Funny Women Get us Where We Live

By Gina Barreca
The Hartford Courant

Are men obsolete?

Geneticists might argue and the folks on Fox News certainly believe it’s a hot topic, but NBC, where Amy Poehler and Tina Fey just triumphed at the Golden Globes, and ABC, where Ellen DeGeneres will be hosting the Oscars, seem to be confident that they are, at least when it comes to hosting awards shows.

As hosts, Poehler, Fey and DeGeneres seem to have emerged from their male predecessors much as Eve emerged from Adam. One might also be tempted to say that, like Eve, they improved upon the original.

Not that Ricky Gervais, Billy Crystal or Steve Martin weren’t terrific; not that Chris Rock, Hugh Jackman and Jon Stewart weren’t brilliant. But they were just about as original as Adam. Or, for that matter, sin.

Yet of these hosts, Milton might have said, they were busy justifying the ways of comedy to men. That’s John Milton, by the way.

Not Milton Berle.

What Milton Berle might have said about the male Globe and Oscar hosts is this: “They know what they’re supposed to do but they don’t know how to make it interesting.”

It was a line he used in comparing himself to Zsa Zsa Gabor’s sixth husband.

The reason Fey and Poehler continue to win the audience at home is because they play to us.

That’s not playing down to the rabble; that’s playing right into the world’s repertoire.

They weren’t busily showing us what humor tight-walk they could do or proving how smart they were but instead making the viewers feel part of what’s going on.

They’re not attempting to dazzle us but to draw us in.

It’s working.

We quote them; we imitate them; we regard them as one of us.

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