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What's so funny?
Norma Smith Olson, left, and Kathy Magnuson
" Humor is more than telling jokes; it's a way of looking at the world and seeing multiple perspectives."
- Jen Polzin, read more here

by Norma Smith Olson and Kathy Magnuson

Watching reruns of the I Love Lucy television series from the 1950s can be enough to make any feminist cringe. The show reflected the values of the time when women were expected to be wives and mothers - and no more. No careers or volunteerism here. The men ruled the household and the silly women schemed and connived and got into trouble if left to their own devices. The main character, Lucy, played by Lucille Ball, was secretive about her age and hair color and excited about shopping to the point of being a money disaster.

But the iconic TV show could also be viewed as groundbreaking. It empowered women on screen and behind the scenes. Ball co-founded Desilu Productions with her husband in 1950 and started the I Love Lucy show when she was 40 years old. She was the star with talents as an actress and physical comedian. She insisted that her husband, Desi Arnaz, be cast as her husband in the show despite network executives' objections about his Cuban heritage. When Ball was pregnant in real life, she wrote it into the script, becoming the first openly pregnant woman on television. She was a powerhouse in Hollywood and the first woman to head a production company.

The show was also a celebration of women's friendship. Lucy and her neighbor Ethel Mertz, played by Vivian Vance, struggled together with the prescribed gender roles of their time. They used humor to resist the patriarchy.

In a later TV sitcom, The Lucy Show, Ball played a widow and friend of the divorced Vance, breaking ground with a show focused on women without husbands.

We'd like to think that roles for women in comedy have come a long way since I Love Lucy. Or have they? In this women and humor-themed issue, FairPlay, a recently organized group, has an essay describing themselves as "women who have just started to speak our truths" about sexism and misogyny in improv nationally and regionally. They are asking for changes in the local theatre and improv community to create safer and more inclusive spaces for women. The responses to their efforts have ranged from enthusiasm to anger.

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Women aren't only moms or teachers or surgeons or CEOs. We are real people - complicated, nuanced, smart, serious - and funny. Stories about or by funny Minnesota women in this issue include a profile of Julie Schumacher, the first woman to win the Thurber Prize for American Humor; Jill Bernard, co-founder of the HUGE Improv Theater; author Lorna Landvik; and humor in women's history, therapy and yoga.

"It's a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy," Lucy said. We agree.

Coming up:

theme is "Upstanders." Are you and upstander? What do you stand up for?" Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: May 10, 2016
June Advertising Sections:
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• Show Your Pride Guide
•Women Going Places Guide
• GoSeeDo/Calendar Guide
Deadline: May 10, 2016

July's theme Is "Solo" Are you single, on your own, a solopreneur? What's great or not about "going solo?" Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: June 10, 2016
July Advertising Sections:
• Buy Local Guide
• Health and Wellness Guide
• Women and Pets Guide
• GoSeeDo/Calendar Guide
Deadline: June 10, 2016

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