We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy Paperback – October 1, 2013
by Yael Kohen (Author)
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A Very Oral History With a New Introduction by the Author
“We Killed shines in its details and its anecdotes….Well crafted and entertaining.”―The Boston Globe
From live comedy to television and bestseller lists, women rule the comedy industry―and, as this fascinating oral history shows, they have fought long and hard to make their way to the top. In We Killed, Yael Kohen assembles America’s most prominent comediennes―along with the writers, producers, and nightclub owners in their orbit―to piece together the rise of women in American comedy. Beginning with the emergence of Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers in the fifties, and moving forward to the edgy intelligence of Elaine May and Lily Tomlin on to the tough-ass stand-ups who would take SNL by storm, Kohen chronicles the false starts, backslides, and triumphs of female comedians. With a chorus of more than one hundred creative voices, We Killed takes us backstage to tell the story of the revolution that brought us Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, and Chelsea Handler―and a world where women can be smart, attractive, sexually confident, and flat-out funny.
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. –Kristine Huntley –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Kohen winds up presenting a sort of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of female comedy, one that inadvertently advances the notion that sorting comics based on a pair of chromosomes makes more sense than, say, tossing them into one of two groups: Funny and Not That Funny. From the hot-pink cover to the emotional high five of a title, Kohen’s book has that whiff of feminist rallying that renders so much of the for-women, about-women universe faintly uncomfortable. —Heather Havrilesky
–This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (October 1, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 8.1 inches
Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Missing some history
By cary o’dell on November 15, 2012
While I think this book is an important one, I wish the author had concentrated just on women in stand-up comedy, especially since her historical knowledge of other fields, like TV broadcasting history, is greatly lacking. She begins her look at women as a force in the sitcom genre with “Mary Tyler Moore” which didn’t debut until 1970! ?She thereby erases many important women on the screen and behind the scenes who were on the air long before “MTM.” After all what about Madelyn Pugh Davies, she wrote a little show called “I Love Lucy.” Other early female comedy writers include Selma Diamond, Lucille Kallen (from “Your Show of Shows”), Gertrude Berg and Peg Lynch, just to name a few. Furthermore to state that sitcoms pre-“MTM” never featured any single working women beyond “school teachers” (like Eve Arden in “Our Miss Brooks”) is inaccurate as well. What about Ann Sothern as a hotel manager on her second sitcom, “The Ann Sothern Show” or Gale Storm as a ship’s cruise director on her sitcom? Such narrow historical recounting doesn’t do any favors for the readers and certainly not for women.