cover image Not Funny: Essays on Life, Comedy, Culture, Et Cetera

Not Funny: Essays on Life, Comedy, Culture, Et Cetera

Jena Friedman. One Signal, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-982178-28-4

Comedian Friedman reflects on her career in this entertaining and soulful debut. The title essay recounts how the author fell in love with comedy while conducting research for her undergraduate thesis on a respected Chicago improv troupe famed as a pipeline to Saturday Night Live, as well as the backlash after her thesis’s revelations of sexism and racism in the troupe went viral. Several essays probe the misogyny faced by women comedians from audiences and colleagues, as in “Girl Having Sex, or, What We Talk About When We Talk About Likability,” where Friedman notes that women comics are often “encouraged to talk about our sex lives onstage because it’s the only way we can get men to listen.” A philosophical strain runs through these pieces, as when the author meditates on comedy’s ability to distract, disarm, or unite while examining jokes she’s written about dead babies for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Friedman’s comedic voice shines, and she tosses off jokes that are often as funny as they are pointed (she deadpans that “for white men, the likability formula is pretty clear-cut: as long as you’re not a serial killer, you’re likable”). Insightful and humorous in equal measure, this is a blast. (Apr.)