Ask Libby: Boys & 'Girls'

A while back, there was a ridiculous debate in the media about whether women could be funny, but then Bridesmaids was a huge hit and people somehow remembered Lucy and Roseanne and Tina Fey, and the whole thing blew over. But having just seen The Three Stooges, I have a more important question: Can men be funny?

Now, The Three Stooges was made with reverence and deep affection, so if you loved the original Three Stooges you will probably worship this movie, and you might also love any of the America’s Funniest Home Videos where a fat guy gets stuck in a kiddie wading pool, and you are probably my husband, Josh. Josh thought The Three Stooges was a riot, which made me want to poke his eye out with a screwdriver and ask, “Wait, so is that funny?” Even as a child I remember thinking that the Stooges looked like the sort of creepy alcoholic janitors who’d end up getting arrested on a morals charge; they’re basically the three least datable guys ever. “But that’s why they’re so funny!” Josh insisted as he kept making that nyuk-nyuk noise and pretending to pull my nose off. “They’re adorable!”

To shut Josh up, I forced him to watch the first episode of the acclaimed new HBO series Girls. Girls was created by and stars Lena Dunham, who’s been both praised as a bold new voice and attacked because she comes from a fancy bohemian Manhattan background, and because her show is about rich young white girls who hug each other and whine about their boyfriends and about how their families don’t give them enough money. “Oh my God,” said Josh, “this show is terrifying. It’s every parent’s nightmare. It’s like The Walking Dead with zombies wearing vintage cardigans and Italian suede boots.”

“And that’s why it’s wonderful,” I explained while refusing to let Josh change the channel to either porn or an NCIS rerun. “I love Lena Dunham,” I continued, “because she’s smart and quirky and because even though there’s been a lot of chatter about her non-Hollywood body, she’s lovely, although in the print ads for the show she’s been unrecognizably Photo-shopped. And she makes plenty of jokes about being arty and spoiled, and even though on the show she’s surrounded by more traditionally gorgeous actresses, she’s the one you watch. And I’d be proud to be her mother, which is more than I can say for half the cast of Entourage.”

To prove that, as Josh put it, “chicks just ain’t down with the ha-ha,” he demanded that we watch an episode of the sitcom Whitney. This show stars its creator, Whitney Cummings, who’s a beautiful, bone-thin woman, and that’s pretty much the entire plot. “You see?” Josh crowed. “Whitney has a boyfriend and a whole batch of zany friends, but they all just wander around as if they’ve never really met. It’s like watching a show about people stuck in purgatory.” “But maybe Whitney isn’t supposed to be a comedy,” I said, “and it just needs subtitles, like an Ingmar Bergman movie, so that when Whitney makes a wisecrack, the subtitle would say, ‘My soul is an abyss.’ Maybe Whitney is years ahead of its time.”

Josh started to sputter, and we switched over to watching 2 Broke Girls, the hit show about a bankrupt heiress who’s forced to become a waitress, and who teams up with a brash, lewd lower-class gal. “This show is so phony,” said Josh. “They’re supposed to be working in a Brooklyn diner, but it’s the size of a football field.” “It’s a TV diner,” I said patiently. “It’s like Central Perk, the coffee shop on Friends, or that bar where the people on How I Met Your Mother hang out. All of those places are like the Lincoln Memorial with menus. It’s fun.”

“But even though the two main girls are supposed to be broke,” Josh complained, “mostly they just stand around and banter.” “Just the way Laverne and Shirley pretended to work in a factory,” I countered, “and the way Sarah Jessica Parker would sit at her computer smoking a cigarette to prove she was a writer. All of these shows work because the actresses are irresistible, and the Internet exists so that real waitresses and factory workers and writers can rip them to pieces.”

Maybe that’s why I like Lena Dunham: She exists to torture people online. On every possible blog and website and Twitter feed, everyone loves dissecting her. Her fans say that she’s doing a show about stuff she knows, and her haters always get huffy about how they’re not jealous just because Lena’s 25 and landed a deal at HBO. Lena’s also been profiled by a lot of East Coast liberal magazines, often by female journalists who consider her hips to be a revolutionary act. Lena’s like Diablo Cody, because they’re both really talented punching bags.

“Okay, you’re a woman,” Josh said after I’d refused to watch Game of Thrones because it looks like a production of Camelot staged in a Ukrainian middle school. “Do something funny.”

I thought about it, and then I grabbed a hammer and slammed it down on Josh’s big toe, and while he was clutching his foot and screaming I yanked on what’s left of his hair and broke a lamp over his head. “Now, that’s funny!” Josh yelped, so I won the argument, and even if Josh is the fourth Stooge, maybe that’s why I love him, if you ask me.

In addition to her monthly column in Entertainment Weekly, LGW is taking your burning questions here in PopWatch. Tap the “Ask Libby!” button to submit, then check back soon for her next online post.

Read more:
‘Ask Libby': On theater etiquette
‘Ask Libby': Michael Fassbender, ‘Hugo,’ and ‘The Artist’
Libby Gelman-Waxner: Look, I’m Back!

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