SourceFed’s Lee Newton on Being a Woman in Comedy…Online

/ Feb 6, 2015

Lee Newton Ear Biscuits 2-5-15

One of SourceFed’s original hosts, Lee Newton, grew up making people laugh as a way to overcome adversity and make friends as a self-described “chubby kid.” When she stumbled into internet fame as the result of a inauspicious audition for SourceFed, after spending years in the not-so-female-friendly world of comedy, she never imagined it would bring her to a place on Maxim’s “Hot 100” list. She discussed her journey as a woman in comedy (and specifically, internet comedy) on this week’s “Ear Biscuits with Rhett & Link.”

Born with some serious heart problems, Newton learned early on that laughter helps makes bad situations more bearable. “It can define you in the way that it propels you,” Newton explained of that time, foreshadowing her entire career as a comedic actor. When she was younger, Newton began making friends by being funny, knowing that she eventually wanted a job where “laughter can happen.” Her role models included women like Gilda Radner, whom she “latched onto” because she was “goofy and weird” like Newton herself.

In college, this brought Newton to stand-up comedy, where she really started thinking about the world of professionally funny women. “Immediatley, I’m not funny if I’m pretty,” Newton described, “or if I am pretty, what’s wrong with me?” In the entertainment industry, where women are often sexualized above all else, the attitude seems to be that pretty women need to have an explanation, or excuse, for why they’re “primarily funny” instead of “primarily sexy”—for example, being a chubby kid.

Newton did say that she believes the space is “getting better” for women, and in part, this seems to come from her experience making comedy videos on the internet. Though Newton noted the negative, appearance-related comments that women tend to receive at a much higher rate than their male counterparts online, she did extol the number of positive female role models there. “The good thing about the internet is that there’s a community of everyone,” she explained, “so there are beautiful, young women that you see [and who] see you being you.”

Where these women get to see Newton is on SourceFed, a web channel and show launched by Phil DeFranco in 2012 that discusses pop culture and the news with a comedic twist. Newton got the job from an audition at a “hole in the wall” where she was given pop culture news items and told to put her commentary on it. At the time, Newton didn’t know who DeFranco was, nor did she have (or understand the need for) a Twitter account. “I had no idea what I was getting into,” Newton said, but she soon realized that she was “part of something,” and that SourceFed was “a big deal.”

Mostly, Newton enjoyed the empowerment of getting to write her own parts, thus speaking her own opinions, and for once having male colleagues who wrote great parts for her and saw her “one hundred percent as an equal.” Her humor also completely clicked with that of her co-stars, Joe Bereta, Steve Zaragoza, and Elliot Morgan.

After some time at SourceFed, Newton was actually able to confront the idea of female entertainers as sex objects when her colleagues jokingly submitted her to Maxim’s Hot 100 list and drove viewers to Maxim’s site to vote. So many people ended up voting for her that Maxim had to institute a cap on the voting. This didn’t only make Newton realize she was “internet famous,” it also made her realize the power of the internet, where people get to decide who’s hot, and they’re not just choosing airbrushed models but complex, talented, funny women.

The more time Newton’s spent creating content for the web, the more she’s come to see it as a creative outlet for actors equally “legit” as more traditional media. She still auditions for TV pilots, but told Rhett & Link on “Ear Biscuits” that she hopes to be on SourceFed “in some respect always.”

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