And now we must praise Tracey Ullman

Because for too long, women haven't participated in the world of ugly comedy.

By Eleanor Johnson
Published March 31, 2008 3:50PM (EDT) finds it newsworthy that Tracey Ullman, whose "State of the Union" show premiered Sunday night, would want to "dress up and look terrible on TV." Indeed, the headline of a recent article reads, "Tracey Ullman: I Don't Want to Be the Pretty Girl."

Dumbfounding. Impossible. Who is this woman who would rather be funny than sexy? That can't be!

Setting aside the embarrassingly retrograde tone of for a moment, I'd like to applaud Ullman, not for her "bravery" in saying no to foxiness -- an issue we've discussed on this site before in regard to female comedians -- but for her embrace of what is, I think, an obvious truth: Ugly is funny. (Pretty can be funny too, but usually only if it's also bitchy, stupid or clumsy.) For too long women have been barred -- largely through self-censorship -- from participating in the wild and wonderful world of ugly humor.

Back in the Cro-Magnon days, Cro-men were making wild boar faces around the fire at night, while Cro-women hoped for cultural acknowledgment for their wall paintings. In the Renaissance, men could be face-contorting jesters, while women tittered demurely under centimeters of makeup. But how boring, how mind-numbing and dehumanizing to be so in denial of ugliness? So unwilling to and incapable of making an ugly face in public?

I'd like to nominate this Friday as National Ugly Face Day. No makeup. No smiles, except for garish ones. Gargoyle faces only. Let’s just see if that doesn't cheer up a lot of people. Especially women.

Eleanor Johnson

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