Q&A: Comedian Sarah Haskins Discusses the So-Called “Cougar”

On Nov. 11, comedian Sarah Haskins discussed depictions of women in the media with Pomona Media Studies Professor Kathleen Fitzpatrick as part of the PSU hosted event, “All Women Love Yogurt, Right?” Haskins, who stars in infoMania’s “Target Women” segment on CurrentTV, provides a weekly satirical political commentary on a number of topics that focus on portrayals of women in the media. Some of her past segments include “Cleaning,” “Lady Friends,” “Botox,” and “Yogurt.” Haskins was kind enough to sit down with The Student Life to discuss Target Women, cougars and some of the comedians that have inspired her career.The Student Life: How did you get started in comedy?Sarah Haskins: I started doing improv when I was at Harvard and it really just kind of grew from there.TSL: How did “Target Women” start? Did you come up with the concept?SH: I did. “Target Women” was kind-of an accident. It all started with the yogurt commercials that I kept seeing and I thought, “Hey, this could be interesting.” So I pitched the idea to my boss and we just kind of ran with it. That first segment on yogurt was instantly a success. I definitely peaked with the first “Target Women.” It’s all downhill from here.TSL: How do you come up with the material for “Target Women?”SH: We have a great team that work on “Target Women” with me. If you watch Ellen, Oprah or The View, all of the commercials that come on during those shows are targeted towards women, so I find a lot of material there. I’ll then watch the commercials and pick out what I want to use and what I want to comment on.TSL: Have you always been interested in women’s roles in the media?SH: I certainly always paid attention to it. After I did the first “Target Women” segment on yogurt I began to notice it more. It has been a consciousness-raising experience for me.TSL: You have watched and commented on a lot of different commercials that target women in really ridiculous ways. Out of all the commercials you have seen, which one would you say is your favorite?SH: I would have to say the Yaz (birth control) commercial. Just because I have decided to name that woman “Stephanie in the nightclub.” She is in two commercials for Yaz: one where she explains what Yaz does and then she is in another retracting what she said earlier. It’s great.TSL: You have a “Target Women” segment on cougars. Before cougars there was the MILF. What do you think it is about older women that society finds so fascinating?SH: That’s a good question. I never thought of that. I wonder if there was something that came before the MILF or if there will be something that comes after the cougar, because that would be a great segment for “Target Women.” I don’t know what it is about it. Maybe men feel threatened because women have longer life expectancies. In our culture we have the idea that men just get better with age whereas most of the time women are shown as trying to fight signs of ageing. Maybe there is something about female sexuality that is seen as threatening. They shouldn’t feel threatened though.TSL: Are there any comedians you particularly admire?SH: I really admire Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. There are two really great women in comedy that are doing amazing things. I also love Steve Martin, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Christopher Guest. Carol Burnett is another big inspiration to me.TSL: What is the next “Target Women” segment that viewers can look forward to?SH: Probably the end-of-the-year wrap up. We will have a “Lessons 2009” type of segment. Another one I would like to do is to look at all the Christmas commercials that are airing right now about moms buying Christmas gifts for their children. They always show it as the moms that are supposed to do the buying. “Lady drinks” is another option that’s always open. Or maybe it will be MILF’s, cougars, and “blanks.” You know that old Shirley Maclaine quote where she says that women’s roles in TV and film are always as hookers, victims, and doormats? It would be nice to say, “Well, now you can be a MILF, a cougar, or a ‘blank!’”

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