Okay here goes: I've been doing stand up for almost 20 years now and I've never, ever wanted to talk or write about this thing, this unspoken thing, called sexism and this code of silence that comes along with it.
But I realize now that by not saying anything I am aiding and abetting it.
Whenever someone asks me which comics I admire, it's always the black guys: Chris Rock, Richard Prior, Eddie Murphy, etc.
If I had to guess, it's because they can freely stand on stage and talk about their oppression.
If a woman does that, the whole audience, including the women, squeeze their butt cheeks together. No one really wants to hear it.
When I did Last Comic Standing they interviewed my friend’s 4-year old who called me "Costello". They asked, "Do you think Costello is funny?" She said "No." Everyone laughed, they shut off the cameras, and away they went.
A few minutes later we found that little girl crying and when her mum asked her what was wrong, she said "I said Costello was not funny because I wanted to say she was pretty, because you can't be both.”
I had a club owner in NYC say to me recently, "Sue, you kill more often than any other comic I have at the club, but I hesitate to tell you that because you will use it against me, to get more spots."
Again, I caved. But as I sit here now I think wouldn't you want me to do more spots? Isn't that the best business decision?
I have always known I was funny, not only by my own measure, but by the consistency with which I kill.
I am one of the very few female comics to have had a sitcom based on her life.
When I came home to NYC after my TV show Costello got canceled, I went to a Women in Comedy panel. I raised my hand and spoke about how I thought we needed to admit to the sexism that we faced in the business in order to figure out a healthy way to combat it. I was met with screams from all the women.
I was young and just had my ass kicked in Hollywood, so I left, but looking back, I should have stayed. I should have been someone they were listening to.
Hadn't I just come back from the front lines?
Then I think, you know why they weren't listening to me? Because I wasn't completely committed to what I was saying. The first sign of resistance, I ran.
I ran right into that unspoken dynamic where women take each other down. And I get it, women get fewer spots and if there is only one spot, it's really hard for women to help others get it.
I have never done the Montreal Comedy Festival, properly.
It's not for lack of trying. Since they wouldn't book me as a stand up on any of the main shows, I had them come see my one-woman play Minus 32 Million Words thinking maybe I could get in that way. A show BTW that Patricia Clarkson, Colin Quinn, Molly Shannon, and Kevin Nealon have all raved about.
They said they weren't interested. I even emailed the woman and said, "I hope this has nothing to do with anything I've ever done because I vaguely remember my agent telling me that they you wanted me to do Montreal when my show was in pre-production and my agent told me not to.” Again, I took responsibility. I said, “I should have made my own decisions but I wasn't paying enough attention to my career because I wasn't myself back then, because my brother was lying in a hospital in Boston paralyzed and almost dead.”
To which I got the response, "Of course there are no bad feelings and I'm sorry to hear about your brother, I had no idea."
My brother breaking his neck is a one of the biggest parts in my show and this was the person who told me they didn't like it.
Again I thought, maybe she was having a bad night. Let me email her boss and ask for them to see it again.
I invited them to see it when I performed it (to a standing ovation) the night after the Academy Awards, where the movie The Fighter that I was in had just won a bunch of Oscars.
They never showed.
I followed up again to no avail.
I have never done a Comedy Central Half Hour. I've been told they don't know what to do with my energy.
I've never done a lot of shows.
None of this is for lack of trying. I have persistently and gracefully tried.
I had a manger who wanted to work with me a few years back and called around to see what my reputation was and he said, 'You'd be hard pressed to find someone in Hollywood who doesn't like Sue Costello."
So I sit here and think "what's the problem?" I never wanted to write about being a woman, a problem due to my own sexism. It's hard to tolerate that just because I'm a woman, I don't get certain opportunities.
But I figure instead of trying to tell others to admit to it, I should take some responsibility and admit to my own sexism and how I have been feeding into this unspoken agreement.
Another thing I'm sure that can be said about me is that I'm honest and that I have integrity but I kinda have been only doing that half way. If I'm really honest, I will have the balls, if you will, to just say it.
Maybe my problem is that I've been too much of a good girl. If I'm just a girl maybe eventually they will see me, but truthfully I’ve been hiding in public, playing the victim expecting them to do it for me. Feeding into the stereotype that I've been trying to avoid of the helpless victim who is secretly jealous of the boys.
You see I have a strong resistance to the comedy business and the way they can turn women into men in order for everyone to feel comfortable. I have always wanted to maintain my femininity and sexuality, but somewhere along the way I think I've used it as an excuse to cover my own sexism. I have been an accomplice.
I could argue that women aren't as funny because they don't get as much stage time. I could argue that it's harder to be funny because when I was done with my set one night, the club owner asked me to take off my shirt and he would then give me my check. I could argue that there are both women and men in positions of power who hate women. I could argue that the audiences judge women more, but I really can't, because all of that has happened to me and I'm still HI-larious.
So my only argument is I am part in this because I think I tricked myself into thinking that I was powerful enough to go around the industry, but that's another coping mechanism. I pretend to be more powerful than I am because I’m afraid to accept the powerlessness of being a woman. I can't go around an industry I need. Well, let me re phrase that — an industry that I want, I want real bad.
It's their industry and they can still say "no" to me, it's their prerogative.
But I'm still gonna stand up and ask for it, without taking someone else down. I guess it's taken me twenty years to become the woman I want to be and twenty years for me to see that I've been afraid that if I said something, they wouldn't let me do these shows. Well, really it's been twenty years so I figure I'll take a risk and admit my desire, my desire to be seen.
I am a person, who happens to be a woman who happens to be HI-larious, who happens to want to be very successful.