Salon has published a good (I mean, really) short interview with super internet-famous Hyperbole and a Half creator Allie Brosh. Towards the end, the interviewer brought up the issue of sexism, comedy, and the internet — specifically because a lot of Hyperbole and a Half's support can be traced to places like Reddit, which sometimes are not the bastions of equality.
Your work got big through the Internet, specifically on Reddit. The world of Reddit and Internet comedy, and even literature, still face problems with sexism. Is this something you have experienced?
I think I definitely have. It’s not one of those things where it’s anybody’s fault, at this point. Sort of the result of — especially with comedy – there are a lot of difficult parts of being a female comedian. Like, if anyone compares me to another comedian, whether they’re just talking to me or I just see a comment … the other comedian is invariably female. Regardless of whether I have very much in common with this person.
I mean every now and then you get weirdos who will say, “I thought you were funny until I found out you were a girl,” but for the most part it’s a very subtle thing that nobody would do on purpose and it’s perpetrated by both men and women, and that’s an important thing to say, but a lot of times men get blamed for the sexism in comedy — but it’s both, very much both. As a whole, we’ve come to view – mental shortcuts we take to classify things, and some of those shortcuts – I don’t know, classify women with a certain voice, or a certain tone of voice when you’re reading comedy, and that’s the thing that affects me the most.
It’s hard to be viewed as just a comedian rather than a female comedian. Usually when you are – you sort of get – held up like, “Hey, she’s funny, she’s a female comedian with a capital ‘F,’” you know. And it’s hard to distance yourself from that, and say, “Well, I just want to be a comedian,” someone who’s funny, not necessarily a female comedian or a woman. I just want to be funny.
I don't know. I love Allie's work — I pre-ordered her book, should be here today! — and I know it's not her job to be my Feminist Comedian, but I wish I didn't feel like this is a timid response. On one hand, I agree with her: men AND women perpetuate sexism and stereotypes. So it's nothing she said, exactly, just a sense that there's so much more to say, and that answer was a missed opportunity. It's hard to put into words.
On the other hand, it is a great insight that people (weirdos, yep) would find someone funny... until finding out that person is a woman. A lot of Brosh's stories don't necessarily identify her clearly as a woman or girl (for the childhood ones). I find it fascinating that a person would need to read one of her posts in a "male" voice to find it equally funny. Because, hello, that is crazy. Allie said in the interview it was kind of a lone weirdo thing, but is it?