Ankita Dolai M.A.

Project Overview - From ‘Madwomen’ to ‘Funny Women’: Excess as Resistance in Comedy Produced by Women

The project explores excess in women’s humour as a tool of subversion and defiance against dominant and hegemonic social constructs surrounding masculinity and patriarchy. The project aims to reconstruct the common conception of ‘madwomen’ or ‘excessive’ women in literary and popular culture as ‘funny’ women, based on a break with traditional, singular, non-deviant and socially acceptable roles of women such as that of wife and mother. Comedy produced by women, in turn, constitutes a form of resistance in which, historically and ideologically, the socially constructed subordinate gender has mostly been written out of satire, sarcasm and humour. Therefore, the project explores emergent and deviant strategies of different kinds of humour in genres and categories of comedy which highlight excessive women.


Excess is vital in women’s comedy because it is inherent in satire in the sense of the actual joke on masculinity which subordinates women’s ostensible inability to produce humour. Rather than being associated with the creation of a madwoman or a sickly and hysterical woman, excess in this project is deemed to create a ‘funny woman’ who is not locked up in the attic like in the 19th century prototypical ‘madwoman in the attic’ literary trope, but standing on the stage or directly facing the camera and dismantling stereotypes one audience member at a time. With the momentous emergence of multiple streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and numerous other service providers, the consumption of popular culture in the form of series, movies, documentaries and comedy specials has risen significantly creating new opportunities for comedy performed and produced by women from different cultures, backgrounds, racialized positions, experiences and sexualities. Hence, comedy is used as a mode of expression of varied female voices. The focus of the project is to explore how excess in humour changes with different perspectives across intersectional constellations.


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