Kym Whitley has been doing comedy for more than three decades. As a result, she has witnessed the evolution that female comics have gone through in order to take command of the stage.
“In this business, people expect you, for some reason Black comedians, women to be blue. And blue means to kinda filthy,” said Whitley during a “Studio 13 Live” interview on March 25.
But the comedian said that stereotype has not always represented the perspective female comics have to offer. “All female comics are not filthy,” she added.
Whitley noted that she can be blue, but her comedic chops span the gamut of her observations on life, men, travel, and more. Although she admitted that her favorite topic is men, the content of her jokes is not always rooted in sexuality.
In fact, the “Act Your Age” actress further explored the ways in which the comedy landscape has changed throughout the span of her decades-long career. For instance, female stand-up comics are doing less fighting and emulating less of their male peers’ approach to jokes.
“So, in this business, we were talking about this the other day, that we started that way because we had to fight to get on stage. And if the men are being kind of blue and racy,” Whitley said, women followed their lead for the sake of laughs.
The ways in which they had to alter their approach to performing their sets were not the only compromise.
“We felt like we had to come up behind them like we always wore pants and a hat. I always wore a big T-shirt because you didn’t want to show your body parts,” explained the NAACP Image Award winner.
Whitley said showing less of their femininity was a means of thwarting female audience members from feeling jealous. It also allowed comics to be seen for their talent and not their looks.
“We didn’t want people to see us and see our bodies and look at us first, you wanted everyone to see you’re funny,” continued the “Kym” podcast host. But now, things are different.
“We’re being women, we’re being sexy. We’re being who we are but in the beginning we dressed like boys.”
Whitley’s friend and fellow comedienne Sherri Shepherd echoed similar sentiments about being a female comic in an arena that has long been helmed by men.
“It’s been a male domain for so long and female comics have had to fight to get on stage to get our voices heard,” Shepherd told “Good Morning America” in 2021.
At the time, she was promoting “Hysterical,” a documentary that explored how women are breaking barriers in comedy.
“If you look at the lineup it’s usually only one maybe two women if there’s more than two women it’s an all-female show. So, we’re trying to break, trying to shatter that glass ceiling,” added the talk show host.
Shepherd ended by stating that at the end of it all, female comics are continuously working to change the narrative and beginning to show up as their authentic selves.