Why Do So Many Men Imitate Women For Comedy But Not The Other Way Around?
As I scrolled through the latest 6-second Vine videos uploaded by amateur comedians on the cell phone app, a strange thought occurred to me. There are a lot of men out there who pretend to be women for the sake of comedy…but women don’t do the same in reverse.
Whether straight or gay, men of all ages, sizes and ethnicities are quick to put a towel, plastic bag or full-on wig atop their heads and do a hammy rendition of a mother, girlfriend, ratchet sister, teacher or suburban white teenager.
However, I rarely see women (or young girls) doing the same thing for their male counterparts.
Before the feminists out there get pull out their ridiculous 6-syllable words like “hetero-normative” to attack me for attacking gender identity or transgendered individuals, that is not what I’m referring to here.
I’m specifically talking about the world of comedy. For centuries (maybe even longer) men have dressed in drag for comedy. Admittedly, it can be very funny at times.
Recently, I posted a critique of the YouTube celebrity Tre Melvin’s New Years Eve coming out video. For those that don’t know, Tre Melvin is a comedian that routinely dresses up in Drag for the sake of comedy or performance.
This is what is colloquially known as a Drag Queen.
As the Oxford Dictionary defines it, a Drag Queen is: A man who dresses up in women’s clothes, typically for the purposes of entertainment.
Why some people thought this was an insult of Tre Melvin, I really don’t know. I was stating a fact.
He’s a Drag Queen.
But many of my favorite popular comedians like Eddie Murphy, Kevin Hart and Martin Lawrence are current or former Drag Queens.
Take my current favorite sketch comedy show, Key and Peele for instance. Both Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele routinely dress up as women and give hilarious performances.
Need I even mention Tyler Perry? Let’s not then.
Don’t forget that Jamie Foxx got his start dressing up in Drag to play facially-challenged Wanda on In Living Color. This was a classic character, right up there with Jim Carrey’s muscular pig-tailed Vera Di Milo.
While we’re on the subject of In Living Color, let’s not forget that the Wayans Brothers went full makeup and drag for the comedy film White Chicks.
There was a recent dust-up at Saturday Night Live when Kenan Thompson made a statement about the lack of black women on the sketch comedy show. People stated that this was the only reason Thompson played so many female characters in sketches (they’ve since rectified the problem).
But to be honest, I actually liked him dressing up in drag, especially when playing Whoopi Goldberg in their parodies of The View.
Speaking of SNL, it’s not just Black Comedians that put on dresses (contrary to what some black conspiracy theorists say about the media wanting to emasculate the black man). Remember Dana Carvey’s The Church Lady?
Or how about Mike Myers popular Jewish “Coffee Talk” character?
I also love when Dean Pelton (played by Jim Rash) on NBC’s Community dresses up in outlandish female costumes for laughs.
I especially loved his “Lady Gaga” costume in the Halloween episode from a few years back.
And the Canadian comedy troupe The Kids In The Hall made an art form out of wearing women’s clothes and imitating them for laughs.
So that brings me back to my original question: Why do we have so many examples of “Men dressing up as Women for laughs” but very few examples of “Women dressing up as Men for laughs”?
This doesn’t even happen much on YouTube or Vine where females are their own writers, directors, producers and show runners.
After a little thought, I came up with a few possible explanations.
MEN VIEW WOMEN AS A JOKE
Please don’t accuse me of being a pretentious black gay Internet feminist for this one; we already have enough of them out there.
But seriously, this somewhat makes sense. Men have a dominant role in society, as well as entertainment. This translates to a Bully Dynamic.
Think about it, remember the bully in primary school that teased and pretended to be a perceived “lesser-than” in school for laughs amongst his peers? Do you ever remember that happening in reverse?
Typically when men dress in drag to play for laughs, they portray what they seem to view as the easy target characteristics of women and femininity.
“Hey watch this bros, I’m pretending to be that dumb blonde white girl who loves Starbucks and Shopping.”
“Like, Ohhhh my god!” *Flips Hair*
Insert Laughs here.
One would argue that this is the point of comedy, to highlight absurdities…but why don’t we see women doing the same? Are men not easy targets as well? You mean to tell me that men don’t have over the top qualities that can be exploited by female comedians?
WOMEN ARE NOT TALENTED ENOUGH TO PULL IT OFF
This one, even I don’t believe. But it’s a possible explanation.
The reason I think this is false is because we do have a couple examples of women dressing up in male drag with hilarious results.
Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon is VERY funny when she impersonates Justin Bieber. It’s a spot on performance that has made her a standout performer on the show.
I’m trying to think of other examples but I’m hard pressed. Even if there are a few that readers could mention in the comments section here, the fact that we have to strain to think of a few says a lot.
With so many professional and amateur female comedians in the world, are they really not talented enough to be men and get a laugh?
FEMININITY IS FUNNY, MASCULINITY ISN’T
Admittedly, when I see some flamboyant gay men in television and film, even I chuckle from time to time. There are certain over the top feminine traits that are just plain funny.
Exaggerated male traits on the other hand…while they may be clever observations, I’m not sure they are quite as laugh inducing.
As readers on this website and other have mentioned, “Masculinity is Boring.”
To be honest, what would even be considered a funny hyper-masculine characteristic? I hate to say it, but maybe manhood and masculinity in itself is not fertile ground for comedy.
Think about it like this: Imagine that we’re in a room and comedy is represented as a wall in that room. We need to paint that wall with entertainment. Masculinity would be the color black, it just sits there and you can’t really add too much flourish to it. Femininity, on the other hand, would not even be a color at all. It would be a primer, a base layer for which you can add any number of colors on top for variety.
For those who say this analogy doesn’t hold up, scroll back up to the handful of examples mentioned above. Not all are alike and not all of the men played over-the-top flamboyancy and hyper-femininity.
There are many men, like Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, who played pretty much reserved women but still got very big laughs.
IT’S EASIER TO BE FEMININE THAN MASCULINE
Okay, this is probably the most controversial hypothesis out of all of them. However, in the two and a half years that we’ve been discussing the topic of “male masculinity in gay men” on this site, a part of me is starting to believe this.
Its hard being a man…and it may be even harder to understand what being a man really is…especially if you are a female comedian.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Many gay men can probably relate to going out on a first or blind date with another gay man, having a drink or two and watch the “performance” of his “masculinity” slowly drift away with every sip. Then you see the real him.
For some gay men, the only way they can “live in their truth” is after a couple glasses of Vodka and Cranberry.
Why don’t we see this happen in reverse? Have you ever seen an effeminate man become MORE masculine after a few drinks?
Or how about that masculine gay man that joins a group of fem friends and slowly adopts their slang and mannerisms? Have we ever seen the opposite happen?
Bringing it back to performance, it’s said that the Australian accent is one of the hardest to imitate. So in effect, we rarely see American actors playing Australians. At the most, we only see them doing poor parodies of Crocodile Dundee.
This may be a reason why women do not imitate masculinity, it ain’t easy.
Maybe none of these explanations answer the question…or maybe they all do…
The fact remains that women entertainers don’t imitate and ridicule men like we see time-and-time again with male performers. Will it ever change? What are your thoughts?
* You will receive the latest news and updates on your favorite celebrities!