L.O.L: Ladies of Laughter

By: Darren Ranck, Brennan Carley, Charlotte Parish

Fanny Brice

Most Recognized From: Brice was the original Snooki, premiering her “Baby Snooks” act on The Ziegfield Follies of the Air radio show in 1936.

Best Moment: Being the inspiration for the movie Funny Girl

Contribution to Comedy: Her pass-key to fame came when she met famed composer and musician Irving Berlin, who played her a song (“Sadie Salome, Go Home”), and insisted that she adopt a Yiddish accent for the tune. Berlin thrust her into the national theater scene, where she floated for a year before finding her niche as a “Jewish entertainer” in Florenz Ziefield’s Follies. Here, Brice (born Fania Borach) gained popularity with her Yiddish numbers. She would appear in seven different renditions of the show over the next two decades. Her parody of the “seductive veil dance” brought audiences to tears on a nightly basis.

Pushing Her Boundaries: Brice was one of the few comediennes of the time daring enough to try blackface, and in 1923, tired of being a sight gag, had her nose surgically straightened. She was also one of Hollywood’s first comeback stories. Having faded into obscurity in the early 1930s, Brice picked herself up and conquered the radio industry where she limited herself to one character, a non-accented brat named Baby Snooks. Until her death in 1951, Brice wowed radio audiences with the enormously successful Snooks. A decade later, Brice’s story inspired the BarbaraStreisand led musical-turned-movie Funny Girl.

Lucille Ball

Most recognized from: Lucy Ricardo, the well intended, but mishap-ridden wife in I Love Lucy.

Best Moment: Lucy’s (and Lucille’s) frantic struggle to control the candy production line is one of the most iconic comedy moments.

Contribution to comedy: Ball stretched the rights of women in television. At the time when she was filming I Love Lucy, Ball was pregnant with her first child Lucie. However, CBS demanded that not only should the show never say the word ‘pregnant,’ they should also never film Ball’s stomach because a pregnant woman should not be on television. Fighting against this blatant sexism in the industry, Ball was allowed to have her baby bump filmed and even incorporated into the story line of the show in a novel feat of comedy (however, the word ‘pregnant’ was exchanged for the apparently less distracting phrase ‘expecting’).

Pushing The Boundaries: Not only was Ball a genius on the screen, but also she was incredibly business savvy that enabled her to have a career that spanned more than half a century. Ball had the intuition and ability to switch media at exactly the right moment, preventing her career – which started in a series of B-list movies, earning her the title “Queen of the Bs” – from ever stalling. Ball also tested new realms into which women could expand, being the first female to host the Emmys, and in fact the only female host for the next 23 years.

Gilda Radner

Most recognized: One of the original cast members of SNL

Best moment: Bringing the out of this world character Rosanne Rosannadanna to Weekend Update.

Contribution to comedy: Before Amy Poehler, before Kristen Wiig, and before Kristin SchaalGilda Radner hit the comedy scene as one of the most recognizable funny ladies on television. As a member of the original cast on Saturday Night LiveRadner held her own in one of television’s biggest boys clubs. She brought strong physical comedy to every sketch alongside the likes of Chevy Chase and John Belushi. Whether it was jumping on the bed as a six-year-old talk show host, or contorting her face into unseemly expressions, Radner wasn’t afraid to make her comedy less dainty than other comediennes. Her all-or-nothing attitude truly paved the way for today’s comedienne.

Pushing their boundaries: Radner had a rather turbulent personal life. She struggled with personal issues regarding her appearance, having a particular struggle with bulimia. She told reporters she vomited in every toilet of Rockefeller Center. Her battle with ovarian cancer led her to become an advocate for cancer research. She penned a book, It’s Always Something, which discussed her experiences with the illness and also shared more stories with the highly popular Life magazine. Radner passed away because of the illness in 1988 with husband Gene Wilder at her side, but her legacy lives on in Gilda’s Club, a center where victims of cancer, along with family and friends, can educate themselves and learn how to cope.

Kathy Griffin

Most Recognized From: My Life on the D-List or Suddenly Susan

Best Moment: Shouting, “Suck it, Jesus, this award is my God now!” when she won an Emmy in 2008.

Contribution to Comedy: Kathy has never been afraid of anyone when it comes to her live acts, directly targeting people like Kate Gosselin, Sarah Palin, and more recently, Michele Bachmann in her televised specials. Unlike other comedians who riff on drinking and one-night stands, Griffin professes to have never had a drink in her life, instead focusing her razor-sharp tongue on pop-culture splatter like Toddlers and Tiaras and Paula Abdul. Her show on Bravo (D-List) was nominated for multiple Emmys over the course of its run, spawning a book (Offical Book Club Selection), a Snuggie-type fleece (the Maglet, named after her wonderful mother Maggie, complete with pockets for her boxed wine), and countless standup specials.

Pushing Her Boundaries: Many comedians rely on the same act to get them through the year. Aziz Ansari spent 2010 touring with the same “dangerously delicious” material, for instance, but Griffin reinvents her act every time something noteworthy happens to catch her eye (she really must have eight TiVos going at the same time to catch everything that she does). On D-List, though, Griffin often displays a different, more vulnerable side often cast aside in the lives of comedians. Whether it was the death of her father or a trip to the Walter Reade Medical Center, Griffin was never afraid to cry on camera. It never dampened her tart demeanor, but rather allowed viewers to capture a well-rounded picture of the truly humble and appreciative woman so many thought they knew.

Tina Fey

MOST RECOGNIZED FROM: Saturday Night Live

BEST MOMENT: Appearing on screen as Sarah Palin, with her “maverick” accent comedic gold and really funny “don’tcha know.”

Contribution to Comedy: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey is the triple threat of comedy: she is an incredible writer, an uproarious physical and verbal comedienne, and a brilliant producer. She dominates the comedy industry so much that it impossible to separate her from most any of the comedy projects. Honestly, instead of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, there should be one created in honor of Fey. From movies to sketches to full episodes to live shows, Tina Fey moves seamlessly between all mediums of wit and makes it look easy. Luckily, the world realizes the unmatched prowess of Fey and has rewarded her with spots on the lists from EW for Entertainers of the Year, from New York Post for the 50 Most Powerful Women, and from Barbara Walters for the 10 Most Fascinating People.

Pushing her Boundaries: Although Fey brings humor and levity to all aspects of her life, she also broke boundaries of comedy in her new book Bossypants, where she laid aside the jokes and shared an incredibly personal story about the subtle scar crossing her left cheek. When she was a child, Fey was cut by a stranger who was never caught or identified. Previously, she did not share this story because, as she said to Vanity Fair, “It’s impossible to talk about it without somehow seemingly exploiting it.” However, Fey recently broke her silence and took on this issue in such a way that no one could accuse her of wanting to profit from it. In opening up, Fey empowers other women – comedians, actresses, and all other females – to do the same, to expose their own tragedies in order to overcome them.

Mary Tyler Moore

Most recognized: The first working woman, Mary Richards, on a network sitcom.

Best moment: On The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” Mary tries to fight a major giggle fit during a clown’s funeral.

Contribution to comedy: Along with Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore became the comedic touchstone for the modern woman of the1970s. Her eponymous sitcom about a cable news team in Minneapolis became a smash for Moore’s smart and funny portrayal of producer Mary Richards. Before this gig, though, Moore played the typical wife role on The Dick Van Dyke show. Her Laura Petrie was darling, but Mary Richards could stand on her own as a neurotic single female, arguably a spinster at the age of 30. Moore found the humor in a new kind of woman, though, and made working gals accessible and humorous. Her work paved the way for the likes of Murphy Brown and Cybil Shepherd, proving that women don’t need to just need to be cute to be funny – they can be smart too.

Pushing their boundaries: When The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air in 1977, Moore still epitomized the beloved sitcom actress. She turned heads, though, with a striking cinematic turn in 1979’s Robert Redford-helmed film Ordinary People. The film depicted a family’s grief after the death of the eldest son. Moore played against type in the role of the grieving matriarch, Beth Jarrett. As a comedic actress, Moore exuded only the warmest of smiles, but Ordinary People required a cold, embittered performance, one that Moore delivered exquisitely. Her calculated and subtle work earned her an Oscar nomination, proving that she could harness both the comedic and tragic sides to acting.

 

 

 

 

Most Recognized From: Brice was the original Snooki, premiering her “Baby Snooks” act on The Ziegfield Follies of the Air radio show in 1936.

Best Moment: Being the inspiration for the movie Funny Girl

Contribution to Comedy: Her pass-key to fame came when she met famed composer and musician Irving Berlin, who played her a song (“Sadie Salome, Go Home”), and insisted that she adopt a Yiddish accent for the tune. Berlin thrust her into the national theater scene, where she floated for a year before finding her niche as a “Jewish entertainer” in Florenz Ziefield’s Follies. Here, Brice (born Fania Borach) gained popularity with her Yiddish numbers. She would appear in seven different renditions of the show over the next two decades. Her parody of the “seductive veil dance” brought audiences to tears on a nightly basis.

 Pushing Her Boundaries: Brice was one of the few comediennes of the time daring enough to try blackface, and in 1923, tired of being a sight gag, had her nose surgically straightened. She was also one of Hollywood’s first comeback stories. Having faded into obscurity in the early 1930s, Brice picked herself up and conquered the radio industry where she limited herself to one character, a non-accented brat named Baby Snooks. Until her death in 1951, Brice wowed radio audiences with the enormously successful Snooks. A decade later, Brice’s story inspired the Barbara Streisand led musical-turned-movie Funny Girl.

Lucille Ball

Most recognized from: Lucy Ricardo, the well intended, but mishap-ridden wife in I Love Lucy.

Best Moment: Lucy’s (and Lucille’s) frantic struggle to control the candy production line is one of the most iconic comedy moments.

Contribution to comedy: Ball stretched the rights of women in television. At the time when she was filming I Love Lucy, Ball was pregnant with her first child Lucie. However, CBS demanded that not only should the show never say the word ‘pregnant,’ they should also never film Ball’s stomach because a pregnant woman should not be on television. Fighting against this blatant sexism in the industry, Ball was allowed to have her baby bump filmed and even incorporated into the story line of the show in a novel feat of comedy (however, the word ‘pregnant’ was exchanged for the apparently less distracting phrase ‘expecting’).

 Pushing The Boundaries: Not only was Ball a genius on the screen, but also she was incredibly business savvy that enabled her to have a career that spanned more than half a century. Ball had the intuition and ability to switch media at exactly the right moment, preventing her career – which started in a series of B-list movies, earning her the title “Queen of the Bs” – from ever stalling. Ball also tested new realms into which women could expand, being the first female to host the Emmys, and in fact the only female host for the next 23 years.

Gilda Radner

Most recognized: One of the original cast members of SNL

Best moment: Bringing the out of this world character Rosanne Rosannadanna to Weekend Update.

Contribution to comedy: Before Amy Poehler, before Kristen Wiig, and before Kristin Schaal, Gilda Radner hit the comedy scene as one of the most recognizable funny ladies on television. As a member of the original cast on Saturday Night Live, Radner held her own in one of television’s biggest boys clubs. She brought strong physical comedy to every sketch alongside the likes of Chevy Chase and John Belushi. Whether it was jumping on the bed as a six-year-old talk show host, or contorting her face into unseemly expressions, Radner wasn’t afraid to make her comedy less dainty than other comediennes. Her all-or-nothing attitude truly paved the way for today’s comedienne.

 Pushing their boundaries: Radner had a rather turbulent personal life. She struggled with personal issues regarding her appearance, having a particular struggle with bulimia. She told reporters she vomited in every toilet of Rockefeller Center. Her battle with ovarian cancer led her to become an advocate for cancer research. She penned a book, It’s Always Something, which discussed her experiences with the illness and also shared more stories with the highly popular Life magazine. Radner passed away because of the illness in 1988 with husband Gene Wilder at her side, but her legacy lives on in Gilda’s Club, a center where victims of cancer, along with family and friends, can educate themselves and learn how to cope.

Kathy Griffin

Most Recognized From: My Life on the D-List or Suddenly Susan

Best Moment: Shouting, “Suck it, Jesus, this award is my God now!” when she won an Emmy in 2008.

Contribution to Comedy: Kathy has never been afraid of anyone when it comes to her live acts, directly targeting people like Kate Gosselin, Sarah Palin, and more recently, Michele Bachmann in her televised specials. Unlike other comedians who riff on drinking and one-night stands, Griffin professes to have never had a drink in her life, instead focusing her razor-sharp tongue on pop-culture splatter like Toddlers and Tiaras and Paula Abdul. Her show on Bravo (D-List) was nominated for multiple Emmys over the course of its run, spawning a book (Offical Book Club Selection), a Snuggie-type fleece (the Maglet, named after her wonderful mother Maggie, complete with pockets for her boxed wine), and countless standup specials.

 Pushing Her Boundaries: Many comedians rely on the same act to get them through the year. Aziz Ansari spent 2010 touring with the same “dangerously delicious” material, for instance, but Griffin reinvents her act every time something noteworthy happens to catch her eye (she really must have eight TiVos going at the same time to catch everything that she does). On D-List, though, Griffin often displays a different, more vulnerable side often cast aside in the lives of comedians. Whether it was the death of her father or a trip to the Walter Reade Medical Center, Griffin was never afraid to cry on camera. It never dampened her tart demeanor, but rather allowed viewers to capture a well-rounded picture of the truly humble and appreciative woman so many thought they knew.

Tina Fey

MOST RECOGNIZED FROM: Saturday Night Live

BEST MOMENT: Appearing on screen as Sarah Palin, with her “maverick” accent comedic gold and really funny “don’tcha know.”

Contribution to Comedy: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey is the triple threat of comedy: she is an incredible writer, an uproarious physical and verbal comedienne, and a brilliant producer. She dominates the comedy industry so much that it impossible to separate her from most any of the comedy projects. Honestly, instead of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, there should be one created in honor of Fey. From movies to sketches to full episodes to live shows, Tina Fey moves seamlessly between all mediums of wit and makes it look easy. Luckily, the world realizes the unmatched prowess of Fey and has rewarded her with spots on the lists from EW for Entertainers of the Year, from New York Post for the 50 Most Powerful Women, and from Barbara Walters for the 10 Most Fascinating People.

 Pushing her Boundaries: Although Fey brings humor and levity to all aspects of her life, she also broke boundaries of comedy in her new book Bossypants, where she laid aside the jokes and shared an incredibly personal story about the subtle scar crossing her left cheek. When she was a child, Fey was cut by a stranger who was never caught or identified. Previously, she did not share this story because, as she said to Vanity Fair, “It’s impossible to talk about it without somehow seemingly exploiting it.” However, Fey recently broke her silence and took on this issue in such a way that no one could accuse her of wanting to profit from it. In opening up, Fey empowers other women – comedians, actresses, and all other females – to do the same, to expose their own tragedies in order to overcome them.

Mary Tyler Moore

Most recognized: The first working woman, Mary Richards, on a network sitcom.

Best moment: On The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” Mary tries to fight a major giggle fit during a clown’s funeral.

Contribution to comedy: Along with Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore became the comedic touchstone for the modern woman of the 1970s. Her eponymous sitcom about a cable news team in Minneapolis became a smash for Moore’s smart and funny portrayal of producer Mary Richards. Before this gig, though, Moore played the typical wife role on The Dick Van Dyke show. Her Laura Petrie was darling, but Mary Richards could stand on her own as a neurotic single female, arguably a spinster at the age of 30. Moore found the humor in a new kind of woman, though, and made working gals accessible and humorous. Her work paved the way for the likes of Murphy Brown and Cybil Shepherd, proving that women don’t need to just need to be cute to be funny – they can be smart too.

 Pushing their boundaries: When The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air in 1977, Moore still epitomized the beloved sitcom actress. She turned heads, though, with a striking cinematic turn in 1979’s Robert Redford-helmed film Ordinary People. The film depicted a family’s grief after the death of the eldest son. Moore played against type in the role of the grieving matriarch, Beth Jarrett. As a comedic actress, Moore exuded only the warmest of smiles, but Ordinary People required a cold, embittered performance, one that Moore delivered exquisitely. Her calculated and subtle work earned her an Oscar nomination, proving that she could harness both the comedic and tragic sides to acting.

 

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