Debate Magazine

An Interview with Glennis McMurray

Posted on the 20 April 2011 by Juliez
Glennis Promos - 223

Glennis McMurray

Glennis McMurray is the founder and editor of the website, G.L.O.C. ( the first large-scale blog by and for all the Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy. Glennis is a seasoned musical improvisor having started and starred in the acclaimed I Eat Pandas (Time Out New York Critics Pick, ECNY Award-winner: Best Improv Group). She can now be seen performing with the NY cast of Baby Wants Candy every Saturday night at the SoHo Playhouse. In January 2011, her solo musical Disco Balls: Into the Light debuted at the Charleston Comedy Festival, and she was recently seen as Coach Betts in Half Straddle’s production of In The Pony Palace/Football at the Bushwick Starr. In addition to the two variety shows she produces, Dream Role and Supercream Supreme!, Glennis can be seen on stage all over the city telling stories of her childhood in Durango, CO and her move to NY at 19. On the small screen she appears as Flo in The Electric Company on PBS and you can hear her voice E*trade babies, Southern dish sponges and sassy tampons in some of your favorite TV commercials.

And without further ado, here’s Glennis!

What inspired you to start G.L.O.C.
I started G.L.O.C. as a side project in order to find out more about the women in comedy around me. I started with ladies who I thought had a really strong point of view/comedic voice so I could better understand where it came from. I’ve always been really interested in that sort of thing; where you grew up, how you were raised, where/if you went to college, it says a lot about how you developed as a person and performer. So that was basically how it started. But then, based on the tremendous response I received after just a few posts, I realized I had something much bigger on my hands. I started taking a look around at other comedy sites and realized most of the talk about women in comedy had a somewhat negative angle, “women vs. men”. Don’t get me wrong, I think some of that is valid and important, but what if we solely focused on the positive achievements of women in comedy? And what if it was totally inclusive and not a popularity contest? What if we featured the women in movies and on TV as well as the women writing ad campaigns, performing solo shows in the basements of theaters and the women busting their asses on stage doing open mics and bringer shows every night of the week. Maybe this whole comedy endeavor wouldn’t feel so daunting and isolating.

Why do you think that there’s an ever-persistent cultural perception that women aren’t funny?

I think it all boils down to fear. We ladies are already very powerful, but add a fierce sense of humor and we’re pretty much unstoppable. I think the denial of our humor is just a way of avoiding soiled drawers at the thought that we’re slowly taking over the world. Because we are. (Veeeeery slowly.)

A very smart woman (Tina Fey) once said to me (in her book, Bossypants) that it’s also important to “consider the source.” Who are these people saying women aren’t funny? Are they worth our time? Are they kookooballs? Then who cares! Move on and work on your set/show/routine so you can add your voice to the legions of ladies already working in comedy. Power in numbers!

It seems that stand up comedy (especially amongst male comedians) can err towards the sexist. Are you offended by / opposed to these jokes? Do you think women should just join in, or is it a comedienne’s responsibilities to try to fight this sexism?

Sure it offends me. How can it not? I have self respect and respect my peers so anything disparaging said about us as a group is bound to boil my blood. But I’ve also realized that this is just going to happen. Just as there are always going to be racism and ageism and bakeism (people who hate baking) there is always going to be sexism. Personally I find it funny that in the world we live in and this day in age people choose to hate on women on stage. There are literally thousands… millions! of topics up for discussion and they choose to put women down? Hate, again, is based in fear so I end up just feeling sorry for the dude (or lady – trust me it happens on our end too) spewing the sexism. Living in fear is a bad place to be. Joining in clearly won’t do any good and fighting back will only waste our brain power when we could be talking about awesome topics like cheese shoes and frog farts and all those other magical things in the world around us real and imagined. (But seriously, do frogs fart? If they do they should be called fargs.) I honestly think too much attention is paid to these creeps. As Adira Amram and I said in our G.L.O.C. Anthem about haters, “We just say F U and walk the other way!” Nuff said.

What are your feelings on the Judd Apatow brand of bromance comedies that are so popular right now? Do you think the formula can/should work for women?

Honestly, I’m a little tired of the bromances. I just saw “Your Highness” and was really disappointed at how narrow their target audience was. Can we ladies not also enjoy a movie about smoking weed and going on quests? What I can appreciate about Judd Apatow’s movies is that he shows a more sensitive side to dudes and allows them to be in touch with their emotions. (Somehow, though, that emotional depth is solely reserved for his bros, but it’s a start.) His movies still don’t pass The Bechdel Test (Does a movie contain two or more female characters who have names? Do those characters talk to each other? And, if so, do they discuss something other than a man?) even though he casts (and is married to!) one of the funniest women working today–Leslie Mann. I do think that formula will work for women, but I think–and they touched on this in the New Yorker article on Anna Faris–that they are making fewer movies today that aren’t based in a franchise so they’re less willing to take risks with a movie that doesn’t have a tested formula. Which is why women like Anna Faris are so important! Don’t even get me started. I love her.

I am looking forward to seeing Bridesmaids (produced by Apatow) and I love that the women get to take on the hilarious, weird, goofy, disgusting roles. Though if this movie doesn’t pass The Bechdel Test I’m not sure what hope we have. (Anna Faris)

It seems that physical attractiveness is still something female comedians (and female performers of all kinds, for that matter) have to deal with in a way that men no longer do. How do you feel about this? Did that factor into naming your blog “Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy”?

It’s pretty unfortunate because comedy should be a meritocracy: the funniest get the job. But it’s just not that way. Hollywood is a looks-based industry so it’s even harder for women to break through without meeting the defined standard of beauty. I can’t say I haven’t griped with lady friends about the ability of men to chub it, slub it and frump it up and get much further than us ladies, but again, where is the complaining getting us? I’m not sure what can be done to change that, honestly. Hollywood is and will always be looks-based. When I first started taking classes at NY’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the ratio of women to men was much wider. I found myself really dressing down to fit in. Now I embrace my love of dressing up and I think many comediennes feel the same way. What lady doesn’t like to feel, gorgeous, after all? Barbra taught us that in “Funny Girl” and who is more gorgeous than her? (No one.) The “Gorgeous” in G.L.O.C. is about an attitude. Confidence, honesty, unapologetically kick-ass. Maybe some day we can roll out of bed and book a national spot, but the desire to gussy up every once in a while will always be there. I just wish we weren’t judged solely on it.

Who are your heroines – in the comedy world or otherwise?

Everyone around me, everyone I’ve put up on the site, all my ladies–holla! But to be more specific and less diplomatic, I’ll name a few that have really been long-time inspirations. I remember reading that Jane Curtin had a home life and didn’t partake in the craziness of Saturday Night Live and yet she held her own on that show and made a name for herself. And is still working today! (Though not nearly enough.) Teri Garr is a huge inspiration and had a great article on the AV Club which is absolutely worth the read. When I was younger I adored Tracey Ullman and really aspired to be like her when I grew up; funny and British. Gilda Radner… I named my dog after her. (Gilda Raddog.) Julie Klausner and I came up through the UCB together and she has just blown her shit out of the water. I am so proud of her. Kristen Schaal is not only hilarious, but really grounded and sweet. I did an interview with both these ladies on G.L.O.C. and felt completely inspired post-talk. Lately one of my biggest inspirations is a woman who works behind the scenes, Olivia Wingate. She is a comedy manager and has really opened her door to me and taken me under her wing answering any questions I have about starting my own business and working behind the scenes in comedy. It’s just so important to help each other out! OK, I have to stop or I’ll go fill pages.

Do you have any advice for teen girls who are aspiring comediennes?

My advice would be to stop caring what people think and stop hating on other ladies who intimidate or in some way threaten you. It took me 30 years to figure that out, but once I was able to embrace both of those things I was happier and more successful than I’ve ever been in my life. Stop worrying about being polite or lady-like and just go for it! Try it out! If it doesn’t work then you move on, right? No harm, no foul. It’s easier said than done, but the earlier you try your hand at comedy the sooner you’ll start kicking ass. And when you do let me know and I’ll add you to our site, you gorgeous lady of comedy.

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