For years, there was a rather sexist belief floating around that “women aren’t funny.” The legendary Jerry Lewis was pretty adamant about that, and his absurd thoughts picked up steam and media attention.
Superstar comedians — or comediennes? — from the late Joan Rivers and Gilda Radner to current powerhouses Amy Schumer, Ellen DeGeneres, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman and many others have clearly put that idea to bed.
Despite the progress, female comedians often still have an uphill road to climb, and rarely does a trip to a comedy club include an entire night of estrogen-based humor. But that is exactly what fans can expect when “Funny Women of a Certain Age” heads to the Atlantic City Comedy Club 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27.
“Funny Women of a Certain Age” features Vanessa Hollingshead and Linette Palladino and is hosted by veteran stand-up comic Carole Montgomery, who created the show and has been cracking up audiences in comedy clubs around the country since making her debut in 1979. Montgomery has also appeared on TV shows such as “Politically Incorrect” and “Comics Unleashed,” among others. She was nice enough to let us pick her brain about what folks can expect from the show and what the comedy world is like from a woman’s perspective.
Ryan Loughlin: For the unfamiliar, tell us what ‘Funny Women of a Certain Age’ is all about.
Carole Montgomery: It’s a comedy show with all female headliners over the age of 50. We have had two specials on Showtime and are taping a third in a few weeks.
RL: Is the lineup of comics always the same?
CM: It’s a rotating cast. I created the show to give all the comics a chance to be seen. I’m usually the host, and I just switch out people, depending on who is available.
RL: How did you get into comedy?
CM: My dad was always very funny — a larger-than-life person. So, I think I picked it up from him. I started doing stand-up in 1979 when I was 21, but I think I always had it in me.
RL: Stand-up comedy has always had a reputation for being a bit of a boys club. Does it still feel that way?
CM: For me personally, no. But that is one of the reasons I created the show. Because after being in stand-up for 40 years, I was just tired of the fact that there was basically only one woman appearing at any given stand-up show. It’s gotten better, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. It’s still not an equal opportunity situation. So I decided that I wanted to work with my girlfriends, and I came up with this show.
RL: What do you think of the old-fashioned idea that women aren’t funny?
CM: It is a dated quote, but we are still living in a world where some people think women should be seen and not heard. The Taliban comes to mind, so I’m not surprised that the idea is still out there. I hear it all the time. People will come up to me and say, “I don’t usually like female comics, but I like you.” And I know they think that’s a compliment, but it really isn’t.
RL: How hard is it to put together a set? Are you always second guessing yourself when you are writing jokes, wondering, “Is this really funny?”
CM: Well, I have been doing comedy for over 40 years, so I don’t worry about not being funny anymore, because I wouldn’t be able to make a living for this long if I wasn’t funny. And I do most of my writing on stage anyway. But when the pandemic hit, there was nowhere to work onstage, so I had to force myself to sit down and write material. That was brand new for me. The stuff I am doing for our third special is all new material that I wrote during the pandemic.
RL: Is it harder to be funny at a time when it seems like everyone is so on edge?
CM: No, I think people need it. People need to be entertained because so much negative stuff is happening that if you don’t laugh, you’ll go crazy. Comedy is a release. When you laugh, you release all these endorphins. So I think people need comedy. People need to laugh.