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We Killed

The Rise of Women in American Comedy

Yael Kohen

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

No matter how many times female comedians buck the conventional wisdom, people continue to ask: “Are women funny?” The question has been nagging at women off and on (mostly on) for the past sixty years. It’s incendiary, much discussed, and, as proven in Yael Kohen’s fascinating oral history, totally wrongheaded.

In We Killed, Kohen pieces together the revolution that happened to (and by) women in American comedy, gathering the country’s most prominent comediennes and the writers, producers, nightclub owners, and colleagues who revolved around them. She starts in the 1950s, when comic success meant ridiculing and desexualizing yourself; when Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller emerged as America’s favorite frustrated ladies; when the joke was always on them. Kohen brings us into the sixties and seventies, when the appearance of smart, edgy comedians (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 arrive in a world in which women like Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, and Tina Fey can be smart, attractive, sexually confident—and, most of all, flat-out funny.

As the more than 150 people interviewed for this riveting oral history make clear, women have always been funny. It’s just that every success has been called an exception and every failure an example of the rule. And as each generation of women has developed its own style of comedy, the coups of the previous era are washed away and a new set of challenges arises. But the result is the same: They kill. A chorus of creative voices and hilarious storytelling, We Killed is essential cultural and social history, and—as it should be!—great entertainment.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jul 09, 2012 – 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.
We Killed
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Oct 16, 2012
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 336 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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