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Weighty Matters: Some Fat Comics Not Funny, Just Hiding Lack of Talent

This column is written by KY Forward's Leslie Cissell.

I’ve known since seventh grade that if I like something, with the exception of the Wildcats, then chances are very few others will. That’s true about clothing, interior decor, food, travel, movies, music and, now, Melissa McCarthy.
 
There are 64,000 likes on her official fan Facebook page. I’m not one of them.
 
It may surprise some that being a plus-size woman myself, at least for another 90-plus pounds, that I don’t appreciate the current queen of plus-size women in Hollywood, but I don’t. I used to, when she co-starred on Gilmore Girls. I haven’t liked her on television or in film since.

It’s not because of her weight. It’s because she uses that weight in a grotesquely crude way to get laughs which makes me wonder if she has any natural comedic talent, or if she’s just making it ok to laugh at the fat girl.
 
I know that my family and closest friends often consider me a prude, but the truth is that I’m not easily shocked by innuendo or rawness or letting it all hang out. I am offended, however, by grossness or meanness or crudeness that serves no purpose and makes no point.
 
I laugh the loudest when a comedian makes fun of herself in a way to which we can all relate or pokes good-natured fun at an ethnic group to which he belongs, but I’m silent in the face of what some people consider funny.
 
That’s the way I reacted at the theater as the credits rolled followingBridesmaids in which McCarthy has a starring role. I sat dumbfounded by the way in which she’d made herself gross upon gross for no apparent purpose in an attempt, I suppose, to advance a story line. Shouldn’t that be the writers’ responsibility? Or did the studio not hire real writers and just point the camera at McCarthy telling her to make middle schoolers laugh?
 
It’s true that I’m not a fan of a lot of slapstick, at least not of the cruder kind of which I consider The Three Stooges a prime example. I am a fan of physical comics like Dick Van Dyke or Bruce Willis in his early days on Moonlighting.
 
I don’t even consider McCarthy’s brand of humor as slapstick. I liken it to the kid in grade school who tries to get all the girls to squeal by chewing his food and opening his mouth before swallowing. “Eeewww. Gross!” is how I react to her movie previews. After Bridesmaids, you couldn’t drag me to the theater to see another of her films.
 
When I started considering this column weeks ago, I worried that I was being sexist. I like Jackie Gleason and John Goodman, so am I being too hard on McCarthy just because she’s a woman?
 
The answer is no. I like Roseanne Barr, Queen Latifah and Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I don’t like Rosie O’Donnell and Camryn Manheim, but not because of the way they handle their weight. I dislike their snarky attitude and politics and the way they act entitled.
 
I also never liked John Candy and only appreciated John Belushi on Saturday Night Live and in The Blues Brothers. I laughed at Animal House, but mostly in the scenes where he wasn’t being gross.
 
For me, it’s important as a writer, a comedian or an actress that one relate to one’s audience. Bill Cosby is a master at that, but McCarthy is not. The fat women I know do what they can to wear their weight with style and grace, and not to attract attention to their bodies as opposed to their talents.
 
In my research for this column, I learned that McCarthy has indeed done some stand-up comedy, the mark of a real comic in my opinion, but she didn’t excel at it. First of all, she says she didn’t know comics were supposed to write their own material.
 
Are you kidding? No one at The Groundlings school in Los Angeles, from which she graduated and which turns 40 this year, told her she had to have funny material to be funny? That seems to me to be Comedy 101 unless, of course, you’re Dean Martin and look funny just holding a drink.
 
Second, she says the audience was mean and heckled her, shouting for her to flash them. The only audiences she liked were in gay clubs because they weren’t interested in her body parts. How ironic that it’s exactly that kind of crudeness that I most fault her for now.
 
I lied before. I remember now that I’ve seen her in one other film – Heat. I went to it because of her co-star, Sandra Bullock, an actress I believe has a natural bent for comic timing. McCarthy was ok in the film, but not that memorable, and her best “acting” was done, in my opinion, when she was talking rather than strutting around as this tough fatty.
 
The bottom line for me when evaluating an artist is and always has been talent. Maybe that’s the problem with some people like McCarthy who find themselves plus-sized in the public eye: there’s not enough talent to cover up the fat rolls or holes in self-respect.

Lesley Cissell is the associate news editor of KyForward.com and the owner of Academy for the Creative Arts. She writes, teaches violin and piano lessons, and maintains a very rewarding existence as a fat person. However, in order to keep up that existence long enough to see her new grandchild have children of her own, she’s decided to take on her weight full throttle. Her goal is to become fit in her mid-50s and NOT post on a dating site just to spite those men online eligible for the senior discount at Denny’s who also think they’re qualified to young, sexy sticks.
 
To read more Weighty Matters, click here.