We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy
Booklist Reviews 2012 October #1
Kohen's lively oral history traces female comedians in America during the last six decades, showing how women doggedly fought their way into what was considered a male arena and thrived. The chronicle begins with the late, great Phyllis Diller, whom Kohen interviewed before her death, in August. Diller turned her own life into comedy, offering up joke after joke about being housewife to a loutish husband. While Diller mastered rapid-fire stand-up, Joan Rivers got her start lamenting her single status, and Lily Tomlin created eccentric characters. When Saturday Night Live came on the scene in 1975, Gilda Radner's caricatures of public figures and original creations made an impression. Men largely dominated the show until the mid–1990s, when Molly Shannon's hyperactive Catholic teen, Mary-Catherine Gallagher, became a sensation, paving the way for funny ladies Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Kristen Wiig to make it big in the next decade. Filled with recollections from comedians, comedy-club owners, and writers, this remarkable oral history is a must-read for entertainment buffs. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2012 September #1
Each chapter in this candid oral history of women in comedy is built on reminiscences, anecdotes, and observations by comediennes, their male counterparts, club owners, writers, and industry insiders. Beginning with such pioneers as Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, and Anne Meara, and moving on to Lily Tomlin, Paula Poundstone, Ellen Degeneres, Margaret Cho, and scores of others, Kohen (contributing editor, Marie Claire) provides informative background material and then, through an extensive number of carefully organized interviews, allows the players to speak for themselves, examining the components of stand-up routines, the creation of comedic characters, behind-the-scenes television (from That Girl to Saturday Night Live), comedy venues, cultural issues, and the essence of the comedienne's persona. They also honestly discuss the obstacles female comedians face, including how many times women have proven they are, indeed, funny (contrary to the opinions of men such as Johnny Carson and Christopher Hitchens). VERDICT A valuable social history that is humorous, touching, and revealing, this book will be an asset to both women's studies and entertainment collections. It will appeal to a wide general readership with an interest in the art of comedy.—Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2012 July #2
Kohen, a contributing editor to Marie Claire, has assembled an engaging oral history of the evolution of women performing in comedy clubs and on television. The book is structured with italicized intros to excerpts from interviews with more than 140 standup comedians, writers, directors, producers, agents, club owners, and network executives. These interviews have been sliced and placed into chronological chapters. The book instead begins with Phyllis Diller ("the first female standup to garner mass, mainstream appeal") and the "outré new voice" of Elaine May: "She was whip-smart and sexy; her sense of humor tended toward verboten aspects of modern life." 1960s audiences saw Joan Rivers ("I was talking about things that were really true") and the working-class characters of Lily Tomlin. Writer Merrill Markoe observed, "Women's standup tended to be very self-deprecating," noting that changed in the 1970s with the arrival of Elayne Boosler. While it's disappointing to find only two brief quotes from Kristen Wiig, this is nevertheless an exhaustive, entertaining comedy chronicle. (Oct. 16)[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC