We Killed: The Rise of Women in Amer­i­can Comedy

  • From the Publisher
April 16, 2012
In We Killed, Yael Kohen assem­bles America’s most promi­nent come­di­ennes (and the writ­ers, pro­duc­ers, night­club own­ers, and col­leagues who revolved around them) to piece togeth­er the rev­o­lu­tion that hap­pened to (and by) women in Amer­i­can com­e­dy. We start in the 1950s, when com­ic suc­cess meant ridi­cul­ing and de-sex­u­al­iz­ing your­self. Joan Rivers and Phyl­lis Diller emerged as America’s favorite frus­trat­ed ladies; the joke was always on them. The Six­ties saw the appear­ance of smart, edgy come­di­ennes (Elaine May, Lily Tom­lin), and the women’s move­ment brought a new wave of rad­i­cals: the women of SNL, tough-ass stand-ups, and a more inde­pen­dent breed on TV (Mary Tyler Moore and her sis­ters). There were bat­tles to fight and pre­con­cep­tions to shake before we could get to where we final­ly are: in a world where women (like Tina Fey, or, whether you like them or not, Sarah Sil­ver­man and Chelsea Han­dler) can be smart, attrac­tive, sex­u­al­ly con­fi­dent — and most of all, flat-out fun­ny.

Like all rev­o­lu­tions, it’s suf­fered false starts and back­slides. But it’s been a remark­able trip, as the more than one hun­dred peo­ple inter­viewed for this riv­et­ing oral his­to­ry make clear. With a cho­rus of cre­ative voic­es and often hilar­i­ous sto­ry­telling, We Killed is essen­tial cul­tur­al and social history.

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