The new HBO Max special from Beth Stelling, Girl Daddy, threads an impossible needle. She finds a way to make jokes about comedy funny to a general audience. Fearlessly, Stelling takes on the seemingly perpetual conflict between the faction of comedians who think it’s normal to propagate retrograde, sexist behavior and, well, everyone else. Through the course of her hour, Stelling does a remarkable job dissecting the gender imbalance in the comedy community and the double standards that are a reflection of problems in the world outside the club circuit. Here, in no particular order, are the best jokes from Girl Daddy for your reading pleasure.
The Case of the Missing Podcast
I did a podcast recently in exchange for some tap water and two new fans, and the podcast, it was hosted by a male comedian, and he wanted to talk about the Me Too movement, because you gotta if you have a lady on the pod. And his hot take was sort of: “The Me Too movement, well, what are we supposed to do now?” I was like, “What were you doing before? I guess keep doing or stop doing that.” Now, we were doing shows together all weekend, and I was the only comic on the shows who agreed to do his podcast. So I decided to take it as an opportunity to confront him about one of his jokes that I didn’t love. And this podcast was never released. We don’t like to be challenged.
But he had a joke that he was performing that went like, “I used to fuck chicks all the time after shows.” Which is true. When a male comic is up here, it’s very attractive to women, a sense of humor, and he has an hour window after the show to capitalize on that before the girl finds out, like, “Oh my God, he’s so sad.” So, his joke was like, “I used to fuck chicks all the time after shows. Now, if I want to fuck a chick and she likes it rough, I’m gonna need paperwork to fuck” — insinuating that if she were also into rough sex, she would then later lie and use it to accuse him of, what’s it called when somebody wants to have sex with you, but you don’t, and they do it anyway? [The crowd says rape.] Thank you, it’s so much easier when somebody else brings it up. People do not like hearing a woman comic say that word. I guess because the dudes are like, “Hey, that’s our thing.”
If you are reading this and label yourself a “comedy nerd,” you’ve probably spent some time racking your brain in an effort to suss out who Stelling is talking about in this joke. But maybe the point of the anecdote is that it could be literally any male comedian. Later on in this section of the special, Stelling starts saying the big R-word in a Scottish accent. Let’s all just accept that this is probably the funniest that word will be for a while.
Blackbeard, the Dad
Do you know how hard it is to get laid with another man’s name [tattooed] on your back? Not hard. It isn’t. Never been an issue. Despite everything I’ve said leading up to this point, I do have a relationship with my father. I just called him back yesterday because he had called me on Father’s Day and I wanted to get back. My parents divorced when I was young, and my dad moved down to Orlando, Florida, to be an actor, which is not where you go. He did. He eventually landed a role as Blackbeard at Pirate’s Cove mini Putt-Putt golf course. And when you know celebrities, there are going to be perks. So my two older sisters and I, we would leave our mom in Ohio and go down to Orlando to visit our dad, because it was court-ordered. Free Putt-Putt, baby. My dad would dress like a pirate from here down. And then Alice, the manager at the time, would give my dad this huge Blackbeard head to put on top of his head and that rested on his shoulders. And then he would walk around the mini-golf place making people’s time better, question mark?
But before my dad’s shift would start and before we ran off, he would pull us aside after we picked out our clubs. And he’d gather us around and get very serious, and he’d be like, “Girls, listen up, get over here. Look at me. Listen. When the head goes on … Look at me. When the head goes on, I’m not dad anymore.” Very Method, okay? Which from one artist to another, I respected, but I was also the youngest of the three girls. You know when your sisters tell you to shut up, and then two seconds later, you’re like, [sings] “As we go on, we remember,” and then they hit you, and you’re like, “I’m sorry. I forgot. Seriously, I forgot.” So I did. I forgot. And I got a little hole in one and I started yelling for my dad instead of Blackbeard. And he found where the sound was coming from in the head. He was at a higher hole, and he peeked around this blue waterfall and just looked down at us and shook the whole head, like, “No.” I don’t know if you’ve ever disappointed a parent that has a bigger head on top of their head, but it’s like triple the disappointment.
Stelling’s childhood shuttling between Ohio and Florida makes up a large part of the hour, but the most memorable part of that material is her vivid recollection of her father’s curdled Hollywood dream. Instead of becoming a successful actor like he’d hoped, her dad moved to Orlando, Florida, and created a career around playing various mascots for local small businesses. There’s both a clear indignity and a melancholy to this joke, a hallmark of some of the best stand-up material.
The First (and Last) Mary
For some reason, the stigma of abortion is just fully on a woman. It’s bonkers. Back where I’m from in Ohio, they were talking about putting a woman in prison if she gets an abortion, and I’m like, “Eh, she had an accomplice.” We haven’t had a Mary since that first one. And even then, you’re telling me God stopped at one kid? The self-restraint there is admirable. Like God just had Jesus and then we lost him. You’d think he’d try again. I just feel like mortal men, sometimes it feels like you’re more careful pouring a beer than you are with your jizz. It’s just like, “Ooh, ooh, not too much head.” It’s like the only time you say that. And then privately, you’re just spreading biomedical hazard like … goooogggg.
This joke begs the question — one that I have never personally asked myself — why did God not try to have another Jesus? Perhaps he was just burned out. Either way, Stelling keys into the illogic of our culture’s attitudes toward parenting. Men rarely face the brunt of criticism from anti-choice activists, primarily because their reproductive responsibility is diminished over and over again. I say this as someone who happily pays child support every month.
Maybe it’s just a handful of celebrities and some very vocal comics who are scared of getting accused of rape. For some reason, it’s easier to hear in a Scottish accent. I don’t know why they’re scared. They’re going to get away with it — if they go through this system, is what I’m saying. I was watching a famous colleague of mine yell into a microphone, and he was like, “So you know, there’s no due process; it’s frickin’ crazy. A woman makes a claim, and people just believe her without going through the legal system.” I’m like, “Ah, the legal system, or as I like to call it, the white man’s FUBU: just for us, by us. It’s their safe space, really.
This particular joke, from a special taped in early March, hits especially hard today, more so than Stelling could have realized when she crafted these words. In the summer of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other victims of a corroded criminal-justice system, the idea of “the white man’s FUBU” is quite potent.
I think we just gotta stop looking at abortion like leftovers. Hear me out. Keep breathing through the joke. Imagine it like this: A couple goes out for a big meal and they overorder. They’re reckless. They’re probably wasted. And at the end of the meal, there’s a bunch of leftovers, and the dude says, “You take them.” And the woman says, “Oh, I don’t want them; you take them.” And the dude says, “I can’t. I don’t have a fridge.” And she asks, “Then why did you put it in the box? You shouldn’t have put it in the box. Now we’re going to have to throw it away.” And the dude says, “Okay, do you want me to, like, walk you to a trash can?” And then, for some reason, on the way to the trash can, there’s only random people yelling at her, like, “You wasteful bitch!” She’s like, “What? He paid for half.” I’m just saying, abortion is not really the time to go Dutch.
One of Stelling’s greatest gifts is being able to distill a painful topic into an approachable, clear joke that still retains its thoughtfulness among the various and sundry dick jokes. Stelling is able to articulate a truth that so many of us aren’t willing to accept: A child is the responsibility of both parties who created it (purposefully or not). By placing that truth inside the packaging of a familiar dynamic, it’s all a lot easier for an audience to understand and relate to.
I don’t weigh myself. I just ask someone to draw me, and if they reach for a jumbo Sharpie, maybe I dial it back a bit if I feel like it. I like fluctuating. It keeps it fun, keeps it fresh. I heard it’s good for your heart. I used to weigh myself when I was chubbier, when I was working in the bagel industry. I was in quality control. And when I worked at the bagel shop, I ate too much, too many times, to the point where you could see it on my body. Food is interesting like that: You show your work. I put up some of my best numbers at the bagel shop. It was during a time in my life where I thought that cookies might go extinct. My top score was 198 pounds, which, I’m five-foot-nine, as I mentioned. It’s kind of nothing on my frame. You know, 198 is not a wake-up call. That’s a challenge. You’re gonna get two pounds away from 200 and not hit it? Go fuck yourself. I did it the next day.
Speaking of painful topics, body image is yet another delicate subject Stelling makes both personal and universal. A trip to the scales is torture for most people, and there’s something powerful about accepting yourself despite the outward pressure to change. During quarantine, there are probably more people accepting a version of Stelling’s challenge than not. Just don’t ask anyone to draw you.