In 2007, the late Christopher Hitchens wrote an essay in Vanity Fair titled “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” Under the dubious auspices of pop-science and overwrought reasoning, Hitchens’s argument fell flat. But we can thank him, and others who’ve made this argument before, for inspiring Yael Kohen to write an epic oral history of our favorite funny girls in We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). On the next pages, four outlandish and shocking tidbits we picked up while reading it.
MARLO THOMAS, who played Ann Marie in the late-’60s ABC sitcom That Girl, remembers the prudish inclinations of executives: “On my show, the network was very concerned that Ann Marie not look like she was sleeping with her boyfriend, Donald, so the show usually had to end with him leaving the apartment.”
PHYLLIS DILLER had a reason for wearing a bag dress: “I had ’em convinced that underneath whatever I was wearing, I was a skeleton, an ugly skeleton -- and that’s what I wanted. My legs were really thin. Model thin. I stuck out what was thin and covered up what wasn’t, and everyone thought I was flat-chested.”
According to Maya Rudolph, she and the writers often played to Rachel Dratch’s strengths on SNL, particularly her “large blue circular eyes”: “We would purposefully write scenes in which she could do a lot more looking and blinking.”
Early in her career, Kathy Griffin’s onstage monologues took on a much more personal tone, says author Greg Behrendt: “In the old days, she’d go out on a date with Jack Black and then talk about that. She was incredibly confessional and personal. Kathy did a lot of apologizing after those shows.”