Teen girl stereotypes that need to go away

We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the bored teenager. It’s everywhere we look, from magazines to movies to TV. You know the type: Obsessed with selfies, never holds a conversation without using abbreviations, and rolls their eyes at everything their parents say (“OMG, Mom, WTF?!”). Overwhelmingly, and unfortunately, these stereotypes we see are of teen girls. No group is more misunderstood, and no group hates being categorized as “misunderstood” more.

I say this with authority, because I am a teen girl.

Nothing makes me dislike a movie more than watching over-dramatized teen angst develop into its own character on screen. Painting any generation with broad brush is problematic, but the way teen girls are dismissed as Lip-Smacker-scented dingbats is particularly loathsome to me. Not only are these stereotypes untrue, I believe they’re going to be (if they aren’t already) downright dangerous.

Back off, grownups
First of all, most screenwriters and media executives are adult men. And while adults are capable of producing nuanced, realistic portrayals of high-school and middle-school aged students, more often than not, school (and teens) have changed a lot since they were that age, and it’s this knowledge gap that makes teen characters so obnoxious and unrelatable. And it’s not just the writers. Often, actors playing teens are much older, leading to the same lack of understanding. I don’t believe it to be intentional, but there is a desperate need for more communication between teens and adults, especially if you’re attempting to portray one.

Tiny details, huge disconnects
As a frequent observer of media centered around young adults, even little things stand out to me. For example, I adored the movie Love, Simon, and I do feel as though, overall, it did an excellent job of illustrating modern adolescence. But in one scene, the main characters all go to get iced coffee. Black iced coffee. OMG, WTF? All my schoolmates drink iced coffee only if it’s more than 3/4 milk or cream (and with like 11 sugars). It made it all the more clear that the adults writing, directing, even acting in the film were just that: Adults. It’s little things like that which remind me of the profound disconnect between adolescents and adults in the media.

She doesn’t even go here

But it’s also the bigger things. Teen girls are usually portrayed as vapid, ignorant things, obsessed with social media and clothes. Examples abound, but take Xanthippe from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a show I otherwise adore. While Xan does show some degree of three-dimensionality, like her good grades and her aversion to her pill-popping friends, most of her characterization centers around her reactions to Kimmy: instead of being excited to have an adult to confide in and trust, she lashes out, with “typical” teen you’re-not-my-mom attitude. She is constantly attached to her phone, throwing tantrums, and trying to avoid any degree of connection with another person. Now,  while I am sure there is a stray teen that sees herself in Xan, I have never met, nor heard of, her.

The teens I know

The teens I know are kind, thoughtful, concerned, both self-conscious and conscientious. (Also, to be clear, we are FUN.) We are, after all, people, and should be displayed with the same care and levity that adult (and even child) characters are in most media. Look at the children of Parkland. Look at Lindsay Weir from Freaks and Geeks. Look at the teens in your own life. I take lots of pride in my generation. I find we are accepting and aware in ways that are as unexpected as they are refreshing. We’re not eye-rolling, text-obsessed, careless zombies, and portraying us as such isn’t only offensive, it’s harmful.

It’s no secret that what we see in the media directly affects how we act, and, more importantly, what standards we hold ourselves to. The body positivity and diversity movements have done a lot to expose how deeply young girls can be affected by what they see. So when they’re seeing teens yell, and scream, and act in the vapid, aloof, and angry way that we see everywhere we look, we’re sending a message that not only this is how true teens act, but it’s how they’re expected to act. By putting angsty Barbie dolls on the pedestal that is entertainment, we can create, in real life, the very creatures we love to hate on TV.  If we don’t begin to create dynamic, sympathetic, and realistic teen girl characters on our screens, we may cease to see them in our lives.


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut. She is currently a student of Competitive Swordplay (member of Fairfield High School Fencing Team.) She is also an alumna of GOLD Comedy’s pilot workshop series!


How to collaborate in comedy with literally anyone ever

Sure, I do solo comedy. But I’ve been collaborating in one form or another for the majority of my life: sketch, improv, choreography, directing, producing, and working in writers’ rooms. I like both ways of working, and I think the best thing you can do for yourself is know how to do either one.

 

Finding a great writing partner, producing partner, or any other sort of comedy collaborator is a worthy goal. Working with someone else can make your creative life so much richer.

 

It can also make it a lot more complicated because now, instead of only navigating your own hang-ups, craziness, bad moods and assorted mishegas, you’ve also got someone else’s to contend with.

 

Add to that, there’s no playbook for a working relationship with your funny friends.

 

So I’ve written a little primer for you, replete with tips and tricks to remember as you bring collaborators into your (previously solo) process—and alphabetized for maximum adorableness.

Always encourage your collaborators and let them know when they’re doing a good job.

Between you and me” — Or maybe not. Gossip is toxic and will always come back to haunt you.

Constantly check in on deadlines to make sure that your partner knows what is due, when.

Deadlines are the only way. Create them for yourself. Little ones and big ones all along your path.

Everyone you meet is a potential collaborator. Treat people with respect (until they really blow it and then GTFO).

Forgive small mistakes. We are all learning. Learn and move forward and help your collaborators to do the same.

Give all of yourself to your projects or don’t bother doing them. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Have fun working together with your friends. When it stops being fun, notice — and make changes.

It’s okay to put yourself first. Make sure that you are not giving too much and getting nothing back. This should be an equal exchange.

Just say no to people who make you feel like garbage. You don’t need a collaborator who belittles you. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Kick butt. Celebrate. Relax. Repeat.

Lone writing is not a bad thing. It’s great to take a break from collaborators sometimes and do it all on your own. You’ll learn a lot. See which way you prefer.

Make friends with people whose energy and work ethic you admire. Talent is nice, but over time, work ethic and positive energy will take you further. Seek out people who are talented and have an indefatigable spirit.

Nobody knows you better than yourself. Speak up about your needs creatively, financially, and in terms of time management. Don’t let alpha personalities silence you, and don’t step on the voices of others either.

Open yourself up to your writing partner’s ideas. Accept notes. They will make your work better.

Put yourself in the shoes of your collaborator. How is s/he seeing this situation?

Quality over quantity when it comes to rehearsal and writing time. You can get a lot done in a short, focused period of time and surprisingly little done when you’re unfocused or your team is too chatty to do any writing.

Read. It makes you a better writer.

Stop comparing yourself to your collaborators. Their strengths complete your weaknesses and vice versa. You had the good sense to work with them, and that’s a skill unto itself.

Take care of your body. Don’t rehearse and write till all hours of the night. Sleep makes you more awake and therefore more talented and more FANCY.

Untangle complicated social problems as soon as you can. Don’t let bad energy fester in your group. Talk it out and get rid of it. Put the work first.

Vent your grievances to your journal or practice role-playing with another trusted friend before having a difficult conversation to your collaborator. Words matter.

Wait until the show is over to celebrate. It’s not over till it’s over. Stay focused. Eyes on the prize.

Xerox your scripts well before your rehearsal so that everyone has copies and you’re not scrambling for a Staples. By Xerox, I mean print. (Work with me here, people. X is a tough one.)

You are always learning, even though you’re already a superstar. Stay humble.

Zip Zap Zop is still a fantastic warm up for your sketch or improv group. Don’t knock it. You’ll never outgrow a game that’s all about focus.

And those are the ABC’s of Collaboration!

Tell us: Do any of these tips remind you of a good story? Let us know (keeping people anonymous, though. See the Gossip note above….) Failure and success stories welcomed!


Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and actor who frequently hosts HQ Trivia live in front of a million players internationally. She was named a 2016 Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and a finalist in the truTV “Comedy Breakout” competition at the 2017 New York Television Festival. Emma was a staff writer on Almost Genius at truTV, and as an actor has collaborated with Al Sharpton, Reggie Watts, Aparna Nancherla, and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party”: writing for and then appearing in absurd sketches with them. Emma is a founding member of sketch group Political Subversities and the writing duo Ari and Emma. www.emmatattenbaumfine.com

@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter

@emmatbomb on Instagram


Mini Q+A with…Ashley Hamilton

Ashley Hamilton is a stand up comedian and writer from Chicago, IL who started performing in sunny Los Angeles. In LA, she ran a monthly show at UCB Franklin, hosted regularly at the Chatterbox in Covina, CA, and performed at the Hollywood Improv. Recently, she relocated to New York City and can be seen performing 7 nights a week all around New York. She contributes writing and videos to ManRepeller.com and hosts a podcast called Hold on One Second We’re Talking About Britney Spears, the world’s only oral history of Britney Spears in podcast form. She has performed all around the country and recently appeared at the Broke LA festival in Los Angeles and The Big Sky Comedy festival in Billings, MT. Follow her!


What’s the best way for standups to level up from open mics + “bringer” shows to “real” shows?

Support rooms, be funny, don’t try to tailor a good “show set.” Just work on getting funnier in general and it’ll happen.

 

Describe your worst gig.

I would say surviving any gig where people very specifically want to be doing anything other than watching standup is a victory. Its not that fun to feel like you’re holding people hostage.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Just keep doing it.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

Just wait until one takes pity and finally talks to you.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it? 

This probably sounds dumb but I just like doing it so much. Writing a joke and then having that joke work in front of strangers is great.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Be funny.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Be something else (any advice about trying to fit into the mold of a female comedian who is already successful is bad advice).

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

I was extremely shy growing up but making my friends laugh was always a huge confidence booster.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

I don’t think any one person inspired me to be a comedian. It was a pretty windy path before I decided I even wanted to try it. My dad introduced me to all of the comedy that wound up inspiring me.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Too many letters.

How to Produce a Comedy Variety Show at Your School

 Most of the comedians I know happen to also be excellent producers. They weren’t born that way — babies are notoriously terrible producers (of everything but poop and drool). Comedians learn to get good at producing by necessity. They want stage time — a lot of stage time — and the best way to get it is to make it.

But though most comics are producers, not all comedy producers are comics. Some are comedy lovers who want to get comedians onstage so they can sit back and laugh at them and think, “I made this!” And maybe wear a top hat and have a cane like an old-timey producer. Because why be a modern producer when you can be an old-timey one?

Whichever type of producer you aspire to be, you might get a little overwhelmed at the idea of creating your first live event. Let’s start with some terms that sound fancy, but are actually just … English words.

 

Producer

Yeah. Like what even is a producer? Producer is just a catch-all term for a person who makes something happen. Have you ever planned a surprise party? You “produced” that party. Have you ever been the most hard-working person on a social studies project where you were teamed up with two other students? You were the “producer” on that social studies project. You already produce. You just weren’t using the name yet.

 

Venue

The place where a show or event happens. You will need to pick an appropriate venue in which to do your show or event. The auditorium or your school’s black-box theatre, if it has one, come to mind. The cafeteria is another option, or maybe there’s a local coffee shop in your neighborhood that would welcome performers from your school. Once you choose the physical location, you will need to find …

 

Your Point Person

Also known as the “contact”, this is the person to whom you are going to send a million polite emails asking questions about the space and sorting out details. Your point person for the venue should be someone who is professional and timely in their correspondence and who is in a position of power at the venue such that they know what they’re talking about. In other words, your point person should not be the part-time employee who started working there yesterday and will be quitting in a week. An owner or manager is ideal. Which brings us to …

 

Communication

Producers send more text messages and emails than anyone else living (or dead, certainly). I hate phone calls. I find them stressful. But sometimes a producer has got to put on the headphones for a good, old-fashioned telephone talk. Or she has to physically go to a venue to speak in real life to a human being in person. This is to avoid the miscommunications that can spin out of control with endless texting and emailing. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. And by “don’t be afraid,” I mean “be afraid and do it anyway.”

 

Acts

Once you’ve got your venue squared away, you will need to book the acts, otherwise known as the people who will be performing. The process gets more creative here, because you are now asking yourself, “What do I love about the best shows I’ve seen?” You can curate to your tastes.

 

Do you have a super-talented storyteller friend who must be seen? Ask her to perform! Do you know a weird, but friendly, ventriloquist you saw one time at your friend’s little brother’s birthday party? Ask her! Do you have a songwriter friend who can accompany herself on guitar? Ask her to join. Ten to twelve acts at 5 minutes apiece is a rough guide, and no one is ever mad about a quick intermission where they can eat some (free) snacks. Much less after seeing a ventriloquist.

 

Wait. I wanna see this “snacks and a ventriloquist” show I just made up. Please produce it and invite me?

 

Sound and lighting

Comedians must be lit. Not lit as in enlightened and turnt and fun and in touch with current trends (though that is ideal), but specifically with light on them. So that you can see them. When you speak to the venue’s point person, whether that’s the theatre teacher at your school or the owner of the local coffee shop, make sure that if lights go down on the audience, they can be up on the performers.

 

When it comes to sound, make sure that the space is intimate enough that your performers can be heard without mics or, preferably, you will have a standing mic for your performers to use.

 

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

Sound issues are the most likely ones to tank your show. If you do opt to use a mic, arrive at the venue a full hour ahead of curtain time to make sure the mic has been tested. Ask your point person multiple times to confirm that someone will be present the night of the event who can help you with the mic.

 

When you are an older and more seasoned producer, you will remember the above paragraph and chuckle and think, “Whoa. Was Emma giving good advice or what in that one paragraph about sound!” Future-me thanks future-you for taking this to heart.

 

Red Flags

If you start to feel uncomfortable with people involved in the show — either acts you’re booking or the folks you meet in arranging a venue — involve a trusted adult right away and know that it’s okay to back out of a venue or a commitment. Follow your gut, and if something feels wrong, it is! Producing comes with huge responsibilities and you meet a lot of people. Some are the best and some are the worst. Keep an eye out and ask for help if you’re not sure.

 

Reasons to Produce Things

I know. I made it all sound kind of hard. But the rewards are tremendous. Here’s a short list of reasons why I think you should try at least once to produce comedy:

  • You will meet people who share your interests. These could become lifelong collaborators!
  • You will put yourself in a leadership position that will teach you more in one month than you’d learn doing some other thing for years.
  • You will have something really impressive on your résumé that you can talk up in admission and job interviews.
  • You will have FUN. (I always forget to mention this ‘cause I’m such a type A curmudgeon, but really, FUN should have been the first thing I said.)
  • You will find out what really makes you laugh and sharpen your skills and your voice in choosing the acts.
  • You will perhaps get yourself on stage, and that’s awesome!
  • Your friends will remember that you booked them and will book you when they produce. Producing, like the flu, is wildly contagious and takes all your energy! FUN!

Please reach out to me on Twitter @emmatattenbaum if you have specific producing questions. The future of comedy has a lot to do with who produces it, and I really want it to be you!


 

Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and actor who frequently hosts HQ Trivia live in front of a million players internationally. She was named a 2016 Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and a finalist in the truTV “Comedy Breakout” competition at the 2017 New York Television Festival. Emma was a staff writer on Almost Genius at truTV, and as an actor has collaborated with Al Sharpton, Reggie Watts, Aparna Nancherla, and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party”: writing for and then appearing in absurd sketches with them. Emma is a founding member of sketch group Political Subversities and the writing duo Ari and Emma. www.emmatattenbaumfine.com

@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter

@emmatbomb on Instagram

Mini Q+A with…Hanna Dickinson

Hanna Dickinson graduated from USC as a film studies major in 2014. During her senior year, Hanna started standup and, at six months in, made the top four in two college standup competitions. Upon graduation, Hanna hosted for Pauly Shore on his tour in various cities across the U.S. She continues to showcase at festivals and competitions across the country, including Comedy Central’s 2016 and 2017 Comics to Watch L.A. Showcase, and the San Diego Comedy Festival, where she won first place. Currently, Hanna lives in New York City and just wrapped writing on season 3 of Comedy Knockout on truTV. You can hear her album “Lactose Intolerant” on Sirius XM Rawdog Comedy. Follow her!


 

Describe your worst gig.

I drove twelve hours roundtrip to open for a guy in the back of a Hookah lounge. There were maybe 12 people there. I bombed.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Be funny.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

If someone has the balls to say it around me, I laugh. It’s such an ignorant statement that I don’t feel the need to get defensive. The male comics who have said that are the least funny people I know. (I realize that sounds defensive.)

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

I love it. I’m still coming up (hopefully) and there are so many nights I want to quit, but I can’t. There’s nothing else I could think of doing with my life. I’ve never even had a wedding Pinterest.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Don’t focus on other people’s success. In standup, you should be so unique that you can’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Wear overalls.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

I’ve always been extremely anxious and hard on myself. It’s easy to not get worked up about things and see the bigger picture when you’re structuring it as a joke. Especially with dating, the only time I get upset about a guy is when my joke about him doesn’t land.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

Molly Shannon in Superstar. I was obsessed with her physical humor. She was such a weirdo in that movie and I really related.

For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Avoid bringers! You’re wasting your friends’ money and they will never want to see you once you get on good shows. Do as many open mics as possible and comics will ask you to do their show. Also, start a show and book comics you like. If you’re funny and easy to work with, you’ll get booked. Instead of bringers, apply to festivals. A lot of festivals are wack but it’s a fun way to meet other comics even if the shows are sh*t.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I don’t mind it, but it’s harder to spell.


Hanna Dickinson graduated from USC as a film studies major in 2014. During her senior year, Hanna started standup and, at six months in, made the top four in two college standup competitions. Upon graduation, Hanna hosted for Pauly Shore on his tour in various cities across the U.S. She continues to showcase at festivals and competitions across the country, including Comedy Central’s 2016 and 2017 Comics to Watch L.A. Showcase, and the San Diego Comedy Festival, where she won first place. Currently, Hanna lives in New York City and just wrapped writing on season 3 of Comedy Knockout on truTV. You can hear her album “Lactose Intolerant” on Sirius XM Rawdog Comedy. Follow her!