Feminism 101: What Makes a Feminist Funny?

10 Feminists share what and who makes them laugh
By Avital Norman Nathman  Published on 10/21/2016 at 9:00 AM EDT

Welcome back to Feminism 101, where we ask a group of fabulous feminists a variety of questions. This week…is “funny and feminist” possible?

Its been said time and time again that feminists are all Debbie Downers with no sense of humor. This stereotype allows people to dismiss or ignore feminists as wet blankets, when in actuality, they can be some of the most hilarious people out there. So, of course, we had to ask our favorite feminists:

What makes a feminist funny and who are your favorite funny feminists?

Claire Linic:I’m hilarious.

Sarah Grey:Jenny Yang is one of the funniest feminists out there. Her standup and video work take on sexism and issues related to the Asian American community, like her takedown of cultural appropriation via this parody of a Bon Appetit video. These aren’t cheap jokes —  the fact that they’re backed up by plenty of theory and research makes them that much more effective. When she’s not making women laugh (and sometimes while she’s making women laugh), she’s encouraging them to venture into comedy, improv and writing.”

Chanel Dubofsky:It’s such an absurd question to me, it’s like asking if women are people. Which, essentially, it is asking that, because if I don’t corroborate your racist and misogynist shit, I’m not funny, and I couldn’t possible have an idea of what funny is.

Favorite funny feminists: Danielle Radford, Margaret Cho, Garfunkel and Oates, Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark, April Richardson, Franchesca Ramsey

Sarah Buttenwieser:Ever heard of Lily Tomlin?

Tara Bernier:Oh. I’m hilarious. But also, I tend to make jokes that challenge the dominant white dude narrative.  Then I have to take out my special cup for white dude tears. But that’s fine, I make a delicious latte with them, all the better to topple the patriarchy with.”

Jennifer Pozner: I was a comedy nerd since before I was old enough to read; my first crush as a little girl was Robin Williams. Humor is one of the strongest ways I connect with lovers, bond with friends, and cope with trauma. For a lot of feminists, comedy is a way to make sense of an often-hostile world. It’s also a core tool in my journalistic and social justice arsenal: as Mya Cash, my late 90s/early 2000s media mogul character with the satirical street theater group “Billionaires for Bush (or Gore),” I was able to generate more critical news reporting and commentary on campaign finance and wealth inequality issues than any traditional campaign I’ve ever worked on. I try to infuse humor into most of my media literacy writing, speaking, and video work because it’s the most effective way to get under people’s defenses and make complex, challenging ideas accessible. I deal with a lot of dark subjects in my work, and seeing live comedy is my lifeline; without it I’d basically live in a fetal position. This election season has been unusually toxic and triggering, so here are a baker’s dozen of funny feminists who can help you laugh away the apocalypse: Samantha Bee, Aparna Nancherla, Zahra Noorbakhsh, W Kamau Bell, Maria Bamford, Hari Kondabolu, Tig Notaro, Ashley Nicole Black, Jenny Yang, Nato Green, Carmen Esposito, Eliza Skinner, and Franchesca Ramsey — for starters.”

Seranine Elliot:As a feminist who is objectively funny, I can confirm that yes, feminists can be funny; that is a thing that is possible. As a myopic egomaniac, I can separately confirm that I am my favorite funny feminist.”

Kat Rutkin:Feminists, like all humans, come in a wide variety of personalities. And yes, some of us are funny. I grew up around people who mocked feminists as shrill, militant people with no sense of humor. I can see now that it was an attempt to sideline and silence women. That kind of thinking made me afraid to embrace feminism for what it truly is- a commitment to equal rights, not a dour group of man-haters. I can see this still happening in young female celebrities who deny the need for feminism, which breaks my heart.  

When I was in my 20s, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey started to co-host Weekend Update on SNL and really changed my view of feminism and comedy. I realized that feminism wasn’t a grim-faced party foul, but that feminists could be cool, funny, and totally relatable.  If I don’t tell mean jokes or laugh at your demeaning statements it doesn’t mean I’m not funny, or that I can’t take a joke. It means I’ve matured to the point where I know true comedy can still hold space for respect, and that cheap shots at marginalized people just aren’t funny.”

Avital Norman Nathman:There are SO many funny feminists out there. The myth that feminists aren’t funny is as old and tired as the folks who keep propagating it. A bunch of my favorites happen to be in one place, which is super convenient. If you haven’t already, check out Full Frontal With Samantha Bee. Daily Show alum Sam Bee skewers current events with her sharp and hilarious take each week over at TBS. Plus, my awesome friend (and Emmy-nominated professional funny feminist) Ashley Nicole Black is a writer and correspondent for the show, which makes me love it all that much more.”

Mayim Bialik:I think feminists can absolutely be funny, but I do admit that I don’t always have a ‘great’ sense of humor when people make jokes that are consistent with subjugation of women, in the same way I don’t think jokes trivializing rape are funny, or jokes about child abuse. It’s more about a sensitivity. Many of us who choose to operate on a level that is sensitive to injustice may sometimes tend to not be as likely to brush off jokes as ‘jokes’ if they are emphasizing and reinforcing negative stereotyping that leads to hostility. So… yeah, we can be funny. We also will call you on your crap if it’s not funny.”


Do YOU have a question for our cabal of fierce feminists? Email it to Avital Norman Nathman at

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