Mormon Media Symposium: Comedy and Mormon women

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By: Rebekah Harris

Jeff Parkin, BYU Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts, and Jared Cardon, BYU alumnus and adjunct professor, mediated a panel with Whitney Call from BYU’s Divine Comedy and Lisa Clark Valentine, a BYU alumna and actress on the the web show “Pretty Darn Funny,” during the Mormon Media Symposium.

The panel focused on how the role of religion and gender has affected these two women’s comedic careers. The topics discussed included comedy as a form of nurture, the role of the audience, how physical appearance has affected roles played and creating comedy for an LDS audience.

Being at different stages of their lives, and having grown up in different atmospheres, Call and Clark gave comments that varied in content. Call spent most of her time talking about the social aspects of comedy.

“It seems that people use comedy as a rite of passage or an alpha male badge,” Call said. “I’ve been excluded from groups of people before because they already have ‘a funny friend,’ and that person is usually a guy.”

Clark also spoke about her experiences as a woman in comedy. Some groups Clark joined were male dominated. However, this was not an atmosphere she felt comfortable in. For this reason, Clark started her own team called the Thrillionaires, an improv group where men and women had equal roles.

Aside from gender, religion has played a significant role in both women’s careers. Clark believes that seriousness can be a form of pride. Being a member of the Church has led to experiences that have inspired some of her greatest comedy.

“As a Mormon there are things I would never joke about or laugh at. Some things are off limits,” Clark said. “I will never take Church doctrine lightly; but when it comes to culture, I definitely will.”

Socially, Call feels that her religion and her career in humor share similar characteristics.

“I think that comedy and the gospel share a feeling of celebration,” Call said. “That’s what I love about them so much.”

Clark and Call suggested a few comedy groups and shows that they have enjoyed over the years. These include “The Carol Burnett Show,” the old “Muppet Show” and “The Harvard Sailing Team.”

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