Deadline Hollywood blogger and ridiculous human being Nikki Finke had this horrifying thing to say about Julie Bowen’s Modern Family Emmy win last night, which echoed a recent piece in The Atlantic that took issue with good-looking women in comedy:
Listen-up, Hollywood: Beautiful actresses are not funny. They don’t know how to do comedy. (As Bowen demonstrated with her acceptance speech that repeated the phrase ‘nipple covers’ 3 dozen times. To zero laughter.) Only women who grew up ugly and stayed ugly, or through plastic surgery became beautiful, can pull off sitcoms or standups [sic]. Bowen isn’t a comedienne just like Brooke Shields wasn’t and a zillion more. Because it’s all about emotional pain and humiliation and rising above both by making people laugh with you instead of at you. So stop casting beautiful actresses when you should be giving ugly women a chance. (Tina Fey always points out she looked like a troglodyte when she was younger.) This also applies to handsome men, by the way. Now argue amongst yourselves.
One quick glance at the current crop of comedic actors and actresses makes it clear Nikki Finke doesn’t know what the fuck she’s talking about. The funniest people going are a pretty even mix of people who are conventionally attractive and people who aren’t. This “good-looking people don’t belong in comedy” thing is more widespread than Finke’s blog. The Atlantic recently ran a piece denigrating good-looking women in comedy, which we picked apart here. I’ve also heard this mentality come from comedians too. Conan O’Brien, of all people, said, “I think if a comedian’s too good looking…I really cannot believe they’re going to be any good. This is for us; this is our consolation prize,” during an appearance on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF. But saying that being good-looking is first prize in life and comedy is for runners-up is shallow and an insult to the art of comedy on the whole. Comedy is infinitely more valuable than looking pretty. Given the choice to trade places with Louis C.K. or Fabio, I’d pick C.K. every day of the week.
Comedy doesn’t come from the outside; it comes from within. Paul Rudd is funny just like Zach Galifianakis is funny. Kristen Wiig is funny just like Melissa McCarthy. How conventionally attractive these people are has nothing to do with how capable they are of pulling off a funny scene or landing a well-timed joke. Yes, like Nikki Finke says, comedic performers often hone their instincts from years of emotional pain and humiliation, but claiming that good-looking people just skate through life problem-free is insulting and incorrect. Comedy is a great tool for cutting through the bullshit to provide an honest look at the human experience, and all of our takes on being a human being are just as valid as each other’s, no matter how good-looking any of us are.
The entertainment industry does have a long-standing reputation for only hiring beautiful actors and actresses and shunning those who don’t fit a narrow definition of attractiveness, and it’s a real problem, but saying that good-looking people can’t be funny is just as shallow as saying not-good-looking people shouldn’t be allowed in TV and movies. Nikki Finke’s argument supports the same exact superficial, looks-based Hollywood bullshit, but it’s just coming from the other side.
There are unfunny attractive people just like there are unfunny unattractive people. If you’re going to criticize someone’s comedic performance, just go after their performance itself and leave their looks out of it because judging someone off their looks is exactly the same thing that makes it so hard for hard-working, funny, “ugly” people to make it in this industry. And let’s all stop pretending we find the same people attractive.