The Trailblazing Women of Stand-Up Comedy

By Mariana Brandman

The story of the female pioneers of American stand-up comedy often begins and ends with icons Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers.

Perhaps there is some discussion of Roseanne Barr and her eponymous sitcom, Roseanne (1988–1997), or Ellen DeGeneres coming out on- and off-screen with her sitcom, Ellen (1994–1998), but few others garner serious attention. This cursory narrative leaves out the many entertaining ways that lesser-known female comics made their mark in stand-up comedy, from its earliest years to present day. From Sophie Tucker, who got her start in Vaudeville singing racy songs, to Elayne Boosler’s self-financed 1986 special, Elayne Boosler: Party of One, to Ali Wong’s gritty depiction of pregnancy and childbirth in 2016’s Baby Cobra, women have long made their voices a vital part of the American comic tradition. FOR MORE

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