Introducing: Lady Loser Comedy
“I’d like to say goodnight to my two kids, Viv and Georgie,” Melissa McCarthy began her Saturday Night Live monologue on October 1. “Go to sleep, because momma’s about to get pretty inappropriate.”
McCarthy is the comic discovery of 2011. She was a key part of Bridesmaids, one of the summer’s biggest hits. In a stellar ensemble - Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph - it was McCarthy, formerly known as the lead of little-discussed sitcom Mike and Molly, who stood out. Her role was blunt, sexual and aggressive, with monologues that piled absurdity on top of deadpan absurdity. When the titular bridesmaids were discussing wedding shower themes, McCarthy’s character suggested “Fight Club.” When the protagonist, played by Wiig, was at her low point, McCarthy delivered an inspirational monologue that began with a story about high school, progressed to nuclear weapons and culminated with McCarthy sitting on Wiig while repeatedly slapping her in the face. She won an Emmy for Mike and Molly, probably because of her Bridesmaids role; there is now speculation that she will win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, or at least a nomination, and that Wiig might earn another nomination.
In fact, Bridesmaids was a triumph for a new, and startlingly feminist, genre: Lady Loser Comedy. And McCarthy’s character was the boldest example of its aesthetic. You can find the roots of the genre in Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, wherein Fey plays Liz Lemon, a sexless, awkward, thanklessly employed woman in her late 30s who dislikes intimacy and loves off-brand cheese puffs, or in Gregg Araki’s Smiley Face, in which Anna Faris plays an unemployed stoner with a weakness for lasagna, soft mattresses and Marxism. You can find an offshoot in What’s Your Number, which opened in September, wherein Faris plays a woman who gets disastrously drunk at her sister’s engagement party, lights her own hair on fire, sleeps with her jerk boss after he’s fired her and concludes her own inspirational monologue with “I’m a jobless whore who’s slept with twenty guys; I want someone who appreciates that about me.” But you can find the best - and, yes, most liberating - examples in Bridesmaids. Which is where we have to start discussing how simultaneously shocking and appropriate it is for that movie to have been produced by Judd Apatow.