An Australian comedienne has become a meme for her sketch “Dad’s Google history.” What starts as a song-and-dance routine becomes a recitation of her dad’s Google searches, then a “phone call” with her “dad” in which he asks her what Twitter is before bumbling a three-way call with a food delivery.
The bit caught attention for being, according to many, simply bad. And it is indeed … weird. I’m not sure I would call it funny, though the more times I watched it, the more it grew on me. Once I adjusted to her comedy style—absurd and highly physical—I enjoyed it. Of course, men on the internet were quick to anoint her a Bad Comedian and Unfunny Lady.
I’m always highly suspicious when men criticize female comedians. Of course not all women comics are good at it — most people who attempt comedy are bad, man and woman alike. But it’s an incredibly sexist industry and the refrain “women just aren’t funny” is accepted like an unfortunate reality. You can see it in Facebook comments calling her a “Try-hard quirktard” and an “absolute degenerate,” both code for: woman with a queer haircut, doing an art.
If you dive just half an inch below the surface of these comments, the real source of the trolls offensive becomes more clear: her womanness and queer/queer adjacent look. Nobody wants to admit that, though.
The trolls’ (and yes, they are trolls) motivations become even more clear in observations like “The haircut was all I had to see to know this was going to be painful” and “her comedy and haircut both scream ‘I’m going to protest outside a real comedy show because they use offensive language.’” The woman has the side of her head buzzed and suddenly that told you all you needed to know about the performance you hadn’t even seen yet? But you’re totally not betraying your implicit bias against female comedians?
Comedian Cameron Esposito, host of the podcast Queery and co-star of the show Take My Wife, recently tweeted the difference between criticizing a woman whose comedy isn’t for you, and criticizing a woman comic simply for being a woman while doing comedy. In other words, she explained how to not be sexist without realizing you’re being sexist. The key is not using coded language like “irritating,” as one Lardner troll did, or “grating.”
dudes: i can’t take ur criticism of my comedy seriously if u use words that betray ur sexism
Ex. Don’t use “grating” no one ever says men are grating
Use “unfunny” or “a piece of shit”
DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING
— Cameron Esposito (@cameronesposito) May 30, 2018
A Facebook user named Phil commented on Lardner’s performance: “She should be ashamed for reinforcing the stereotype that women aren’t funny.”
Why was it necessary to make this about the stereotype of women not being funny? If you don’t find her funny, and you don’t believe that stereotype about all women, why even mention the stereotype in the first place? Why is she not simply a bad comedian? Because, to users like Phil, a female comedian must first apologize for the sisterhood of unfunny ladies and then make reparations to society at large (to men) by proving herself “not like other girls.” The good woman comic does this by enacting a performance that is tooth fairy-level imaginary, by being some idealistic combination of hot and witty without intimidating men but still being a cool girl.
There were, of course, also women negatively commenting on Lardner’s performances. Dudes in the comments section loved those women. It’s like Republicans who love Omarosa or Stacey Dash because they give racist white people permission to keep being racist.
Lardner’s style of comedy, emphasizing physical humor over punchlines, is certainly polarizing because it is weird. But it’s also not unlike plenty of slapstick humor and quirky British/Australian humor that doesn’t always translate into American. Hence, for example, the American versus British The Office adopting a slightly different comedic tone.
If you watch the rest of the video, Lardner’s comedic strength becomes more clear. She transitions into a sketch riffing on the show Wife Swap (the American version is Trading Spouses). It’s a pretty funny riff on the absurd standards for the perfect wife/ super mom, and the dumb stuff women themselves will do and say to fit the mold. But if you aren’t really aware of those tropes as tropes or why they’re rude to women, all you’ll see is a girl with tattoos and a partially shaved head, doing girl comedy in your face like the feminist killjoy she is. That’s all these trolls see.
The Wife Swap bit is hilarious because Lardener is really good at impersonating a dumb basic betch with a terminal case of uptalk. Comedian Iliza Shlesinger, with multiple Netflix specials to her name and host of the show Truth and Iliza, has a similar schtick. She’s found success in bits about drunk white girl nonsense, with a perfect vocal fry. Like Lardner’s, her comedy relies rests less on punchlines and more on funny voices and physicality. Of course, she doesn’t receive the same vitriol as Lardner, but she’s also more conventionally attractive and more straight-looking than Lardner. I don’t believe this is a coincidence.
“My Dad’s Google History” birthed many parodies, like this one that translates the “Dad’s Google history” lyrics into emojis. Another internet denizen remixed her performance so it sounds like only Ricky Gervais is in the audience, and he laughs the whole time. This one, I really don’t get. Does it mean Ricky Gervais is the only one who would find this funny?
One YouTube commenter wrote “Perfectly describes Ricky Gervais’ standard of comedy.” I’m not at all a fan of Gervais but his career success proves he is undeniably a legit comedian. So the trolls are basically saying a legit comedian would endorse Lardner’s performance. And yet, these same trolls have crowned her a Bad Comedian. How does that work? Because with a female comedian, any dude is automatically an authority on her craft. We don’t need a professional comic’s opinion on if she’s good or not, because Phil on Facebook has determined she is bad.