Women, Comedy, and How Far We’ve Come

Professor Heather Osborne-Thompson is a scholar and associate professor at Cal State Fullerton within the Radio/TV/Film department. Having been awarded her Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in Journalism from the University of New Hampshire along with her Master’s and Doctorate in Cinema-Television Critical Studies from the University of Southern California, our team found her to be a qualified expert on the topic of gender and genre in television; both contemporary and historical. As such, we had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Thompson to discuss her own work of research within the scope of women’s comedy entitled: “Routine Adjustments: Re-Viewing Women’s TV Comedy Genres, 1950-1969”. According to Thompson, the idea for this graduate program dissertation research stemmed from a desire to bring more attention to women who would not conform to society’s set expectations for them. In other words, the women who strayed from the typical stay-at-home mother and wife role that was broadcasted and encouraged across the nation in the 50s and 60s. Thompson stated that she wanted to find more information on not only these kinds of women, but also the “funny women who say things you’re not supposed to say, and behave in ways that are different from the cues we get about how we [women] are supposed to behave”. As a result of deciding upon this research topic, Thompson was certain that the next steps of developing this subject would be to take a closer look at the traditions from which female comedians had come from, as well as examine different types of historical evidence in regards to the way these women were understood and portrayed by the media (newspapers, radio, television, etc). Ultimately, this meant delving deep into the early feminist movement and looking at the way performances done by female comedians impacted the difficult and often sad issues addressed within comedy at the time.

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