Sean Hayes Champions for More Women's Comedy in Me Too Era

Funny women have surrounded actor and producer Sean Hayes throughout his career, and the 48-year-old Will and Grace star is well aware of their influence in the #MeToo era.

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(Photo: Charley Gallay / Getty Images for Turner)

Speaking exclusively to PopCulture.com for his CNN Original Series, The History of Comedy, with Hazy Mills Productions partner, Todd Milliner, Hayes is cognizant of the feminine strength engulfing mainstream comedy today that is constantly pushing the limits.

Reiterating that everything influences everything else, he hopes the Me Too movement will push more women to be vocal and embolden them to create content from personal perspectives as a female.

“I always find it shocking when men shudder,” Hayes laughed. “When they’re surprised that women have feelings… or women can be funny too... I’ve always been around funny women, so it’s totally normal to me.”

With female comics becoming less and less afraid to speak up about inequalities many have endured in life and in the industry, Hayes is mindful how this kind of liberation came about and firmly believes the #MeToo movement has a place in comedy.

“I’ve always been around women who are strong and unafraid to voice their own opinion, or be funny in the classiest way — or even the most classless way,” he said. “[But] for me, it’s not so surprising anymore and I encourage women to lend their truest forms to the standup genre to lend their voices in the strongest way we know how. There’s no point in keeping those in the back. They should be in the forefront always.”

With a great respect for comics in the standup genre, Hayes and Milliner, two Chicagoans that came out of Second City, are psyched about the second episode of their CNN series’ sophomore season, “Sketch & Improv.”

In the episode airing tonight, Hayes and Milliner explore one of the oldest forms of comedy dating back to Renaissance Europe with its influence of traveling troupes. Through examining short shows with improvised dialogue, sketch and improv comedy, the two look at the roots and hilarity of sketch on television that pushed the limits with shows such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus, SCTV, In Living Color and The Kids in the Hall that provided decades of short-form comedy to audiences.

With a who’s who of comical hilarity to shell out their thoughts on the subject matter, from Sarah Silverman to Mike Myers, The History of Comedy airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.

As for Hayes, he will be returning this fall to Will & Grace with his castmates, including Debra Messing, Eric McCormack and Megan Mullally. The series revival, picking up after a little more than a decade away from TV sets, become one of the more successful revivals in recent years. The show averaged a solid 9.8 million viewers and 3.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demo in Nielsen’s live-plus-seven ratings since its fall debut in the Thursday 9 p.m. ET slot, with the episodes well received by audiences and critics.

Hayes tells PopCulture.com that the success of the series has a lot to do with the cast, crew and writers challenging themselves every week.

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(Photo: NBC)

“The writers do a brilliant, amazing job of spending hours and hours and hours each day in a room together breaking stories that hopefully make you laugh and think and entertain you just as they did before,” he said. “It’s an incredibly arduous but rewarding process that the writers go through, and it’s appreciated.”

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During its initial eight-season run on NBC, Will & Grace was nominated for 83 Emmy Awards, nabbing 16 statues, along with seven GLAAD Media Awards. The sitcom was honored in the Smithsonian’s LGBTQ history collection and former Vice President Joe Biden spoke out in favor of the series, boasting about how it was a crucial point in educating the American public about the gay community.

Will & Grace returns this fall to NBC. The CNN series, The History of Comedy airs all summer-long on CNN, every Sunday at 10 p.m. ET. Check your local listings.