In the first season of 30 Rock, Liz Lemon looks on as her best friend/employee/all-around nuisance Jenna Maroney prepares for a photo shoot. The shoot is for Maxim’s hottest women in comedy issue — of which Jenna came in fourth — so naturally, Jenna is decked out in red lingerie and lace, patiently pausing to allow an assistant to rub oil on her legs. Or, rather, salad dressing. “It gets a better sheen,” Jenna says, excitedly.
“Jenna, this is ridiculous,” Liz counters. “What does any of this have to do with comedy?”
Good question. And it’s too bad the current women of SNL didn’t take note from their former colleague, Tina Fey.
Cosmopolitan recently took a break from its run of “here’s 784 new sex positions you HAVE to try” coverage to publish “Hot and Hilarious: It’s An SNL Sleepover!” a bouncy-sounding title for a photo shoot that depicts all the female cast members in negligees, pastel colors and lace. Oh, and the wind blowing through their hair. Cuz we all know that’s what happens at a normal sleepover.
Cosmo’s intentions here are good; I think it’s great that the ladies of SNL are getting press, especially after the hard-won hire of Sasheer Zamata to add some much-needed diversity to the cast. Not to mention that they’re all truly funny people who deserve coverage and attention.
But…did it have to happen in negligees that make them all look like members of a sorority from an ’80s-era comedy? (I’m just waiting for Bluto to peep in on them through the ladder outside.) Instead of highlighting these women as comediennes, it casts aside the trait that makes them so special in favor of the underlying message such magazines promote: appearances matter. Especially if you’re a woman. Fitting the mold, the ideal, is key — as are negligees and camisoles that cost more than my monthly student loan and car payments combined. (And to prove the point, Aidy Bryant, who is plus-size, is either lying down on a bed or blocking her body with a giant rabbit mask.)
Sure, these photos are “goofy” in only the ways a high-fashion magazine will allow. Noël Wells is caught moments before sneaking a spray of canned whipped cream! (Or maybe she’s about to do whip-its. Who knows.) Kate McKinnon is going to eat pizza in a funny pose! Nasim Pedrad looks cute with mini donuts!
You get the point.
It really didn’t have to be like this. So how could it have been? Let me put on my imaginary art director hat and share a couple different ideas.
A sleepover party. A REAL one.
Flannel pajamas. Braces. A living room setting. With a CD player nearby. A few women clustered around a “Mystery Date” game (or “Dream Phone,” for us ’90s kids) while others make prank calls on one of those see-through phones that I wanted so badly when I was a kid. Make it look purposefully ridiculous like an SNL sketch itself.
Going with an exaggeration places the focus squarely on the cast’s comedic talents while tapping into nostalgia. Because while I’ve never experienced a sleepover with as much silk as this photo shoot portrays, I sure as hell have experienced the Dorito-filled, Double-Stuff’d, “lets sing Backstreet Boys songs as loudly as possible and then talk about boys” kind of sleepover.
Flip the script.
Sure, the whole “sleepover” idea is a classic cliché of girldom. It’s in the same category as “daydrinking at brunch” or “if one goes to the restroom, they ALL go.”
Given that comediennes still face the sexist argument that they’re not as funny as men, what could be better than a photo shoot that places them in a classically (but not exclusively) male environment?
Put them in flannel and sit them on a lakeside dock, kicking back with a 6-pack, lures in the water. Put them in sports jerseys and have them sit on a couch, transfixed by the game, at least one of them with wing sauce slathered all over her face. Make the shoot a commentary on how they’re women in a male-dominated field ⎯ something especially poignant since many of them were asked for their feelings about their place in comedy.
Women in comedy (and in Hollywood in general, and in life overall) are stronger than ever. It’s just a shame that instead of being honored for their legitimacy, these women are being treated like a punchline.