The storming of the Emmy stage by the best actress in a comedy nominees added an exclamation point to a banner year for female comedians

By Karen Valby
Updated December 16, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST

One hesitates to declare 2011 the year of the funny woman. That suggests some fleeting trend in which the fairer sex suddenly revealed a hidden talent. And yet you have to high-five a year that introduced us to the high-voltage ensemble of Bridesmaids. That brought uproarious best-sellers from both Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling. A year in which Melissa McCarthy Frenched a Mylar horse balloon on SNL, Jennifer Aniston got terrifically predatory in Horrible Bosses, and Zooey Deschanel reinvented the chicken dance on New Girl. But no moment was as rousing and triumphant as the hilarious bit the six nominees for best actress in a comedy graced us all with on Emmy night.

When presenter Sofia Vergara first announced Amy Poehler’s name and she gave that cocky smirk into the camera before officiously marching up the steps to the stage, it was deliciously unsettling. What was happening? Should we be uncomfortable? Next came McCarthy, then Martha Plimpton, Edie Falco, Fey (who tried to suck face with 30 Rock costar Jack McBrayer before leaving her seat), and finally Laura Linney. The women held hands, feigning the giddy breathlessness of beauty-pageant contestants.

It was all so delightful, until viewers really got a look at these six extraordinary women standing together in such a winning, righteous display of wit and camaraderie. The range of their talent was formidable, their combined achievements staggering. When the dazzled audience rose to a standing ovation, they weren’t applauding the funniest women of the night, they were honoring the funniest people, period. One got the honest sense looking at those beaming faces on stage that it really didn’t matter at that point whose name was called out as the winner (McCarthy ultimately wore the crown). Their reward was simply being in one another’s company and making us all laugh.