'Bridesmaids' Gets Two Oscar Nominations, Comedy Pros Weigh In

on January 25 2012 5:45 PM

Bridesmaids, one of the biggest comedy hits of 2011, has been smiled down upon by the Hollywood powers that be. In an age when Oscar nominations for funny films are hard to come by, this smash hit -- with its all-female principal cast -- got two: Best Original Screenplay for Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy.

Whether these nods will pave the way for future chuckle-inducing films remains to be seen. True, there have been Oscar nods -- and Oscars -- for comedic performances. Whoopi Goldberg's performance in Ghost is one example. But experts note that any nods to comedy are the rare exception, not the norm.

It's a pity how comedy is often seen as culturally suspicious when awards season comes around, Jonathan Gray, a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, wrote in an email. I'm pleased to see comedies nominated, but under no illusion that Hollywood and The Oscars won't simply go back to business as usual.

Still, New York City-based comedians are glad to see this funny movie -- with its female-centric cast -- get recognition.

I think this is a really great step and opens doors for other female performers and other female-driven projects, said Megan Gray, a comedic performer and teacher and artistic director of Magnet Theater.

Gray, who also teaches improv classes just for women, notes that more women are coming in for comedy training and performing on house teams.

It used to be that almost every team was all guys, maybe one girl, Gray said. The numbers are definitely different. We're definitely getting a lot more ladies.

Jen Curran, managing director of the People's Improv Theater and a performer with the sketch group Harvard Sailing Team, notes that the nominations come at a time when more women are selling screenplays and getting jobs as staff writers for late night television shows. She cited the NBC sitcom Whitney, created by Whitney Cummings, and her personal favorite, Tina Fey's 30 Rock, as examples.

None of these things were happening 10 years ago, but women were just as hilarious, smart, irreverent, brave and ambitious 10 years ago, Curran wrote in an email. So it seems there's a domino effect happening now, and that impacts all of us for the better.

Jessica Gross, a stand-up comedian who got her comedy start in south Florida, notes that the nominations are also good for the comedy genre as a whole.

Anything like this is always a step forward for comedy itself too, she said. It's always nice to see the recognition that they deserve.

Gray noted that these nominations are a good change in the conversation of whether female comedians can be just as humorous as their male counterparts.

It's kind of funny that anyone would be surprised, she said.