It’s no secret that stand-up comedy can be a boy’s club, which explains why the Grammy for Best Comedy Album has almost always been awarded to men. Enter Sarah Silverman, the lone female nominee this year. Should Silverman pull off a victory she would shockingly be only the sixth woman to win.
Jo Stafford made history with “Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris” (1961), becoming the first woman to win a comedy Grammy (she shared the prize with Paul Weston). Elaine May followed with “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May” in 1962 (shared with Nichols). Lily Tomlin was the first woman to win on her own for “This is a Recording” in 1972, but even though she put another crack in the glass ceiling in this category she wasn’t able to turn either of her other two later nominations into a win. Whoopi Goldberg, became the third woman to win 14 years later for her album “Whoopi Goldberg (Original Broadway Show Recording)” in 1986. Then Kathy Griffin won 28 years after that on her sixth consecutive nomination, for her recording “Calm Down Gurrl” in 2014.
Silverman previously scored a Grammy nomination for “We Are Miracles” in 2015, for which she had already won an Emmy for Best Variety Special Writing. But she lost out to Weird Al Yankovic (“Mandatory Fun”). Unfortunately, women have an uphill battle in this category even under the best of circumstances. Last year Margaret Cho (“American Myth”), Tig Notaro (“Boyish Girl Interrupted”), and Amy Schumer (“Live at the Apollo”) all contended, marking the first time women ever held the majority of nominations in the category. But even then the winner was Patton Oswalt (“Talking for Clapping”).
Best Comedy Album this year is a who’s who of famous comedians. Joining Silverman are two past nominees: Jim Gaffigan (“Cinco”) and Jerry Seinfeld (“Jerry Before Seinfeld”). Silverman will also need to watch out for a pair of first-time nominees: Kevin Hart (“What Now?”) and Dave Chappelle (“The Age of Spin & Deep in the Heart of Texas”). But perhaps voters will be inclined to support a female comedian this time around in the wake of the sexual misconduct scandals plaguing Hollywood, including Bill Cosby, Louis C.K., and Al Franken, all past winners in this category — in fact, Cosby won it seven times, and C.K. won it twice. The recording academy might see awarding Silverman as a way of rectifying the category’s seedy past.
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