This past weekend I took a break from my movie marathon and went to see Frankly Scarlett, a new Pittsburgh comedy troupe whose side-splitting mix of skits, improv games, short video clips, and musical interludes was more than worth the price of admission. Satirical scenes about dating, pregnancy, and catty female behavior were mixed in with good-natured jabs at homeschooling, vegetarianism, pop culture, and other topics for a solid hour of hilarity. I’m actually still giggling over some of the jokes, and hoping that they will not only have another show soon, but also make a t-shirt I can buy and wear proudly.
Afterwards, my friends and I were discussing the relative lack of women in comedy; I say “relative” because, at first blush, it seems to me like there ARE a lot of funny ladies out there, as well as a long tradition of grand dames from which they sprung. Five minutes thought brings plenty of names to mind: Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Totie Fields, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Roseanne Barr, Wanda Sykes, and Margaret Cho are just the tip of the iceberg…aren’t they? Clearly, further research was required.
A little catalog sleuthing turned up a great book called Funny Women: American Comediennes 1860-1985, which contains brief biographies of some of the most amusing women you might never have heard of, including May Irwin, Trixie Friganza, Sally Marr, and Jean Carroll. I slapped my forehead when I saw how many greats had somehow slipped my mind, famous names like Lily Tomlin(!), Imogene Coca(!!), Martha Raye(!!!), and, of course, Carol Burnett (!!!!!). The book also has chapters called “Funny Women of Radio” (which reminded me that I’d completely forgotten about the hilarious Gracie Allen) and “Writers and Directors,” which pays tribute to women who were as witty with the pen as in person (including Selma Diamond, for whom Night Court was just one in a series of comedic achievements). Between this book and the world wide web, you can get a gold mine of information on some of the most snickerworthy sisters to strut the stage. And if you’re looking for more, well, we have a few more resources up our sleeves here at the library.
So is it that there aren’t a lot of women in comedy, or just that we don’t know much about some of them, and take for granted the ones we do know? Who do you personally find hilarious, and did I mention her? Why do you suppose more women aren’t drawn to comedy as a pursuit? And, most importantly, who’s coming with me to the next Frankly Scarlett show?
who gives a damn
12 responses to “Funny Ladies”
I’m thinking of Vicki Lawrence (of Carol Burnett Show fame and also the ridiculous sitcom, Mama’s Family). :)
I can’t believe I forgot her! Thanks Maria!
It sounds like the show you saw touched on many of the bases that make us laugh. As for women in comedy, I doubt that it’s not different from women in other areas. We seem to lag behind.
Lulu, thanks for your comment! I’m afraid you’re right. It’s a pity, too, because I’m surrounded by hilarious women all day. If this librarian thing doesn’t work out, we could take the show on the road…
I want to be just like Kristen Schaal when I grow up! Only, a librarian Kristen Schaal.
Julie, if anyone can pull it off, it’s you! Cheers.
I love Paula Poundstone, Goldie Hawn (from her Laugh-In days) and Madeline Kahn (who could also sing a mean opera aria). Thanks for the reminder about these funny talents.
My pleasure, Rebekah! Thanks for sharing your faves – I have this urge to build a web resource guide now… somebody save me from myself? ;)
And don’t forget the hilarious women cartoonists who have graced the pages of newspapers, magazines and books with their wit. Nicole Hollander is an old (feminist) favorite but there are lots of others to discover and enjoy.
Lisa, too true, thanks for the reminder! There’s a DVD in Main Music/Film/Audio called Funny Ladies: A Portrait of Women Cartoonists that I want to check out, since I know very little about the subject…
Thanks for your comment!
we also have scads of comedy performances on DVD and CD, but I’m too lazy to see how many of them are by women.
Amy, no worries. People still like to browse. :)