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Does It Really Exist?

A distinctly female sense of humor, that is. Six comics think it over.


Is there such a thing as women's humor?

Consider the six women who will be performing during "Tickling Adam's Rib," a three-day, four-performance comedy series, starring only women, that starts Saturday at the University of Judaism.

None of them plans to do the typical--and what some of them call distinctly male--stand-up thing: setup, punch line, setup, punch line.

Instead, one performer will play answering machine messages from her mom. Another will wear a dress that features a giant, silk-screened photograph of her root canal. Yet another will sing cabaret-style songs with themes like "How I Found Out My Boyfriend Was Cheating."

So that must be women's humor. Right?

Maybe not. Depending on which performer you ask, there is such a thing, or there isn't, or there might be.

You know. Six comedians. Nine opinions.

Here's the point of view held by Flash Rosenberg. As a backgrounder, she's the one with the root canal dress, and she'll be hosting the event. She refuses to do jokes about hair, fashion or weight.

She is from New York and will do jokes based on what can best be termed as visual aids: slides, for example. There will also be a dress made out of "balloon skin," crafted by interns.

Rosenberg cannot resist comparing men's jokes with men's plumbing. Warning: Ribaldry ahead.

"My humor is in contrast to the typical, ejaculative humor, like, here is the joke, it's coming, it's coming ... now!" says Rosenberg, an artist and photographer who has legally changed her name from Susan to Flash.

"But people will watch my work and say, wait, now that was funny."

So, she says, there may indeed be such a thing as female comedy, and hers may be it, but she's not 100% sure about that.

Then there's Amy Borkowsky, also from New York, also not much help on the question of women's humor.

She's the one with the answering machine. Borkowsky has saved nearly all of the telephone messages she has received over the past 14 years, including those from "guys canceling dates because the exterminator is coming" and an obscene caller that she suspects is a taxi driver who once overheard her describing her act.

As far as whether female comedy exists, Borkowsky has no idea.

"I don't know if there is or there isn't, and that is my point of view," Borkowsky says. "Men and women have different experiences, so I guess so.

"But," she adds quickly, "the stuff I do tends to cross over."

Even Jeannine Frank, the organizer of the event, has no solid opinion on the matter. Far from a feminist scholar, Frank first got started in entertainment 12 years ago, organizing comedy shows in people's living rooms.

Her favorite performers are comic lyricists, in the genre of Tom Lehrer. One of Frank's favorite comedians works for a natural history museum and sings dressed as Charles Darwin.

She insists she had no agenda, such as promoting "female humor," in organizing a lineup of all women comedians.

"I like to think thematically," she insists.

Then there's Marie Kane, a singer described in the "Adam's Rib" lineup as a "piano comic." Kane seems to have a more solid understanding of the matter at hand.

Of all the comedians surveyed, Kane comes closest to thinking that women's comedy does exist.

"I do think that men and women find different things funny," she says. "The Three Stooges. Men always laugh at them.... I think that women don't find excrement jokes or fart jokes funny, but men, they just do."

Her theory on why?

"We're just smarter," she says. "Sorry."


"Tickling Adam's Rib," University of Judaism's Gindi Auditorium, 15600 Mulholland Drive, L.A. Saturday, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 8 p.m. $30-$35. Call (310) 476-9777, Ext. 201.

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