TV's Newest Funnywomen Have Curves

There's a new crop of funny ladies on television who are bucking Hollywood's traditional standards of beauty.

As The New York Times pointed out, these women -- Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham among them -- carry some extra pounds and don't apologize for it.

"There's a degree of confidence in all these women, of being comfortable in their skin and not being self deprecating," Yael Cohen, author of "We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy," told "And it's not just one comedian. It's a group of them."

They include Dunham, the star and creator of HBO's "Girls," Molly Tarlov of MTV's "Awkward" and Melissa McCarthy from the hit sitcom "Mike and Molly."

With the exception of the plus-size McCarthy, the others are a reflection of the average-size woman.

Cohen talked about Kaling and Dunham: "What's so noteworthy and groundbreaking about them is they are not fat and they are not thin. They are normal women and they are leading a sitcom."

Kaling, who plays a single doctor on her new Fox sitcom, "The Mindy Project," acknowledges this in her collection of essays, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)."

"Since I am not model-skinny, but also not superfat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous 'Normal American Woman Size' that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I'm a size 8 (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size because, I think, to them, I lack the self-discipline to be an aesthetic, or the sassy confidence to be a total fatty hedonist. They're like 'Pick a lane,'" Kaling writes.

But Cohen finds Kaling and her fellow funny women "refreshing" because "it's great to see women who look like you on TV," she said.

In Kaling's case, her character goes out to the clubs and gets the cute guy, as in a recent episode in which an NBA player invites her to the VIP section and she happily goes along.

Cohen points out that this new group of leading funny ladies is a switch from the "Friends" years, when producers cast attractive -- and thin -- women in comedic roles, or even a decade ago, when Tina Fey lost 30 pounds before appearing on television.

But to focus only on their weight or looks is to minimize their talent, she said.

"At the end of the day, these are talented funny women," Cohen said. "That's why they are succeeding. Their voice is right and that's at the core. They are catching on to something that's appealing to people. The way they look is one part of it, but there's clearly so much more. A big part of it has to do with confidence."

Click through to read more about this new group of funny women.

Lena Dunham

Dunham's Hannah in the series "Girls" is less confident than Kaling's single doctor but the way she is portrayed -- unself-consciously prancing around in her underwear -- shows a degree of confidence of Dunham's part.

In one episode, when a boyfriend remarks about her flabby stomach, Hannah says, "No, I have not tried a lot to lose weight. Because I decided I was going to have some other concerns in my life."

Dunham herself makes light of our body obsessions. She appeared in a skit for the Emmy Awards last month, sitting naked on top of a toilet seat, eating an entire cake.

She's clearly striking a nerve. Last week, Random House paid over $3.5 million to publish her book about life, love and sex, "Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned."

Molly Tarlov

In MTV's teen comedy, "Awkward," Molly Tarlov plays Sadie, a popular cheerleader, who is no less a mean girl because she's a little overweight.

"What really drew me to her is that she's the popular mean cheerleader, but she also has these inner struggles with her insecurities about her status and her body. I never thought that there would ever be a character written like that," Tarlov told Seventeen magazine.

Like her character, Tarlov battled insecurities about her body. "Success used to always be based on what my body looks like and how other people perceive me," she told Seventeen last July. "Then, for the past two years, I've been so blessed with these amazing roles that no one ever thought would be written. When people talk about characters who struggle with their weight or with food they go to either end of the extreme; there are rarely characters who are just a little bit heavy. That's what I think is really incredible about this show; it's not like Sadie is in danger or anything."

Melissa McCarthy

Though McCarthy's Molly meets her mate Mike at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, "Mike & Molly" is less about their sizes than their odd-couple romance. McCarthy took home the Emmy in 2011 for best lead actress in a comedy, while starring in that summer's big hit, "Bridesmaids."

"What's refreshing about McCarthy is her weight isn't an issue," Cohen said. "It's her ability to draw a laugh. She's not successful because of her weight but because she's funny."


Comedian Marietta Sirleaf, known by her stage name, Retta, plays Donna, the boy-crazy commanding office manager, on "Parks and Recreation." Donna once told another character, "Dating is a zero-sum dating. If you get a man, I don't get that man."

Donna's size hasn't diminished her love life or her confidence. "People always ask me what Donna and I have in common, and I'm like, our dress size. For sure, she's only quieter because she has writers and I don't," Retta told last month. "Trust me, were I allowed to, Donna would have so much to say about so much."

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