Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ask Me No Stereotyping Questions, I'll Tell You No Lies (Oooh, you're so smart!)

I am going on a bit of a tirade today about the New York Times interview of Whitney Cummings. Others have discussed her style of comedy and how the networks are handling her. There's a nice piece on about that. I'm more interested in the interviewer, Andrew Goldman, and the meta-message of his questions to her. So I've reprinted his questions, and put in my own analysis of their subtext. If you want to read Whitney Cummings' actual answers, read the NYT article here.
This fall, you’re coming out of relative obscurity to have two shows on network TV: “Whitney,” which you star in, and “Two Broke Girls,” which you co-created. What do you remember about being broke?
At first glance, a reasonable question given the title of one of the shows, But since she has only recently come “out of relative obscurity” it’s actually a rather dumb question when you think about it.
Hold on, you did your grocery shopping at 7-Eleven?
Imagine a guy tells an interviewer he shopped at 7-11. Would that call for such a “hold on” bit of faux incredulousness?
On those Comedy Central roasts, your fellow comedians liked to joke about how you slept your way to fame. How accurate is that criticism?
Two problems here. His lead in tries to hide his question behind her fellow comics. John Stuart likes to point out his show doesn’t have to pretend to be fair since his network is Comedy Central but that one would hope for more balance on a news network. Similarly, a joke at a roast and a “legitimate” question by the Times are not the same level of insult.

In addition, it’s impossible to imagine the same question being asked seriously to a guy because of the nasty reality of gender inequality in the business. So not only is the question rude, it takes as reasonable the shi**y distribution of power that creates a world where this does happen. No matter what her answer, the idea that women don’t deserve their success get a little bump in the unconscious of both male and female readers. Way to go.
Your friend Chelsea Handler got her show while she was going out with the head of Comcast, E!’s parent company.
Just in case the actual answer tries to divorce women’s success from her sexual behavior, we have a tasty chunk of innuendo thrown in gratis.

Norm Macdonald was pretty hostile toward you in an interview, saying, “Hey, guess what, there’s a young girl that’s middling attractive that swears a lot, let’s get her,” suggesting you were an inferior version of Sarah Silverman. 
Drawing attention from the interviewer’s general tone of hostility and stereotyping of women by pointing a finger at the competition.
Michael Patrick King was your co-creator on “Two Broke Girls.” Considering that he’s best known for his writing on “Sex and the City,” how do you dress to meet him?
Well, I can’t really parse a question that takes such a leap of logic...or non-logic...that I can’t follow. I suppose the question was never anything but “how did you dress” and the first half was some halfhearted effort to make it seem, I don’t know, pertinent. Again, would anybody ask a male comic how he dressed for a meeting? I am so tired of the interviewer at this point I don’t know if I have the will to finish.
You once said, “I need a man who financially needs me.” Was that a joke?
Again, would this be one of only 10 questions asked of a male comic who made the same comment about a man or a woman? Maybe a high school newspaper could get away with such clich├ęs. Or do I insult high school newspapers?
Didn’t the fact that you modeled early in your career make you understand that you’re objectively attractive?
Don’t need to rate the question because her answer was clear and smart and basically taught him something if he was listening.
You have a comedy bit about how you wrecked your car by filling it with diesel. That can’t be true.
That can’t be true? How about simply asking the question “Is that true?” rather than throwing in the rhetorical equivalent to the macho eye roll about how women are hopeless about machines?
Was it expensive to fix?
Hold on. I thought you were the guy. Of course it was expensive to fix. Even I with my ovaries know that.
They’ll say you’re too dumb to own a car.
Rather than too dumb to interview a woman.


  1. This is wonderful! May I cross-post on Wellywoodwoman?

  2. Absolutely. Getting the word out is the point.