Growing up, Jena Friedman didn’t care about being likable. And she never wanted to be a comedian, either. A child of the 90s, she wouldn’t discover her knack for the funny business until research for her college thesis led her to take an improv class in Chicago.
That anthropology paper, written on race, class, and gender in the city’s comedy scene, was, in Jena’s own words, “just as funny as it sounds.” But it did lay the groundwork for a career that has seen her write and produce for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Late Show with David Letterman, and the Oscar nominated Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
Friedman’s debut collection, Not Funny, takes on the third rails of modern life in Jena’s bold and subversive style, with essays that explore cancel culture, sexism, work, celebrity worship, and…dead baby jokes.
In a moment where women’s rights are being rolled back, fascism is on the rise, and so many of us could use a breather as we struggle to get by, Jena applies her unique gifts to pull a laugh from things deemed too raw, too precious, and too scary to joke about. She shares her stories of taking on those who told her she was too brash, too edgy, and too “unlikable” to make it. She deftly dissects how we get coerced into silence on the issues that matter most, until they’ve gone too far afield to be turned back around again. And she shares her struggles to make it (-ish) in a world that, more often than not, would rather tune out than listen to a woman confronting the indignities we’ve been told to bear.
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