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5 Recommended Female Comedy Directors: Fresh & Hilarious

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Women are funny. This is not profound information as awesome female comedians and funny actresses are winning audiences and the media over every day. Less talked about, however, are the funny women behind the camera. It is unfortunate that female comedy directors only account for 5% of comedy directors of mainstream films produced in Hollywood every year.
Directors like Lynn Shelton and Marjane Satrapi prove that women directors can produce more than just chick-flicks as they bring fresh and brave new forms of cinema to life.
As an avid film-watcher, comedy-lover, aspiring filmmaker and not-to-mention feminist who thinks more funny women directors need to step forward, I have compiled a list of women directors and their work you may want to check out.
1. Nancy Meyers

“We don’t want to be our own niche. We’re filmmakers like everybody. How many years in a row are we going to talk about the fact that we make films and we are women? Enough already…” – Nancy Meyers

While Nancy Meyers may be adept at creating mature, thought-provoking and relatable content that’s the antithesis of slapstick, it is far from being exclusively targeted to older people and older women.

Instead we have layered human stories that are relatable to anyone as they playfully bring humour to the intricacies of relationships and human nature.

Her big hits include the classic rom-com “What Women Want” that had men relating to the frustration of trying to figure women out. Others include star-studded “The Holiday”(2006) and “Its Complicated”(2009) as well as “Something’s Gotta Give”(2003) – Starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

Recommended Movie: ‘It’s Complicated’ (2009)

“You know, this is very French of us. I have a young wife but I am having sex with my old wife…” – Jake Adler to Jane Adler

Starring the incomparable Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, this film takes us through an affair of a couple who used to be married. Meyers manages to take advantage of the layered performances of these acting heavyweights as we get a story that is human, perfectly timed, intelligently humorous and brings fun to a sad situation.

Maturity is never boring with Meyers, but instead you have a director who brings razor sharp wit and hilarious insight into any circumstance – big or small.

2. Nora Ephron

“My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next…” – Nora Ephron

If you were a Meg Ryan romantic comedy fan of the nineties, you may have heard of Nora Ephron as she was the director responsible for the classic romantic comedies of “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993) and “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) as well as the screenwriter for “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) and “Hanging Up” (2000).

Quick-witted, dynamic and with excellent comic timing, Ephron brings out the best in actors, creating unforgettable chemistries between co-stars and performances to be remembered for decades afterwards.

Recommended Movie: ‘Julie and Julia’ (2009)

“Julia, you are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life” – Paul Child to Julia Child

Her most recent project before she sadly died in 2012 was “Julie and Julia,” where Meryl Streep takes on the biographical role of Julia Child and Amy Adams takes on Julie – a young women trying to find some meaning by cooking. It is funny and heartbreakingly human all at the same time.

Ephron’s ability to bring humor out of pain is what makes her brilliant – you will never know whether you want to laugh or cry.

3. Marjane Satrapi

“I’m not a politician. I don’t know how to solve the problems of the world. But as an artist, I have one duty: to ask questions…” – Marjane Satrapi

This Iranian-born filmmaker, graphic novelist and children’s book author caught our attention with her 2007 hit “Persepolis” – an animated political drama documenting her life. What makes her unique is that she is not necessarily your average rom-com director but a deep and sharp-as-a-blade director, unafraid to transcend any medium.

This is why her latest dark comedy: “The Voices” (2014) – starring Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick and Gemma Arterton may not be for the faint-hearted, but is as edgy and original as the filmmaker herself.

Recommended Movie: ‘Persepolis’ (2007)

“Listen. I don’t like to preach, but here’s some advice. You’ll meet a lot of jerks in life. If they hurt you, remember it’s because they’re stupid. Don’t react to their cruelty. There’s nothing worse than bitterness and revenge. Keep your dignity and be true to yourself…” – Mother to her Daughter

“Persepolis” (2007) is a powerful, haunting, creative political autobiography. Do not be deceived by the “cartoon” characters. This film gets real.

Satrapi’s work is brilliantly haunting and plays at every nuance with the utmost sass and courage. Comedy is more than just a laugh, but an artform.

4. Lynn Shelton

“Although humor is present in every one of my films, it has always been used as a way to make the darker, heavier stuff in my stories more palatable. I never set out to make ‘Humpday’ a comedy…”

With her film-directing career beginning in 2006, Lynn Shelton brings a breath of fresh air to comedy. She tackles unusual story-lines which at first sound ridiculous, but manages to bring a maturity, relatability and vulnerability to characters in obscene situations, never losing the humour.

Recommended Movies: ‘Humpday’ (2009)

Andrew: “That’s the tricky thing. It’s the difference between this and bungee jumping, is that bungee jumping, you just walk to the edge and jump…”
Ben: “…and the whole thing takes care of you…”
Andrew: “…and you don’t have to have a h***-on to bungee jump.”

This is quite a far-out concept about two heterosexual best friends who aim to make an amateur gay adult movie which leads to an existential, personal and yet hilarious experience. This film was a delicate matter to say the least which Lynn handles exceptionally, bringing the balance between delivering the humour while respecting the sensitivity of the matter.

Even with her sometimes off-beat topics, Shelton hits every beat of comedy, and then some.

5. Gurinder Chadha

Refreshingly funny and combining eastern and western comedy styles seamlessly, Chadha is responsible for bringing us cinema classics like “Bend It Like Beckham”(2002), which was the hilarious hit which gave Keira Knightley her first big break. Other accomplishments include a segment of “Paris Je’ taime” (2006).

Recommended Movies: ‘Bend It like Beckham’ (2002)

“Lesbian?, but her birthday’s in March. I thought she was a Pisces…” – Jesminder’s aunt to her other aunts

This film is a classic comedy hit, being light, hilarious, feminist culturally on-point and one that everyone can enjoy. Chadha really combines all elements of a good comedy here, from performance to timing to cultural relevance and being inspiring-without being preachy or cheesy.

Funny, Charming, fresh and ballsy-Chadha creates characters and moments bursting with life in every second.


Other Mentions: Actresses Turned Comedy Directors

We loved them in front of the camera and now it is intriguing to see them behind it. It is inspiring when an actress takes control of their own career and creates their own material or takes the leap to create something new.
• Elizabeth Banks-“Pitch Perfect 2” (2015) – This hilarious and dynamic actress shows her acting chops in this quirky girl-power hit.
• Lake Bell-“In A World” (2013) – Hilarious and sharp, Bell is finally able to show her fuller acting ability and bring out the best in other actors with her feature directorial debut.
It is sad that even though this list starts to prove that women directors are phenomenal, women are not always thought of as funny. These women serve to prove that women directors can bring layers, depths, nuances to characters and performances that make them funny on other levels, without being sappy, as is often the stereotype.
Do you know of any great female comedy directors worth mentioning?
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