Five Lady Comics Who Deserve Shows More Than Zooey Deschanel

New Girl premieres tonight. We bemoan the injustices of the TV world.   

By Maura Hehir

As of September 20th, Zooey Deschanel will be carrying her own show on FOX called New Girl. The pilot is already available on iTunes, but you only have to watch the preview to question Deschanel's comedic abilities. It's less of a "sitcom" and more of a "sit." So we've compiled a list of five female comedians who might not have the name recognition of Zooey Deschanel but would nonetheless be far more welcome on our TVs.  

1. Jena Friedman  

Besides being a writer over at The Late Show with David Letterman, Friedman is the mastermind behind the brilliant “Ted and Gracie”— a parody of the hilariously awkward New York Times “Vows” videos. Her stand-up is dark and acerbic, which, with the contrast of her sweet, unassuming look, would make her perfect on a show where she could play a naive, Gracie-like character suffering various grotesque indignities.  

2. Natasha Leggero   

Leggero would be great on a dialogue-heavy, plot-light comedy — her voices are spot-on and she really shines at imitating dumb people; also, she looks kind of like an Italian Amy Winehouse. She’s playing Emma on the NBC workplace sitcom Free Agents this season, but we still think she deserves to be the lead in a show and have face-on-billboards-everywhere hype.  

3. Chelsea Peretti  
Exclusive - Chelsea Peretti - Weird Foreign Exchange Program
Chelsea Peretti Comedians Stand-Up


Chelsea Peretti is a writer for Parks and Recreation, which means she's responsible for churning out some of the funniest lines on TV right now, and I can’t help but automatically like her. She has kind of a weird Jersey drawl, even though she’s not from Jersey, and likes to talk about how mean she is to everyone (she makes fun of her friends, and she once recorded the weird things a guy said to her during sex and played them for an audience) in a way that reminds us a less self-satisfied Sarah Silverman. Does TV need that? Maybe not. But we'd watch anyway. 

4. Jen Kirkman  

You have probably, at some point, seen the “Drunk History” videos (and if you haven’t, you should). That’s Jen Kirkman. Her stand-up reminds me a little bit of Louis C.K.’s, in that her humor is often self-deprecating, but more feminine (obviously) and a bit more earnest. I can definitely imagine her as the star of a show like Cougar Town, playing some stuck-in-a-rut suburban character, frankly — and hilariously — complaining about the banalities of everyday life. 

5. Morgan Murphy

Morgan Murphy evokes the classic dry, jaded, awkward female voice of Daria. That's why she should get her own show; just like Daria, it would be everyone's favorite now, and then in a decade, they'd all decide that it was actually annoying and overrated. Plus, Murphy's whole persona makes her sound like a teenager, so she should probably play one — it's really hard to imagine her playing an adult.

Commentarium (69 Comments)

Sep 20 11 - 12:33am

What about Kristen Wiig? I was thinking about that earlier today. I'm not saying she deserves to be on the list, but what ABOUT her? I don't know where I stand on that one. So slinky and rubbery. She'd make a good Gumby or whatever.

Sep 20 11 - 1:16am

I absolutely adore Kristen Wiig-- but I didn't include her on this list because she's been finding a lot of success lately already, with Bridesmaids and SNL and everything.

Sep 20 11 - 5:36pm

Wiig is a sketch comic. She's good but would have stood out in a list of stand-up comics.

Sep 20 11 - 1:10am

Why so catty? Why not just write about five wonderful funny women without insulting someone else? When will women be able to celebrate the success of one another?

Sep 20 11 - 1:37am

I think it's kind of counterproductive to just be like, "I love everything ____ does, solely because she's a woman!" TV actors, both male and female, have always been the subjects of review and criticism. I'm not criticizing ZD because she's a lady and I feel like being catty, but because she's the star of a sitcom and I don't find her funny.

Sep 22 11 - 12:35am

I think blowing one candle for 5 to be brighter is an acceptable ratio

Sep 10 12 - 2:39am
Chuck L

Bro, you're going against your own religion. You don't extinguish 1 hot candle for 5 fugly ones.

Sep 20 11 - 2:45am

Have to defend Zooey here, she is an Actress, not a comedian, big difference... she is been in so many good movies, both comedy and drama.... lets give that show a chance

Sep 20 11 - 9:41am

Agreed. Why are we comparing female comedians to an actress? Zooey is aawesome I am very much looking forward to seeing her in the new show.

Sep 20 11 - 11:01am

Because comedy is a separate skill.

Sep 22 11 - 8:19pm

Yes...and acting is different then standup...a sitcom requires an ability to act and be funny.

Sep 20 11 - 2:48am

Wait, why are we comparing comedians to Zooey Deschanel? Those women surely deserve a show more than her, but let's not go confusing people into thinking ZD should be considered a comic. AT ALL.

Sep 20 11 - 5:49am

Well, most of these women are working writers. I don't know if they aspire to be actresses, but there are so few female writers in comedy I think they do a lot more good behind the camera than becoming just another pretty face parroting lines men wrote for them.

Sep 20 11 - 5:43pm

Word. Voice > Face. But to be honest, a lot of comic want to be both.

Sep 20 11 - 8:33am

just because there are so few female comedy writers does not mean we need to hide them like precious gems behind the camera. the whole point of avoiding fiascos like zooey deschanel aka "another pretty face parroting lines men wrote" would be bringing a funny woman from behind camera and putting her in front of one. they do a lot more good behind the camera? it shouldn't be one or the other. get a funny woman to write the lines, and a funny woman to act them out or someone to do both. ta-da!

Sep 20 11 - 2:34pm

If there are fewer women in the writer's room it makes it harder for every woman left in the writer's room. I don't see how taking more women from behind the camera to in front of one will avoid 'fiascos' like Zooey Deschanel in New Girl. The reason it looks bad is because of the tone-deaf, unfunny writing, not anything Deschanel herself did--people are prone to forgetting that sitcom comedians are not actually writing their own material. I also don't see how being a writer is 'hiding,' and I think it goes back to the implicit point of the article in general, which is that being an actress is a higher level of success or somehow more important than being a writer. I think this is bullshit.

And yes, if there were enough women in comedy to "get a funny woman to write the lines, and a funny woman to act them out" there wouldn't be a problem in the first place.

Sep 20 11 - 8:55am

Can we talk about women who deserve bands more than Zooey D.? Because that would be EVERY WOMAN.

Sep 10 12 - 3:18am
Mel B

Every hipster has a band; it's a formative part of their identity. If you remove a hipster from her band, she'll die within 7-10 days.

Sep 20 11 - 8:59am

Comparing stand up comedians to a comic actress seems very much beside the point, but whatever. Jen Kirkman is the best of these. Maria Bamford is funnier than any of them.

Sep 20 11 - 9:10am

theyre all actresses as well as stand up comedians

Sep 10 12 - 3:22am
Chuck L

Jen Kirkman isn't funny. Women doing "women are so paralyzingly neurotic it's impossible to get through the day" jokes are an over-used cliche. Like men and their unfunny dick jokes.

Sep 20 11 - 9:09am

Finally some Zooey hatin''s about time!

Sep 20 11 - 11:42am

Great! Let's tear down the woman in a great part!

Sep 20 11 - 12:18pm

Dude, why the hating on Daria?

Sep 20 11 - 2:50pm

i was seriously wondering the exact same thing.

Sep 23 11 - 1:02pm

Who finds Daria overrated in retrospect? BRING ME THEIR HEADS.

Sep 20 11 - 1:10pm

Next list: Five Male Comics who deserve shows more than...wait a minute, that doesn't quite do what Nerve is trying to do here.

Sep 20 11 - 3:18pm
Hu Jintao.

Look, the problem is this:

Everyone thinks women aren't funny. Fox is really promoting this comedy show that centers on Zooey Deschanel, a person who is good at many things but being funny in a direct way is not fun at them (I mean, she's good at making characters which might make you laugh because of how weird and interesting they are (and she knows this and actively cultivates certain public images and personas), but rarely because of how cutting and witty they are)

Okay, so what, comparing comedians and actresses? How dare the author? Deschanel is an actress.

The point is, she's been miscast. She's been so terribly miscast that these five people who have no acting experience and might even be terrible at acting and are no-names with no name-appeal would still be better than her for the role. And for proof, here they are and you will probably enjoy watching them outside of the context of a show for five minutes more than you would laugh at an entire episode of painfully contrived Zooey Hijinks.

See, you can stick your head in the sand and accuse the nerve editor of imposing gender balkanization on a situation where there was none ("why are we comparing zooey to other females? Are you implying women belong in some lower 'women's league' of comedy?"), but that's a great way of ignoring the reality that in practice, these things _are_ gendered in the way the public perceives them. If there are only a couple women comics, people will look at those women comics growing up and learn what they'll believe for the rest of their life about women in comedy. If those women are a poor casting decision, it's going to screw women over. Now, you can ignore that in favor of your "oh I'm colorblind to gender" holier-than-thou attitude, but don't demand the rest of us do it.

Ideally, women who can play characters who have a sense of humor would get screentime in _addition_ to Deschanel. It's frustrating that fifty years after I love lucy, there are still so few slots for funny female protagonists on TV that, as a result, the 2 or 3 who make it (such as Tiny Fey, Amy Poehler) basically become the-face-of-female-comedy. And it doesn't help expand those slots to a larger number of women when a woman who makes it (like Deschanel) isn't the kind who will have people falling out of their seat. This article is more, I think, a criticism of FOX for miscasting for a female comedy show in such a way (when there are such better candidates readily available in their own industry), than a catty attack on Deschanel for daring to accept a well paid TV show of her own.

Sep 20 11 - 3:40pm
Hu Jintao.

and again, I'll agree that the solution to the whole "gender inequality in the comedy industry" is not "hate on this show" but is instead "get more women into comedy by promoting up-and-coming female comics without having to hate on someone else" but like, I think it's okay to criticize a casting decision, and to not ignore gender when doing that. I don't think that's evil. You know?

Like, I wouldn't say this article is going to bring us further to gender equality (I don't think it was written with the intent to do so), but I also wouldn't say that there's something seriously wrong about it in regard to its existence as one of thousands of op-eds about pop culture. It's an okay article with a relatable (but maybe not productive) frustration.

Sep 20 11 - 1:28pm

This "Whitney" person who has a new show sort of fits into the category of the women profiled here. Let's see how she does.

Sep 20 11 - 2:54pm

and look at those beady fucking eyes!

Sep 20 11 - 3:02pm

Speaking of female comedy writers, what about Mindy Kaling? Or is this supposed to be a list made up of unknown talent?

Sep 20 11 - 6:12pm

I personally cannot stand ZD. She's so self-consciously cutesy-quirky it's nauseating. And in interviews she comes across as pathetically pretentious. She seems like Gwyneth Paltrow's annoying little sister in terms of level of pretension and smugness. Yuck.

Sep 20 11 - 10:45pm

Yes! Well said.

Sep 20 11 - 7:41pm

Women are funny. Just not these five. Come on, Nerve, you couldn't find any comediennes that are funny?

Sep 20 11 - 8:23pm
Vinegar Bend

Yeah, I have never doubted that women are funny or should have their own shows. These are just not the greatest examples. I mean, even you, Maura, would find Morgan Murphy tiresome after about three weeks. Jenna Friedman isn't funny at all. Jen Kirkman's amusing but not hilarious. Chelsea Peretti I would watch but I don't think I'd consider it comedy.

Sep 20 11 - 9:07pm
Vinegar Bend

Okay, as a service to you folks, I actually just watched the first 5 minutes of Zooey's show, and let's just say it doesn't look promising. At all.

Sep 26 11 - 2:24am

I got to about 20 minutes and bailed. Must be a masochist or to lazy even to hit buttons on the remote.

Sep 20 11 - 10:54pm

Ugh, those gigantic muppet eyes….

Sep 20 11 - 10:54pm
Jen Kirkman

I'm honored to be thought of - however that clip is more than 7 years old and I feel that my stand-up, if you guys are such fans, could be better represented by showing my latest appearance on Conan from May of 2011 or a set I did on the "Comedians of Chelsea Lately" in 2008 - both readily available on the internet.
Also - people don't get TV shows due to "deserving" it - we don't sit around waiting to be handed sitcoms. And not everyone's goal is to star in a sitcom. Also many of us are toiling behind the scenes as writers/producers of our own work be it books-in-production or shows we've written and are shopping around. Etc.
I wish ALL women luck and don't try to categorize people as more deserving than others. Zooey is a great actress and her show is not the brainchild of a stand-up comic, so for me personally, I feel I'm not more deserving than she.

Sep 21 11 - 12:52am

Well said. You make me happy.

Sep 20 11 - 11:40pm

saw zooeys new show. maybe YOU should watch it too. it seems like you havent and your so quick to judge. so can you guess? it was actually good...sorry if there are a few people that dont find whiny female comedians funny or find alot sitcoms out there boring and too predictable. i admit not a huge zooey fan but after seeing the pilot im starting to like her more.

Sep 21 11 - 1:51am

Ugh, so much Zooey hating! Yes, she can be a little twee, but just on the basis of the new show, I think she did well - she does a lot more physical comedy than this group with her random dances and I thought she came off as pretty charming, odd and awkward but sweet. "Whitney" just looks godawful, she seems like the most irritatingly shrill, grating person.

Sep 21 11 - 9:15am

the show was awful! She kept making this stupid faces trying to be funny...or singing these stupid ditties...cringe worthy.

Sep 21 11 - 1:30pm

I love how the preview was the WHOLE episode. I used to be a huge fan of Zooey, and then I read her blog and realized her mind is ridiculously crazy.

Sep 21 11 - 11:11pm

Two words.
Maria Bamford.
Two more words.
The Bammer.

Sep 22 11 - 12:57am

The first person profiled had adequate small town club standup. Or, David Letterman level comedy post 1999.

Sep 22 11 - 10:21am

I haven't heard of any of these people and none of them are funny or attractive

Sep 22 11 - 11:32am

There should really be no argument here. Women are never funny on purpose.

Sep 22 11 - 1:01pm

Can I be the voice of reality here? I'm not a huge ZD fan, but she has this show because
shes LIKABLE.Bitter/catty/mean/sexually dysfunctional/sarcastic/acerbic women are not really that saleable. The sarah silverman program was grating and off putting by episode two. (And for the record I'll say the same about Larry David) I don't think Zooeys show will last a season, but she got it because she's just light and cute and friendly. The same reason Joyce de witt got a show, the same reason alicia fucking silverstone once got a show, because network comedy prefers the cute and pleasant, and while most o these wome are saleably cute, and undeniably funny...they are all remarkable freaking unpleasant. You wouldn't want one of them as a friend.

Sep 22 11 - 1:27pm

I didn't realize the fact that Zooey (an actress) being a lead in a sitcom, prevented female comedians from getting their own show. If it did, than let's blame TV not the comedian.

The pretzel logic of this article truly baffles me. Are sticoms only allowed to have standup comics as leads? For every Seinfeld and Everybody loves Raymond, there are tenfold Paul Reiser Show... btw, where is Zooey's name in the title of the show? It's not, so stop hating Apples because Oranges are so delicious..

Sep 22 11 - 3:12pm
Brigadier General Fo

MARIA BAMFORD should have her own damn show!

Sep 22 11 - 4:30pm

does Natascha remind ayone else of Elvira? lol it's not a bad thing .. Ithink it was partly the way she used her voices

Sep 22 11 - 4:32pm

You misspelled Zooey Deschanel. It's W-H-I-T-N-E-Y C-U-M-M-I-N-G-S

Sep 22 11 - 4:57pm

I'm getting so tired of seeing the repetition of the women-aren't-funny line when there are clearly numerous examples of hilarious talented women.

Sep 22 11 - 7:26pm

Set up the pilot, run all of the girls in the lead role and put them to air.

We get to choose.

Sep 22 11 - 8:35pm

It's all kind of stupid, isn't it? What exactly was the point of this little article?
That you don't think ZD is funny? Is that it?
That's pathetic. Why not just write about who you'd like to see on TV, with their own sitcom?
You can do that without trying to tear somebody down, can't you?
Or does it make you feel better about yourself to rip somebody behind the safety of computer?

Sep 22 11 - 10:00pm

two words - kathleen madigan

Sep 22 11 - 11:17pm

What about Tig Notaro? Yeah, I saw New Girl and couldn't make it all the way through the show. I think the casting is horrible (the male roommates suck) and the writing just isn't there. The characters are all cardboard and stereotypical.. she cries, the dude hang out at bars, make fun of the dude who got dump... snore fest! Someone needs to have had done stand up on that show, someone.

Sep 22 11 - 11:27pm

See, I don't want to blame Zooey, when it is the writing. Zooey is just an attractive actress that happens to have a show now. If the writing doesn't improve the show will have a mid season replacement. Remember the show Happy Hour? Not many people do because Fox killed it and they also killed Brad Garret show because they realize, he really isn't that funny.
But I do think that successful comedic shows need a comedian who has his or her own take and style. Check out Felicia Michaels, she is like part Tim Allen and part Brett Butler.

Sep 23 11 - 9:51am

How about Sarah Hyland?! LaSarah drop it!

Sep 24 11 - 5:03am
Nik can't have a list of deserving comediennes and not include Deven Green. Check out her "Betty Bowers" vids on YouTube or try to track down her banned "Welcome to My Home" VO parodies....Love her!
And WAY too unknown......

Sep 24 11 - 9:40am

I think she was just trying to say Zooey is a crappy, boring actress. She is right, and all of these women are more talented imo.

Sep 26 11 - 10:50am

Zooey is really cute and the others are not. Sadly, that's the bottom line

Sep 26 11 - 1:14pm

The omission of Maria Bamford is insane. She's the funniest comedian around, male or female. Only Patton Oswalt and Louis CK are in her class.

Sep 28 11 - 6:16pm
Jen Kirkman

I wish they didn't put a 7 year old clip of my stand-up online when current things are available like my May 2011 Conan appearance or June 2009 from "Comedians of Chelsea Lately" on E! Or my Drunk History.

Sep 28 11 - 6:47pm

Regardless of your stance on the article, the comments and twitter exchange are proof that nobody can say the writer is wrong about jen kirkman's complaining

Dec 05 11 - 4:52pm

Women don't need shows because women aren't funny. The only funny woman I can think of is Lisa Lampanelli.

Dec 05 11 - 4:55pm

The last thing america needs are more stupid sitcoms with their fake recorded applause. After Seinfeld all sitcoms should have been destroyed.