Here are some more.
Each, in my mind, funnier and more pioneerish than Phyllis Diller.
I've had extensive encounters over the years with Totie Fields.
I found her to be very much the genuine article.
She was what you saw.
Her act was basically an extension of her personality.
Phyllis Diller's wasn't.
You knew nothing about Phyllis Diller from what you saw on stage.
I was once at a gathering of comedians.
Contemporaries of hers.
She did not open her mouth the entire evening.
She was like a sponge. Listening, and drinking it all in.
This was surprising, and certainly not the Phyllis Diller I knew.
Totie Fields, on the other hand, was always who you expected her to be.
Brash, loud, warm, attention-getting, and most of all, funny.
Maybe she wasn't as much of a pure one-liner stand-up as Phyllis Diller.
But she was genuine.
And genuinely self-deprecating.
She had a lot to work with in this in this regard.
She was short, fat, dumpy-looking, and not particularly feminine.
Her act consisted of a lot of special material, because she sang well.
And she mostly told stories.
Very funny stories, that were funnier because of the way she told them.
She was kind of a short, fat, dumpy, Jewish version of Danny Thomas.
(That's right. Danny Thomas WASN'T Jewish.)
I always looked forward to seeing her on TV.
For one reason: She always made me laugh.
In a way that Phyllis Diller did not.
Kaye Ballard was perhaps the direct antecedent to Carol Burnett and Dorothy
Loudon. And,to some extent, Totie Fields.
Kaye Ballard was around, working clubs and stage a good seven or eight years
before any of the others I've mentioned so far.
Very musical. A great singer.
Very brash, very sophisticated.
Don't judge her work by what she did on "The Mothers-In-Law"
She was pretty funny in that too, but it really only showed one side of her.
There's some really good YouTube stuff of Kaye Ballard's cabaret act.
She does a tribute to E.Y. Harburg, the great lyricist, and is accompanied on
the piano and vocally by the late Arthur Siegel, who was extremely gifted and wrote some wonderful songs his own self.
Kaye Ballard was often a riot.
Phyllis Diller was never a riot.
Betty Hutton, you ask?
Every generation or so, someone from a younger generation will ask someone from
an older generation "What was the deal with (fill in the blank)? Why on earth was
this person a star?"
In my case, it was me asking this to my father about Betty Hutton.
I think it was right after I saw "The Greatest Show On Earth", certainly the worst
movie to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture.
And it contained the worst performance by someone who was considered a star,
My father's response was "I don't know....she was peppy."
I wasn't buying.
Then, I saw the movie "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek".
It immediately became my favorite movie, and Betty Hutton was terrific in it.
And wasn't even particularly peppy.
It was the difference of having Preston Sturges rather than Cecil B. DeMille direct
you. One was an actor's director, one was not.
Betty Hutton's movie career then crashed, and she played nightclubs, Vegas, and
the stage. She did a lot of special material.
I've seen some of it on YouTube.
A lot of it was pretty peppy.
And I'm sure she talked to the audience between numbers.
She was around earlier than any of the previous ones mentioned, so she was
certainly more of a pioneer, and with hard evidence to back it up, genuinely
funnier than Phyllis Diller.
A few more miles to go before I sleep.
My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
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."