This is a depressing statistic, crunched by writer and comedian Diana Wright: of the top-grossing 20 comedies for each of the last ten years, women have directed just 4.5 percent of them. Of those movies, all but one of them were directed by Anne Fletcher, Nancy Myers and Nora Ephron. And all of them are romantic comedies: there’s not a parody, an action comedy, road trip story, or buddy picture in the mix.
NPR’s Linda Holmes, who clearly is my main source of inspiration today, wrote in her very smart assessment of 30 Rock as that show wrapped up, that:
30 Rock may not have undone years and years of gender imbalance in running shows, and it may not have changed hiring practices, but it’s hard to remember now that before it came along, the entire idea of a woman having a comedy brand that translated to comedic opportunities for people other than herself was depressingly shaky as a public proposition. Again, that doesn’t mean women couldn’t do it or weren’t writing comedy — there were women writers from the very beginning at Saturday Night Live and elsewhere. But comedy’s creative centers of gravity in the public imagination were not generally women.
And one of the great things about 30 Rock was that romantic comedy was just one of the few things it did, whether the person with romantic troubles was Liz, Jack, Jenna, or even Tracy and Pete within the confines of their marriages. It did race comedy, class comedy, rural v. urban comedy, workplace humor, and political and cultural satire. We may be making progress in the kinds of comedy women can do on television. But clearly we’re a long way from women who can successfully build comedy empires in the movies based on multiple styles, much in the way that Adam McKay’s parodies are also both social commentary and effective romantic comedy.