GUY RAZ, host:
In 2007, Christopher Hitchens wrote a column in Vanity Fair. And in that column, he argued that women are not funny. This is what he wrote. He wrote: Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about. Well, you can imagine the reaction he received from that article.
Bob Mondello is in the studio with me. Bob, Christopher Hitchens wrote that in 2007, women aren't funny.
BOB MONDELLO: That's craziness. Oh, my god. I - what about Carol Burnett? What about...
RAZ: She was funny.
MONDELLO: And Lucille Ball...
RAZ: She was funny.
MONDELLO: ...and Tina Fey...
RAZ: Very funny.
MONDELLO: ...and oh, my god. No. We have lots of funny women.
RAZ: I am asking you this question, Bob, because there are three films out right now, "Jumping the Broom," "Something Borrowed" and "Bridesmaids," all written by women, all starring women. They are female comedies, and they all take place against the backdrop of weddings.
MONDELLO: Yes, they are. And two of them are what you would call conventional women's comedies.
RAZ: This "Jumping the Broom" and "Something Borrowed."
MONDELLO: That's right.
RAZ: Conventional, you mean...
MONDELLO: Well, that they feature women in the way that we're accustomed to seeing women featured in pictures. To some extent, women are put on pedestals in bridal comedies. You know, they wear the pretty dresses and everything.
RAZ: So a lot of tears, hugs.
MONDELLO: Yes, exactly. And much caring, enormous amounts of caring.
RAZ: So let's hear a clip from the film "Something Borrowed." This is a scene with Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin, and they're talking about their friendship.
(Soundbite of film, "Something Borrowed")
Ms. KATE HUDSON (Actor): (As Darcy) I don't think there's anybody who knows me like you. It's like you totally accept me.
Ms. GINNIFER GOODWIN (Actor): (As Rachel) Darcy, why are you saying all this?
Ms. HUDSON: (As Darcy) I don't know.
RAZ: Oh. So tender.
MONDELLO: Yeah. I don't, either.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RAZ: That's a comedy?
MONDELLO: Well, it's part of a comedy. It's the night before the wedding, and they're having this chat. And I have to say I imagine that people do have that kind of chats before weddings.
MONDELLO: I've actually had that kind of a chat with male friends before a wedding. But it isn't the center of things.
And if you have a comedy with women in it, and one of them has stolen the other one's boyfriend, you would expect them to scream at each other. And they kind of don't through the whole movie because they have to be supportive of each other. This is how women are portrayed in pictures with women.
RAZ: So this is a - by the way, is it funny? Did you think it was funny?
MONDELLO: I loathed it.
MONDELLO: I just couldn't stand it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MONDELLO: Oh, my. This drove me crazy. But that isn't why I think it's a conventional comedy. I think it's conventional comedy because I didn't recognize those characters. I don't know people like those women.
MONDELLO: I don't believe it.
RAZ: Let me ask you about the film "Something Borrowed" because the character played by Ginnifer Goodwin is supposed to be kind of frumpy and...
(Soundbite of laughter)
RAZ: ...and she's not. I mean, she...
MONDELLO: I don't know who decided...
MONDELLO: ...that poor woman. Ginnifer Goodwin is frequently cast as the frump. She's adorable.
RAZ: And she's cute, yeah. Absolutely.
MONDELLO: Absolutely adorable. I have no idea who made that decision about her career. But she should play somebody willowy and gorgeous.
RAZ: I mean, is it easier, this idea that, you know, really stunning female actors cannot do comedy because it's too distracting, or...
MONDELLO: Oh, gee. I guess, and really stunning men can't, either, right?
MONDELLO: If you're really good-looking, it's harder to do comedy. I suppose...
RAZ: But I mean, there aren't - I mean, George Clooney can pull it off. But, I mean, some of these...
MONDELLO: I don't know. Lucy. Go back to Lucy. Lucy...
RAZ: Oh, yes. Lucille Ball, right. Yeah.
MONDELLO: Lucille Ball was - before she became a comedienne was regarded as a showgirl. And she was just beautiful. You always saw her in movies. She was wearing an evening gown. She was gorgeous. They had to make her look frumpy in "I Love Lucy" because otherwise, I guess people wouldn't feel as comfortable laughing at her.
RAZ: Okay. Here is a clip from another film. It's called "Bridesmaids." And the producer is Judd Apatow, famous for "Superbad" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." He didn't write it. It was written by Kristin Wiig from "Saturday Night Live." And here is a clip from the film. It is - just a warning to people listening, it's gross.
MONDELLO: Oh, you're playing that one.
RAZ: We're going to play that one. Okay. Here it is.
(Soundbite of film, "Bridesmaids")
Ms. KRISTIN WIIG (Actor): (As Annie) I don't know what to say. You look -Megan, are you okay?
Ms. MELISSA McCARTHY (Actor): (As Megan) My dress is probably just tight.
Ms. ROSE BYRNE (Actor): (As Helen) Oh, my god. You got food poisoning from that restaurant, didn't you?
Ms. WIIG: (As Annie) No. I had the same thing that she had, and I feel fine.
(Soundbite of farting)
RAZ: All right. This is a bomb.
MONDELLO: And you can't even imagine where that goes because they're not showing the rest of that clip.
RAZ: This is a pretty gross scene. And there are a lot of these kinds of gross moments in this movie. People are talking about this as being the first, you know, female gross-out film ever made.
MONDELLO: Yeah. Well, it's not that. But I - it is different, though. What is different about it is that these women are human. They have the same frailties that men do.
RAZ: There are flatulence jokes in this movie.
MONDELLO: Exactly. And you go into digestive tract in ways that you don't usually (unintelligible) about - in pictures about women. But that is the big difference, that the women are allowed to behave normally.
The way that this is being portrayed in the press in general is that it's women acting like men.
MONDELLO: And I think the difference is not that women are now acting like men but that women are getting the same privilege that men do to act like human beings in these movies. I think that's the big difference.
RAZ: So it is groundbreaking, in a sense.
MONDELLO: I think it is, in a way, although my favorite comediennes, Lucy frequently acted like a real human being. I mean, you saw her in that kind of situation. The best women comics are all about being human, are all about being recognizable.
But I think it is doing one thing that I think you can - you and I, two men, are on the radio today talking about women comics, and I think as long as that conversation goes on, that's a game-changer.
RAZ: That's NPR's Bob Mondello.
Bob, thanks so much for coming in.
MONDELLO: It's always a pleasure.