So let's begin exploring other possible aspirants to the title of Chief Pioneer of
Women's Stand-up Comedy, thought in many circles to be held by Phyllis Diller.
Let's start way up there with Carol Burnett.
Carol Burnett has claimed to be highly influenced by Lucille Ball.
In all fairness, Lucy was really a comedic actress. A great one, but she never
did stand-up. If she ever appeared in a nightclub, in was as Lucy Ricardo,
trying to break into her husband's act.
So you can't really count her.
But Carol Burnett was actually discovered when she started appearing in nightclubs,
at around the same time Phyllis Diller did. What got her on the Ed Sullivan Show was
a piece of special material that was written for her called "I Made A Fool Of Myself
Over John Foster Dulles" (a noted statesman of the time)
"Special Material" is a term that is going to become a staple of what I am writing
about here, because most of the women mentioned engaged heavily in it.
I'm essentially talking about the Comedy Song.
Now, nowhere in any history book that I've ever read is the use of special material
considered to be a lower form. If anything, it should be considered a higher form.
Because you have to be able to sing it well.
I never saw Carol Burnett do her nightclub act, but I'll bet she did more than special material.
She had to at least bridge her numbers by talking to the audience.
While standing up.
Thus, she did stand-up.
This led to a steady gig on "The Garry Moore Show", where she displayed
an awesome ability to excel at sketches.
Carol Burnett was way funnier than Phyllis Diller.
When Carol Burnett left "The Garry Moore Show", she was replaced by a great
comedienne, Dorothy Loudon.
She was also recruited from nightclubs.
There is about a half-hour's worth of her on YouTube (audio only), headlining the
Bon Soir in New York, in 1961.
This was while Carol Burnett was toiling on "The Garry Moore Show"
In many circles, she was considered Carol Burnett's
caddy. But she was a lot more than that.
And she did far more stand-up than did Carol on the show, and certainly in her nightclub act.
She used a lot of special material, but did her own brand of very eccentric humor
when not singing.
She was a hoot.
Then she went on to star on Broadway, most notably as Miss Hannigan in "Annie".
I saw her in that.
She was a hoot.
The same kind of hoot.
She replaced Angela Lansbury in "Sweeny Todd" on Broadway.
Some evidence of this exists on YouTube.
Some scenes and songs, shot by someone with a hand-held camera in the audience,
captured what she did there.
She was a hoot.
A very similar hoot.
Dorothy Loudon was way, way funnier than Phyllis Diller.
She should have been asked to replace Carol Channing in "Dolly".
I'll just offer up one more today. I see I have a long, long way to Tipperary,
so I'll save the others for more postings.
I only mention her because she was really in on the ground floor of the type of
comedy that Phyllis Diller did.
She did countless appearances on Sullivan, and did just jokes.
Jokes about married life.
She was solid, funnny, and very low key.
She was probably the closest thing that Phyllis Diller could call an influence.
But she really didn't burn up the screen.
There was nothing at all garish about Jean Carroll.
She was Everywoman.
A Jewish, middle-aged from-Long Island-Everywoman, but an Everywoman
She was a comforting presence.
Something Phyllis Diller never strove to be.
Yet, she was at least marginally funnier than Phyllis Diller.
More next time.
My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
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Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperback, "Mark Rothman's Essays" is still available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at email@example.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."