Producing Machines

Be warned, this is probably only something appropriate for reading on a Casual Friday or Profanity Wednesday. There are many horrendous things going on in the world of great importance, so when you get done with all that, come back here and chat with me about things. And know this.

There will be cursing.

I was perusing sordid silly news the other day when I came across the unlikely teaser, “Jerry Lewis told fuck you by Hollywood producer”. I thought it was kinda rude to tell a dead guy “fuck you” and I’m not sure what purpose it serves…. so I went on to read what precipitated such –well, fuckery. Turns out, he’s not dead! But he is a jackass.

A few years ago, Jerry Lewis answered a question about women in comedy with “I don’t like any women comedians. A woman doing comedy doesn’t offend me but sets me back a bit. I, as a viewer, have trouble with it. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world.”

Wow! Jerry Lewis. Wow! That is some magnificent mildew.

I repeated this gem to a friend of mine, and she wryly commented that maybe it was actually a funny comment, but it was only understood in France. Possibly, but I tend to come down on the side of that guy who said “fuck you Jerry Lewis”.

I know Jerry Lewis has about as much cultural relevance at this time as a Clara Bow sexual dalliance, but even so, sometimes the assholes shine a light on some sordid beliefs stinking and lurking under the couch next to that damn sock.

Joel Apatow, the producer/director of much vanilla, but benign fare, was the one who said “fuck you” to Lewis. He would like more female comedy to be produced, hence his ire towards the mastodon–but he just didn’t go far enough though. There’s some more fuckery that needs to be addressed. That “producing machine” comment didn’t occur in a vacuum.

I’ve come across it before. When women make a joke it’s often disregarded unless it’s a self-debasing “math is hard” kind of  laugh. And I would say humor is the great connector. It can tie people together in warmth and empathy in a manner cold logic never can. It’s hard to maintain a war against a person, group (or an entire gender) when someone can point out the common absurdities of life.

Of course, the Jerry Lewis creeps of the world don’t enjoy a funny woman. It might erase some boundaries. Suddenly the mysterious withholder/controller of sex becomes just another poor schlub trying to make sense of the world too. The enigmatic virgin/whore or “baby producer” is just a more comfortable way of processing the world than addressing the fact that if you have issues with half the population….well maybe it’s you.

But women are not blameless in this. I have cracked jokes (that were pretty fucking good) in the company of women only to be given a cold look from them, but a hearty laugh from the men. Women can be gatekeepers of accepted behavior as well. These are the ones that can really sting you.

I’ll never forget an early, quite crappy job I had in college, not even 20 then.  It was as a hostess at a restaurant that hilariously considered itself to be quite elite, even though it was about one rung above Cracker Barrel. And the ladder rung was broken and hanging on the wall. It was incredibly boring, standing in front of the place, ushering people to tables so I humored myself by cracking jokes, basically being silly with the patrons waiting for tables to open when it was crowded and full. The owner noticed this and in a frigid manner told me it was my job to stand there and be pretty, not to do stand-up comedy. She actually got angry at me for this! Weird ass reason to be chastised by your boss. I wish I had pilfered a side of beef or something. Anyway, this was the same women who discarded a job application from someone because that individual was in her (gasp) 30′s… too long in the tooth to hire she said! I giggle with malignant glee sometimes thinking about this previous employer and how she would be firmly in old age by now. I can only hope she has urinary incontinence and a rascal. So fuck you too, women gatekeepers of feminine decorum. Fuck you right along with Jerry Lewis.

But it all really does get a bit more serious than just the issues of cracking jokes and looking unsexy. It’s a culture that springs from organized religions that peddle tales that women are the source of all that is unclean, and are to be viewed as the lesser “creation”. There’s not much love there in that dogma! I could go on and on how I think that worldview was necessary to push forward a culture of dominion and control, over not just women, but all fluid goodness on the planet. The end result sucks for most men as well, I’m thinking.

And hell, it’s not just that a woman can’t be funny, but it’s that she needs to be viewed as a two-dimensional being. It’s hard to denigrate those that we relate to, and discouraging female humor is about keeping those walls up. So fuck you organized religion for firming up the base that implies women aren’t every bit as fully fleshed out creations of humanity. Fuck you right along with Jerry Lewis.

And fuck every single person who can’t accept a person for what they are as long as it isn’t harming others.

So, yes, I think there is a lot of fuck you to go around. But Jerry Lewis is a start. The start of a fuck you dialogue and that makes me proud.

Now don’t even get me started about those who think women shouldn’t curse.

Kathleen Wallace Peine welcomes reader response. She can be reached at: kathypeine@gmail.com. Read other articles by Kathleen.