Funny Girl: An Analysis of the Gender Shift in Contemporary Comedy

Open Access
Liu, Shirley
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jennifer Chang Coupland, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jennifer Chang Coupland, Honors Advisor
  • David Michael Winterich, Faculty Reader
  • marketing
  • comedy
  • media studies
  • gender
  • change
  • television
  • feminism
Throughout history, the world of comedy has always been seen as a male-dominated field, with very few females achieving the pinnacles of success as a comedian. There has long-been a stigma against women as the drivers and change-makers in the industry, and rarely were there female writers, producers, or directors in comedy. However, this lack of representation has shifted in recent years, as an elite group of women have been able to achieve isolated, high levels of mainstream success that have changed the field of comedy and brought the gender balance closer to equal representation. Why and how did this shift occur? This paper seeks to answer this question by exploring contemporary American comedy through the lenses of change theories. An analysis of the change process and the many historical, cultural, and technological factors that both resist and drive it will be presented using Kurt Lewin’s model for societal and organizational change. In addition, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Law of the Few” will be applied to conduct case studies on certain females who have impacted the industry shift the most in recent years, explaining how they have reinforced the largest amounts of change overall. Finally, the future of comedy will be examined, providing insight into how progress will continue to be made and why women will be the ones to make a significant impact.