers.
The film also talks about the dangers that female comics face while out on the road. Hysterical describes encounters in which audience members would sometimes follow these women back to their hotel, completely invading their privacy. It also mentions sexual harassment inflicted upon them by fellow comedians and club managers. The vulnerability these women face every day while simply trying to do their job is unmatched. The film also sheds light on themes similar to this.
Airing on Hulu and FX, viewers can stream the new documentary directed by Andrea Nevins. The untold story of this side of the entertainment industry is a huge step in creating change, and we can defeat society’s view on the role of women, and women in comedy.