Is the Straight role in Comedy essential and why is it usually played by a women in animation?

Kennedy, Sarah Ann orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9770-1799 (2014) Is the Straight role in Comedy essential and why is it usually played by a women in animation? Animation Studies 2.0, 3 .

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The straight ‘man’ in stand up comedy or sitcom gives the eccentric character a presence to play against. It has long been accepted as an essential part of the process. “Well the straight guy is never given enough credit ….(Bud) Abbot gets no credit for framing a gag, for the architecture, for the support, for the drive. He does everything except the punchline; he’s amazing.” Mel Brooks. It is thought that if all or both characters were larger than life, they compete rather than compliment. Would scripted comedy work without this element or is it an essential part of the process?

For many comedy writers, this element is an essential part, and animation is no exception, but a woman usually plays this role particularly in adult animation. Think Marge Simpson in the Simpsons, or Lois in Family Guy, or even Mummy Pig in Peppa Pig. Why do we find it funny to watch a woman being the voice of reason against an illogical and over emotional man? Or is it in fact the opposite? Is it funny because it is a given that men are organized and in control and women are hysterical so to see this reversed is ridiculous and funny. Is this a reflection of society today or is it in fact a reflection of the hierarchical sexist structure of the animation industry today? Why is it that most animation is still scripted and directed by men and how does this cater for the female experience? Women make up half of the population so where is the female voice in relation to the adult animation industry today? Live action TV comedy and stand up seems to have many larger than life funny female characters. Think Rosanne, French and Saunders, or Debra Digiovanni. Where is the equivalent of these female voices in the animation industry today?

This paper looks at the function and importance of the straight character in comedy using examples from a taster for a comedy series staring British Actress Alison Steadman. It analyses why this role is over looked and often unappreciated and then looks at why the straight character in specifically adult animation is predominantly a woman.

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