July 26, 2021
8 feminist comedians using their voices for good
Happy Monday, Feministas. Today, we thought we’d lighten the mood by introducing you to some of our favorite feminist comedians: eight women who routinely crack us up and inspire our advocacy with stories, anecdotes and jokes that shine a light on womanhood and feminism in pop culture and our daily lives.
These women take on everything from periods, parenting, and reproductive rights to toxic masculinity, misogyny, the #MeToo movement, and so much more. And while they all share a somewhat progressive feminist perspective, they’re all so unique in their humor, so whether you like your comedy witty, bubbly, or dry as the desert, there’s someone in this list for you.
So say hello to some of the funniest and most influential comedians in the game right now, all of whom use their platforms to get real about feminism, take on the patriarchy, and make us laugh while they make real change.
Feminist Comedian #1: Ali Wong
You’ve probably heard of Ali Wong by now, famous for her 2016 Netflix special, Baby Cobra, which she performed while seven and a half months pregnant. She kicks off the show with an unapologetic commentary on the double standard we apply to comedians with kids--and moms and dads in general--and maintains that hilarious, unabashed, and critical tone throughout the show.
She speaks frankly about her sexual adventures, society’s patriarchal expectations of men and women, and her personal thoughts on feminism, then ends on an empowering note that we can all get behind. Her distinctly crude humor means she's not everyone’s cup of tea, but we see it as a transgressive act, challenging gender roles and denouncing what's supposed to be ladylike behavior.
Oh, and if you just can’t get enough, follow it up with her more recent special Hard Knock Wife, which is just as deadpan funny and filthy as the last, the animated series Tuca and Bertie, which she produces and co-leads alongside fellow badass and comedian Tiffany Haddish, or Always Be My Maybe, the 2019 romantic comedy which she co-wrote and stars in. You truly can’t go wrong with Ali Wong :P
Feminist Comedian #2: Michelle Buteau
You know who else graces us with her presence in Always Be My Maybe? Michelle Buteau, baby, who is a breath of fresh air in both comedy films and the stand-up scene. Her smile alone could light up a room, but she gives us so much more than that. In her Netflix special, Welcome to Buteaupia--which won the 2021 Television Critic’s Choice Award, by the way--you’ll hear her hilarious and relatable takes on motherhood, interracial relationships, and self-acceptance.
You can also find her on the bookshelves, with her latest book of comedy essays, Survival of the Thickest, full of laugh-out-loud stories about growing up “Caribbean, Catholic, and thick” in Jersey, dating in tight jeans, her experience with IVF and pregnancy, and her eventual rise to stardom. She’s fearless, flawless, and undeniably feminist and we could not recommend her more.
Feminist Comedian #3: Ilana Glazer
Remember Broad City? Well, we first got to know Ilana Glazer in that web-series-turned-TV-show opposite her bestie Abbi Jacobson, and we’ve loved watching her journey ever since. She’s an actor, stand-up comedian, and truly determined feminist advocate who uses her light-hearted, slightly raunchy humor to inspire action--most notably, with her Horny 4 Tha Polls comedy tour and campaign, which encouraged voting in the 2020 presidential election.
Her organization, Generator Collective, is another badass extension of her political activism, which seeks to simplify the complicated parts of civics, elections, and the U.S. government for regular people, and to make it easier to start having tough conversations without feeling foolish. During the last election, she offered state-by-state breakdowns on important ballot issues and candidates, always infusing the info with a little comedy to extend the reach and make it fun.
You can also catch her first-ever comedy special, The Planet is Burning, on Amazon, in which she dives into everything from her existential dread about the environment and her frustration with the patriarchy to her experiences with a diva cup, queerness, and navigating adulthood as a woman.
Feminist Comedian #4: Phoebe Robinson
We’ve talked about the her podcast Sooo Many White Guys on this blog in the past, but it bears repeating that when it comes to feminist comedians, there’s no one like Phoebe Robinson. She’s hilarious, hard-working, and is all about handing over the spotlight and uplifting other women. She and Jessica Williams shared the mic for a few glorious years on their podcast and eventual comedy special 2 Dope Queens before going their separate ways--Williams to the silver screen and Robinson to the NYTimes best-seller list with her memoir/cultural commentary, You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have To Explain--all about race and gender in pop culture.
These days, you can find Phoebe running her own production company called Tiny Reparations, currently executive producing a show for Comedy Central. She also does stand-up, just wrote another book called Everything is Trash, But It’s Okay, and uses her instagram to keep us in the loop on what she’s reading as well as other comedians we should know about, and playfully turns the male gaze on its head as she unabashedly sexualizes male celebrities on #thirstythursday with her trademark, crack-up descriptions of why they caught her eye.
Throughout her career, she’s made a pointed effort to challenge stereotypes, take on the patriarchy, and empower others--especially black women--and always makes us smile while she does it. Thank you, Phoebe!
Feminist Comedian #5: Tig Notaro
She’s witty, incisive, and brings levity and humor to some undeniably challenging topics, from her double mastectomy and experience with breast cancer to the realities of parenting, periods, and beyond, in a way that feels refreshing and healing. Check out her comedy special, Happy To Be Here, in which she shares hilarious anecdotes about her relationship with her wife, working shitty jobs, being misgendered, and more, all in her trademark wry tone.
Her storytelling abilities are unmatched, and are also on display in her semi-autobiographical dark comedy TV series, One Mississippi, on Amazon. If that’s not enough, check out her Grammy-nominated HBO special, Boyish Girl Interrupted, which might just be her best show of all.
Feminist Comedian #6: Wanda Sykes
This actor, writer, and stand-up has been in the game for over two decades, and has opened the door for so many women in comedy. She was the first black woman to have a stand-up special on Netflix and continues to break boundaries with her sharp-as-a-tack, irreverent comedy. She’s as brilliant as ever in her latest special, Not Normal, in which she takes on important topics like race, the opioid crisis, and menopause, and somehow still has us on the floor laughing.
No one delivers a punchline like Wanda Sykes, and when she’s not working, you can find her voicing her support for issues she cares about. For one, she’s been a long-time advocate for same-sex marriage, and has made her opposition to California’s Proposition 8, which sought to ban it, widely known. On and off the stage, this woman is a powerhouse, and if you don’t know her work by now, IT’S TIME.
Feminist Comedian #7: Hannah Gadsby
Nanette, Hannah Gadsby’s first Netflix special, is an absolute game changer. She takes us through a series of relatable and brilliantly composed stories about coming out, feeling marginalized, and day-to-day gender dynamics that are both deeply moving and downright funny. She combines a respectful gravity for the seriousness of the issues she covers with a refreshing levity by way of clever twists and word play, and leaves you feeling so many things, but mostly inspired and ready to take on the patriarchy.
Her second special, Douglas, offers even more in the way of feminist critique, plus some important stories about autism and neurodiversity, anti-vaxxers, and more. This Australian comic is a real stand-out in the world of stand-up, so don’t forget to check her out :)
Feminist Comedian #8: Jenny Slate
Last but not least, we’ve got Jenny Slate, comedian and actress who’s just getting started, but has already given us so much. She’s got a Netflix special now called Stage Fright, which is part video memoir--complete with home movies and interviews with family--and part self-deprecating stand-up routine, in which she explores the ways that comedy can be an antidote to loneliness and insecurity.
You probably know her best from her roles on TV comedies like Parks & Rec, Big Mouth, and Bob’s Burgers (not a bad list!), but she’s also got a book called Little Weirds, which is fun and meandering and celebrates the oddities of everyday life from Jenny Slate’s ever-observant, quirky perspective. We also love her in Obvious Child, a romantic comedy about a young comedian who has to navigate her unplanned pregnancy with a one-night stand. It’s her willingness to engage with these tough topics and bring some joy to the realities of life that makes her such a revolutionary and lovable feminist comedian. Give her a watch.
Thanks for reading, Feministas. See you next week for more of The F Word, our weekly newsletter and blog on all things feminist, from activism to fashion and beyond. Want it delivered? Scroll down, sign up, and we’ll send it straight to your inbox :)