“Funny girls” or Bust?

Looking for something new, I bought a magazine I’d never seen before while at Borders. Sarah Silverman was on the cover. Behind the comedian’s head in bold, red type: Bust. I can imagine the confusion that would cloud the horny brain of a guy who doesn’t know what Bust magazine is when he runs across it on the newsstand. It  wasn’t another raunchy men’s magazine. Its covergirl wasn’t some barely dressed sex kitten; her fake breasts weren’t the focal point on the page. And she wasn’t wearing some racy laced get-up, falsely suggesting to men that all women wear sexy lingerie beneath their t-shirts and jeans.

Instead, Bust is the epitome of the feminist magazine. Its tagline: “For women with something to get off their chests.” Witty, empowering, and ballsy, I fell in love with the magazine before reading a single page.

When I finally did, I found exactly what I thought I would. Its October/November issue offers a feminist twist on everything from food to travel to pop culture. Oh, and a letter from the editor, Debbie Stoller, slamming Christopher Hitchens’ Vanity Fair essay titled “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” Besides calling Hitchens “a douche,” Stoller’s other reaction to his essay was quite suitable: devoting an entire issue to proving him wrong. Or so she said by the coverline “funny girls.”

In the cover story, Jenna Wortham profiles Silverman, the controversial comedian best known for her Comedy Central show and her racial-inspired jokes; Silverman is as good at irritating as she is amusing. Wortham successfully depicts Silverman, the person, quite humbly, with anecdotes such as Silverman’s awkward, self-conscious realization that she was staring at herself in a mirror rather than engaging the reporter, and her shameless apology thereafter. The piece was well-written, and photos of Silverman, a bar of soap in her mouth, were placed perfectly within the story. I liked the article, yet I couldn’t help but think—how did this writer prove to me that Silverman is a funny girl, and not just that she uses touchy subjects like rape and racism as the subject for her acts?

Even Stoller’s own feature, a question and answer piece with comedian Margaret Cho, lacked that clever, comedic edge I hoped, and was informed by Stoller’s letter and coverline, this issue would deliver. Rather than provoking Cho’s hilarity, Stoller’s questions were deep and personal. It seemed as if she were a therapist and Cho, her client. Stoller asked about Cho’s decision to keep her husband out of the public eye, her battle with her own body image, and her hard-to-define sexuality. Sure, Cho uses these experiences as material for her comedy, but in this article, there was nothing funny about her at all.

I’m still willing—even eager—to get “busted” again. I like this magazine for showing that real women with real, working brains have a magazine that takes them seriously. Do I fault Bust for an unfunny “funny girl” issue? Yes, a little. But Bust would want me to call it as I see it. I am, after all, a girl with something to get off her chest.


-Krista Scarlett


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