Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Reader 1

Nancy Macko


With the current state of the world and COVD-19 pandemic that pervaded 2020, the majority of individuals are experiencing a mental health issue. In fact, the CDC reported that 25.5% of the population is experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorder, which is three times greater than the 8.1% reported in 2019 (CDC). In addition, 24.3% of people experienced depressive disorder, which is four times greater than the 6.5% reported in 2019 (CDC). Due to the increasing amounts and intensity of stress experienced, individuals are at risk of suffering from severe mental health disorders and, consequently, health issues. This thesis argues the importance of the use of humor as a coping mechanism and provides historical analyses and evidence to support the claim. Furthermore, the thesis will delve into a discussion of female comedians and show how, through the use of humor, they have coped with centuries of sexism and assault.

Starting with Phyllis Diller in the 1950’s, women have employed a variety of techniques, such as self-deprecation, on stage to garner laughs from their audience. Throughout the past 70 years, there have been many notable female comedians such as Phyllis Diller, Lucille Ball, and Tina Fey, each of whom played a vital role in transforming the way society perceives women and female comedians. However, the number of famous female comedians pales in comparison to the number of famous male comedians. This goes to prove that sexism still prevails in the comedy industry, despite centuries of work fighting it. The thesis concludes that there are still many changes to be made in the comedy industry, starting with regulating the gender gap and unequal power dynamic.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.