Truth hurts does it?

The former CEO of Disney has sparked a ferocious Twitter backlash after he told a festival in Aspen that funny, beautiful women were impossible to find in Hollywood.
In a discussion with actress Goldie Hawn about why she had been so successful, Michael Eisner said: “From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman. By far. They usually — boy am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online — but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny.”
Mr Eisner, who served as CEO at Disney from 1984 to 2005, was right about getting into trouble. But he went on.
“I know women who have been told they’re beautiful, they win Miss Arkansas, they don’t ever have to get attention other than with their looks,” he said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“So they don’t tell a joke. In the history of the motion-picture business, the number of beautiful, really beautiful women — a Lucille Ball — that are funny, is impossible to find.”
His comments provoked outrage on Twitter.
Actress Mindy Kaling called the comments “pitiful”.

Beauty is rare, that’s why it is valued. Proper comedic timing is rare, that’s why it’s valued.

Possession of either is not correlated. Thus possession of both is extremely rare.

John Belushi (when off the coke) was a great comic. Handsome not so much. Discuss.

48 thoughts on “Truth hurts does it?”

  1. What we’re going to see now is the SWJs waving about examples of women *they* find beautiful and funny (insofar as reading lines from somebody else’s script is funny) and hence Eisner (and everyone else) should find them funny too.

    One thing pretty women might not realise is that men laugh at their remarks because she is pretty, not because the remarks are funny.

  2. Bloke in Germany

    Is an SWJ a Socialist Worker Judge?

    FFS, CEOs, especially of entertainment companies should be a bit better at communicating. Along the lines of “you also don’t get men who are simultaneously funny and handsome.”

    There’s even a reason for this. Beautiful men and women don’t need to be funny to get members of their sex of choice into bed. However, as Marilyn astutely and largely correctly observed, if you can make a girl laugh you can make her do anything. So ugly men have to be comics to get laid. The un-PC corollary is that almost no women have to make any effort at all to get laid. You can take that where you like in terms of general funniness of women (doesn’t work with the beauty thing, though I think that’s more competitive than seductive most of the time).

  3. I don’t think there are many funny women in Hollywood. Or men.

    I don’t find many comediennes all that funny though I must admit we went to the Comedy Store a couple of years back to see among others Jo Caulfield.

    I confidently mansplained to my wife and her friends (who were with us) that Caulfield would be rubbish because she was a leftist harridan and there were no funny female comics.

    She was so funny I nearly pissed myself.

    My wife’s fit and funny, so it does happen.

  4. @BiG I’m reliably informed that there are a lot of good looking male comics. My missus is very taken by the bloke in that show with Sharon Horgan (who’s also quite fit in my opinion).

  5. Bloke in Germany

    @Interested, it’s the “laughing goggles” effect. Being funny makes you look more attractive than you are.

  6. Sandra Bullock. She is gorgeous and she is an accomplished actress, in both comic and dramatic roles.
    True, not all her films are memorable but she always is.

    Jennifer Aniston. If you think she’s just pretty Rachel from ‘Friends’ and some silly rom-coms then you are missing out on the fact she is also an accom plished actress.

  7. It is also somewhat the case that really handsome men are a bit bland, for the same reason many beauties are. However it is not as marked as in the case of women, because women are not as looks-focused as men. Thus even the hot guy needs a joke or two.

    Eisner made his point to Goldie Hawn in the context of a conversation about her career. No need for him to point out how it works with men. I doubt he is worried about the rantings of idiots and munters on twatter…

    Incidentally, I think Jennifer Saunders is both gorgeous and funny.

  8. I wouldn’t class Goldie Hawn as “unbelievably beautiful”. Very pretty, yes, but when we’re talking about actresses she’s not in the top set for beauty.

    Lucille Ball too; striking and attractive, but not 1st class movie star beautiful.

  9. Is an SWJ a Socialist Worker Judge?

    I’m in French mode, and swapping letters around in my abbreviations. Later I’ll talk about that defensive pact called OTAN.

  10. Richard: Have you seen DuBarry Was a Lady or Best Foot Forward? Lucy was young and in Technicolor, and she’s much better looking than she’s given credit for.

    Her voice doesn’t help, to be honest.

  11. Bloke in Germany

    @Tim N,

    Wouldn’t it be a WJS? Warrior de Justice Sociale [Pace the late Miles Kington].

  12. James,

    Yes and yes. Rob Long said a year or so ago that Bullock was the only actual movie star in Hollywood — in the original sense that you can guarantee a film will be a success merely by casting her. She is extremely funny. Have you seen The Heat?

    Aniston is an absolute master of delivery and timing.

    Kristen Wiig is brilliant. Starring in things now, but I loved her small role in Knocked Up.

    Christina Applegate is gorgeous and hilarious.

    Kaley Cuoco is brilliant.

    And the only thing that never worked in 30 Rock was that Tina Fey was supposedly playing an unattractive woman. Aye, right, Tina. Course you are.

    And all of these women rather prove Eisner’s point, in that they have been massively successful, because they’re rare.

    Doesn’t change the fact that Eisner’s an utter arsehole, mind you. I’d say he was the inspiration for Lord Farquhard in Shrek, except that the character wasn’t so much inspired by him as just Xeroxed.

  13. By far the funniest American I’ve seen on the screen is Buster Keaton. No beauty he. But my God he was funny. And not in the sense of reading out someone else’s lines.

  14. I think what this reveals is that the criteria for beauty in women in Hollywood is much narrower than for men.

    otherwise if both beauty and humour are equally distributed we would expect good looking funny male and female actors to be equally common, and really there is a large industry that locate talent and offers it up to Hollywood. But he’s complaining about difficulty of finding funny good looking women not men. (if not equally distributed that is a claim that differs from Tim’s which is merely two rare uncorrelated attributes). My reading of what he said though includes claim of correlation – negative – suggests beautiful women do not need to learn to be funny)

    Take for example Chrs Pratt. Funny man, also classed as good looking enough for leading man role. But whilst handsome enough, he’s not exceptional. Whereas the standards Hollywood sets for females tends to be more demanding – really exceptional lookers (of a very narrow sort – exceptional lookers in many eyes wouldn’t pass muster).

  15. And Lucy Liu. And Elizabeth Banks. And Jennifer Lawrence. And Isla Fisher. And Cameron Diaz. And Rose Byrne.

    Actually, I’m beginning to think it’s not quite so difficult to find them after all. Maybe the real rarities are women who are beautiful and funny and willing to work with Michael Eisner.

  16. Luis Enrique said:
    “he’s complaining about difficulty of finding funny good looking women not men”

    Don’t forget supply & demand. That may mean that there is a good supply of funny good looking men, or it may mean that Hollywood doesn’t have much demand for them (one or the other being sufficient in a man, both wanted for a woman).

    Further research (or at least discussion) seems to be on-going as to which it is.

  17. Eh, I think Eisner was just buttering up Goldie Hawn.

    Who was attractive and funny in her prime, but looked too much like the sexy Gremlin from Gremlins 2 to appeal to me.

    I broadly agree with S2’s argument above, though in general funny women are less funny than funny men. Billy Connolly in his prime was incredibly, virulently funny. As was Robin Williams. Larry David is a genius. I can’t think of many women who come close to that level of comic accomplishment, though Jo Brand deserves a special mention.

    The “furious Twitter backlash” is interesting. If he’d said “there aren’t many handsome and funny men”, people would either say “nah” or provide examples to prove him wrong.

    But he kinda, sorta, not-really but tangentially criticised women, so – MEEE-MAAW! MEE-MAAAAW! the pink flashing lights blaze into action, and an army of white knights assembles on Twitter to defend all the beautiful, funny M’ladies who will never sleep with them.

    Feminism has mutated into a sort of popular narcissism for privileged white women. Like Sandra Bullock – who, at the age of 50 was celebrated as People Magazine’s “most beautiful” woman of 2015 – yet fantasises that the American media is ‘hunting’ and ‘attacking’ women.

    By “attack”, she means “talk about in a sometimes critical way”, which might bruise their tender feelings.

    Is there a terrible misogynistic plot in the media to obsess over the diets, fashion faux pas-ses, cellulite, botox and love lives of female celebrities? Nah. It’s women who demand that stuff. But it would break the feminist narrative to point the finger of blame at women, so the feminists and white knights need white male patriarchs to rail against. Like Michael Eisner.

    What Eisner was supposed to say is that all women are beautiful and funny and clever and better than men in every conceivable way.

    Then he should have constructed a giant floating stone head in the likeness of Hillary Clinton, and set it loose to roam the badlands of Hollywood, its booming – and don’t you dare call it “bossy” – voice proclaiming “The Vagina is Good! The Penis is Evil!”

  18. Steve

    Summed it up brilliantly – as ever. As soon as I read the phrase in the link Tim quoted:

    ‘His comments provoked outrage on Twitter’ one’s eyes tend to start rolling in one’s head. The question: ‘provoked outrage amongst whom?’ is not asked:

    1/ Genuine Trolls whose raison d’etre is to provoke and foment further the outraged reaction
    2/ Feminists and other Female Twitter Users whose IQs are below 30
    3/ Those of indeterminate gender or men who decide to take vicarious offence and for good measure mix up a variety of other left wing cliches into their grievances

    You can add as necessary – why anyone feels obliged to take any notice of such people is quite beyond me…..

  19. On actually reading the piece, for a change, Eisner’s wrong.

    I’m not sure comic timing is massively hard to achieve when you factor in directors, editors and multiple takes. I think it’s just then a question of being an actor. S2 has listed quite a few of them above – they can all raise an eyebrow as directed.

    Not that every attractive woman can do this, obviously, but there’s enough for Disney’s purposes.

    Actual inherent comedy, acting and speaking amusingly and originally, remains something men seem to be better at, on the average.

    Has anyone ever tried listening to Radio Four comedy shows, by the way. My giddy aunt.

  20. The first question that needs to be answered is why Michael Eisner thinks it’s a good idea to be fucking around on Twitter. Because as we all know, only good things can happen when you start using Twitter to offer up unsolicited opinions about anything.

  21. How about Carole Lombard, Teri Garr, Rosalind Russell, Mary Tyler Moore, Doris Day, and Myrna Loy? All were quite handsome women in their day, and all were quite good at comedy.

    You could toss Katherine Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in that list as well, depending on how captivating you find them.

  22. S2 – “However, if I and my colleagues are not the target audience then I am deeply confused as to who you are trying to appeal to – unless of course you all harbour some secret desire to be seduced by Gary Glitter.”

    🙂

    Van_Patten – thank you! Yes, Twitter seems to be an echo chamber of rage.

    From what I can tell, this group:

    Those of indeterminate gender or men who decide to take vicarious offence and for good measure mix up a variety of other left wing cliches into their grievances

    Is probably the loudest. For every spoilt, middle-class university-educated feminist looking for reasons to validate her “oppression”, because fuck you, Daddy!, there are about 20 niceguys with scraggly facial hair, the muscle mass of a toddler, and a face you wouldn’t tire of slapping to do stuff like this.

  23. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Humour’s always been a more masculine thing. Women are good at the observational stuff, which can be very funny in its own right, but the real gut-busting material almost always involves a bit of social one-upmanship and cruelty. That’s a male trait.

  24. “You could toss Katherine Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in that list as well, depending on how captivating you find them.”

    Oh Katherine Hepburn – she was captivating. Truly. Funny, Witty, Beautiful and a true one off….
    Shirley – slightly less so.

  25. So Much for Subtlety

    James Strong – “Sandra Bullock. She is gorgeous and she is an accomplished actress, in both comic and dramatic roles. True, not all her films are memorable but she always is.”

    Yeah but she is not a comic is she? She reads what other people write. And she is pretty so we want to like what she writes. Eisner’s point, such as it is, is not that he can’t find pretty girls who can learn their lines. He means he can’t find pretty girls who are funny.

    What people here are doing are reading off lists of actresses they like. That does not appear to be what he was talking about to me. How many of these people would survive Stand Up? Groucho Marx could ad lib an entire show. I don’t think there are many women listed in this thread that could come close.

    “Jennifer Aniston. If you think she’s just pretty Rachel from ‘Friends’ and some silly rom-coms then you are missing out on the fact she is also an accom plished actress.”

    Well you say to-MAH-to and all that. Again in her real life Aniston gives no impression of being remotely funny – or even interesting.

    There are pretty and funny women. I think Sarah Silverman can be funny despite her politics. But there are not many.

  26. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “Christina Applegate is gorgeous and hilarious.”

    Gorgeous yes. Rumour has it her Improv while standing over a dying River Phoenix was a hoot.

    Luis Enrique – “otherwise if both beauty and humour are equally distributed we would expect good looking funny male and female actors to be equally common”

    If. Such an interesting word. Why would you expect that beauty or humour would be evenly distributed? Men have to work hard to get sex. Women just have to stand around to attract a good one. There is a theory that all art is an effort by men to get noticed and hence get laid. Like an artificial peacock tail. Thus you would expect men who cannot get laid any other way to try humour.

    All a woman has to do is look fertile.

    We have millions of years of evolution behind us. A hundred or so thousand years as this species. It is absurd to think that this has not had an impact.

    Let me suggest that genuinely funny handsome men are also rare. Handsome men don’t need to make women laugh. But there are genuinely funny men. It is a lot rarer to find genuinely funny women – someone like Lucille Ball is rare indeed.

  27. > she is not a comic is she? She reads what other people write.

    This whole conversation was started in regard to Goldie Hawn and her ability to be funny, not to write funny material.

    In other news Paul Eddington didn’t write Yes, Minister, and was funny.

  28. Tony Hancock just read stuff out as well.

    So did Eric Morecombe. But then he was astonishingly good-looking.

  29. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “This whole conversation was started in regard to Goldie Hawn and her ability to be funny, not to write funny material.”

    But what did he mean by being funny? I don’t think he meant that Hawn could read some funny lines written by a man. That would not make sense. Anyone can do that. Goldie Hawn does appear to be funny in her own right – as a person and in real life. She got her start on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. In which her lines clearly were written for her, but on the other hand, it was not that they could go back and do take after take until she got it right. And she was noted for improv as we would call it now.

    “In other news Paul Eddington didn’t write Yes, Minister, and was funny.”

    Never met the man so I could not say. He always seemed a nice person to me, but not funny. But who knows?

    Jack C – “Tony Hancock just read stuff out as well.”

    Hancock spent years at the Windmill Theatre. Treading the boards as a journeyman. Whatever else you can say, he could do comedy on his own. His best work was with other writers, but not his only work.

    “So did Eric Morecombe. But then he was astonishingly good-looking.”

    This is just getting silly. Again Morecombe spent decades doing his own act or with Wise. Without much fame or the ability to hire writers. You have picked two people from the days when comedians were at the bottom of the pecking order and had to struggle to prove they were funny.

  30. > I don’t think he meant that Hawn could read some funny lines written by a man. That would not make sense. Anyone can do that.

    No, they really can’t. It is in the nature of comic delivery that, done well, it looks easy. Doesn’t mean it is easy. Most people fuck it up. Most actors will tell you that comedy is the hardest thing to do. A lot of very good actors never do comedy because they can’t do it justice.

    > Never met the man so I could not say. He always seemed a nice person to me, but not funny. But who knows?

    By British actors, he is generally regarded as one of the all-time masters of timing.

    You’ve clearly got it into your head than anyone could have read those scripts and they would have been funny. Thatcher disproved that for you.

    > You have picked two people from the days when comedians were at the bottom of the pecking order and had to struggle to prove they were funny.

    Actually, he’s picked two people from the days before the arrival of the very recent idea that comedians have to write their own material. There used to be a division of labour between writers and performers, same as there still is in non-comedy. You’re right that comedians starting out didn’t have much money and were struggling. What you appear to be unaware of is that this means they were working backstage with writers who were starting out, didn’t have much money, and were struggling.

    You clearly have, as usual, yet again, no clue what you’re talking about. Presumably you don’t think David Jason’s funny either.

  31. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “No, they really can’t.”

    Hence my point about Goldie Hawn as opposed to Ms Wiig. She couldn’t go back and do it again and again until she got it right. Hawn had to be funny the first time. And she was.

    “By British actors, he is generally regarded as one of the all-time masters of timing.”

    And yet professionally he was undistinguished for so long. He may have been a great master of timing. He certainly took a bit part in The Good Life and, with his on-screen wife, acted rings around the two main characters. He came up trumps with Yes Minister. A perfect role for him. Was a long time coming.

    So all those other British actors had a perfect chance to show what they thought of his timing. He was nominated for a BAFTA four times. Which considering Yes Minister ran for six years and Yes Prime Minister for another three, means that in five years he was not nominated. I wonder who was. Anyway, those four times. He lost every time. To Nigel Hawthorne. Not a lot of shame in that. I would be honoured to lose to him. But it does raise the obvious question – why do you think what you claim?

    “What you appear to be unaware of is that this means they were working backstage with writers who were starting out, didn’t have much money, and were struggling.”

    Who was the writer for Tony Hancock when he was at the Windmill?

    “You clearly have, as usual, yet again, no clue what you’re talking about. Presumably you don’t think David Jason’s funny either.”

    And yet again you let your personal spite get in the way of making a sensible point. You have not shown I am wrong. You simply make some assertions and throw an insult.

    I don’t know what David Jason is like in real life. I expect a lot of comics are decidedly not funny in real life. Hancock is probably a good example. So it is hard to say. Somehow he ended up being in some of the best British comedies in recent times and I expect that is not a co-incidence. He certainly does better comedy than crime dramas. But it is a little unknowable isn’t it?

  32. > But it is a little unknowable isn’t it?

    No, whether someone who has been in comedies on TV for the last forty years is funny is not unknowable.

    > Somehow he ended up being in some of the best British comedies in recent times and I expect that is not a co-incidence.

    Gosh, you think?

  33. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “No, whether someone who has been in comedies on TV for the last forty years is funny is not unknowable.”

    Yes it is. Because of this thing called acting. The role that someone plays on the screen may or may not have any connection with their real personality. Look at the sort of characters that Meg Ryan plays on screen.

    Richard Pryor is seminal figure in American comedy. A genius perhaps. Also a complete c*nt in his private life. Not that funny I am guessing. Closer to home, Bill Oddie did some great work when he was younger. Not in the same league as Pryor but not someone who endears himself to others.

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