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Cursing by numbers

WOMEN have come a long way in comedy recently. They're a lot cockier, for a start. Sure, Katherine Hepburn gave as good as she got when Cary Grant tried to land a zinger, and it could hardly be said that the likes of Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller or Joan Rivers were the shy, retiring types.

However, the new breed of female comics are determined to level the playing field, with the likes of Sarah Silverman and Tina Fey finding a new balance between foxy and funny. Oh, and foulmouthed.

There's an edge to today's comedic women that simply wasn't there before. Mainly because, up until very recently, even the most sarcastic funny girl wouldn't dare to curse on camera.



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Those days are now officially done, it seems, thanks in part to the rise of the R-rated comedy, heralded by the likes of There's Something About Mary and, later, Knocked Up. Two of this summer's biggest comedies were the hilarious Bridesmaids and the so-so Bad Teacher, both led by women, and both revelling in raunchy behavior and casual bad language.

Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl are beginning to look old-fashioned by comparison and not all that funny either.

Both of them must be worried, because this new cinematic wave of women talking dirty looks set to continue.

Just check out What's Your Number?, the latest comedy from Anna Faris, a blonde comedienne who broke through with the Scary Movie franchise and scored a major solo hit with The House Bunny (which she also produced), in 2008.

Faris plays thirtysomething singleton Ally Darling, who decides it's time to finally find that one special guy -- having just recently calculated that she's already slept with 20 not-so-special guys. And that, as any regular reader of women's glossy magazine articles will tell you, is verging on slut. The average number is 10.5. Apparently.

Naturally, Ally and her close circle of girl friends have plenty to say about the plight of the independent woman in the 21st century. And most of what they have to say tends to include the word 'vagina'. About every four and a half minutes.

"Well, I hate to break this to you," says Faris, "but my friends and I have conversations like that all the time. I think it's just never been put up on screen. It's not how ladies are supposed to talk, but we're every bit as foul-mouthed as guys."

Yep, when it comes to entertainment, we've come a long way from I Love Lucy. All the way to the Jersey Shore, to be precise.

"Isn't it a wonderful world?" sighs Faris.

It has been pretty wonderful for the 34-year-old Anna Kay Faris these past few years, the Maryland-born actress having had her career as a serious stage actor interrupted in 2000 by her lead role in the hugely successful horror spoof Scary Movie. With two sequels, Faris soon found herself one of Hollywood's most in-demand comediennes.

And so, a new career plan was hatched. Even if comedy tends to terrify Anna Faris.



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"I think it's because what makes people laugh is so indefinable," she says. "At times, it feels like a bit of a guessing game. I was never trained in comedy, so I'm still sort of figuring it out. What I do know is that I love it and I love being a part of this world."

Ultimately, What's Your Number? is Bridesmaids with all the bad language, but none of the side-splitting wit. I'm guessing when Faris and co saw Kristen Wiig's monster -- just as their similar loser-bridegroom-goes-a-hunting was being readied for release -- they must have known they were going to pale by comparison. Badly.

"Yeah, at the time we were making this, Bridesmaids hadn't come out," states Faris, "but, I just loved that movie so much.

"We just knew what we didn't want to make. We didn't want to make a film that felt archaic. We wanted to make something that was very current. 'Okay, these are the things that my girlfriends are discussing. And it's going to be a little raunchier than what we've heard before'.

"And we were lucky to have a studio that was okay with the idea of a raunchier, sexier film. Because, before Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher, it was very difficult to get female-driven raunchy comedy made."

What's Your Number? is in cinemas now