We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy

. October 2012. 336p. 978-0-37428-872-8. 27.
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.

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