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When I began this blog, my goal was not only to write reviews of film and television but also to voice my opinion on the diversity epidemic in mainstream film and television in terms of the underlying sexism, racism and ageism that are still so present in the Western entertainment canon. My first piece for this blog was in fact an article on why I had decided to take the #52FilmsByWomen pledge. When I heard the announcement that Jimmy Kimmel is set to host the 2017 Academy Awards, I felt I needed to write this piece on the ongoing dismissal of female comedians in Hollywood.

Over its eighty-seven-year history, only two women have hosted the Academy Awards solo. Whoopi Goldberg has hosted the Awards a total of four times in 1994; 1996; 1999 and 2004 whereas the second female host, Ellen DeGeneres, has hosted the awards twice, the most recent of which was in 2014. While a few women have co-hosted the Academy Awards, most recently Anne Hathaway with fellow actor James Franco, only Goldberg and DeGeneres have been given the responsibility of hosting the awards show solo. Of the many woman who have co-hosted the Awards ceremony, including Carol Burnett, Jane Fonda and Goldie Hawn, these female hosts have always been flanked by at least one, if not more, male co-hosts. When Burnett co-hosted in 1973, she was joined by Rock Hudson, Michael Caine and Charlton Heston. After a quick read of the Academy Awards wikipedia table, it’s plain to see that in its eighty-eight years of being, the Academy Awards has only had sixteen female hosts and co-hosts (including Goldberg and DeGeneres), the first of which was Agnes Moorehead alongside Dick Powell in 1948.

As much as I respect and enjoy Jimmy Kimmel’s work, both as a Late Night host and as a host for the 2016 Emmy Awards, hearing he was chosen to host the 89th Academy Awards this coming February reminded me of how female comedians are still seen through a sexist light in this day and age.

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JIMMY KIMMEL HOSTING THE 2016 PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS

Since my childhood, I have heard things along the lines of ‘women just aren’t that funny.’ Although there have been many articles written on the scientific and anthropological reasons why there seems to be a humour gap, it is a stereotype that has continued to enshroud the female population. If you were to browse stand-up routines of professional female comedians on YouTube, you’ll notice the comments are a mix of people saying her routine is not funny and she should give up, or people who feel the need to validate the fact that said comedienne is, in fact, funny. Many female comedians however, seem to venture into endeavors other than stand-up because of this. Women such as Leslie Jones and Fortune Feimster have found their careers moving away from the stand-up sphere they started in towards film and television.

As much as comediennes such as Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy may have you believe that women are entirely accepted in comedy, the facts prove the opposite. When the Ghostbusters reboot was announced, many took to the internet to voice their opinions on how it was disrespecting the memory of the original film series, describing it often as ‘feminist propaganda.’ Successful female-lead and created shows such as Comedy Central’s Broad City or the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are further proof of the industry’s fear of investing and producing female content. If it hadn’t been for Ilana Glazer’s and Abbi Jacobsen’s successful web series, which they produced independently between 2009 and 2011, or Rachel Bloom’s viral stardom, both shows may never have seen the light of day.

What first brought the ‘humour gap’ to my attention was the appointment of both James Corden and Trevor Noah to late night television in 2014 and 2015 respectively. As much as I love Corden’s humour and hosting style, which is reminiscent of UK chat shows such as The Graham Norton Show, as well as the diverse point of view Noah brings to The Daily Show, I remember thinking that Hollywood was resorting to importing male comedians instead of hiring an American comedienne. With the slew of both current and retired talent on variety shows such as Saturday Night Live, any retiring talk show host would be leaving his empire in good hands with a female replacement. Current SNL cast member Cecily Strong proved her comedy chops and talent for tongue in cheek satire and political comedy as host of the 2015 White House correspondent’s dinner. Many SNL players, both current and veteran, could hold their own in a talk show slot and the dismissal of many talented women seems to be ignored both by mainstream media and the comedy circuit itself. It was only this year that Amy Schumer became the first female comedian to make the highest-paid comedians list, earning $17 million in 2015. Schumer has been vocal about her experience as a female comedian both on her show Inside Amy Schumer, in the press and in her 2016 memoir The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.

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THE WOMEN OF SNL (FROM L TO R): CHERI OTERI; KRISTEN WIIG; AMY POEHLER; ANA GASTEYER; TINA FEY; SHAHEER ZAMATA; JANE CURTIN AND CECILY STRONG FOR GLAMOUR MAGAZINE

Schumer is one of many women who I think would have been a far more interesting choice for Academy Awards host. She’s current and constantly in the media as well as being well-spoken on the issue of diversity in Hollywood. With funny women such as Melissa McCarthy and Sarah Silverman, as well as diverse male talents like Lin Manuel-Miranda and Keegan-Michael Key, I am strangely baffled at the Academy’s decision. You can see a listicle of comedians, actors and performers I think would have made more interesting choices here.

After Chris Rock’s performance as host as last years ceremony and his heavily political opening monologue and running gags throughout the show, one would have thought that the Academy had learned its lesson and moved to include more diversity not only in the nominations (which have yet to be announced) but in the programming as well. Kimmel’s appointment as host is also problematic in light of ABC’s latest deal with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, seeing as the television network has expanded its TV deal with the Academy.

For an institution that has been under heavy criticism in recent years for its lack of diversity both in terms of nominations and members, hiring ABC’s late night darling, a white male comedian, didn’t seem to get much of a second thought.

Published by Gemma Pecorini Goodall