The Girl in the Show

Read The Girl in the Show by Anna Fields.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“I’m not funny at all. What I am is brave.” —Lucille Ball

With powerhouses like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Amy Schumer dominating the entertainment landscape and memoirs from today’s most vocal feminist comediennes shooting up the bestseller lists, women in comedy have never been more influential.

Marking this cultural shift, The Girl in the Show provides an in-depth exploration of how comedy and feminism have grown hand in hand to give women a stronger voice in the ongoing fight for equality. From I Love Lucy to SNL to today’s rising cable and web-series stars, Anna Fields’ entertaining retrospective combines amusing and honest personal narratives with the historical, political, and cultural contexts of the feminist movement.

With interview subjects like Abbi Jacobson, Molly Shannon, Mo Collins, and Lizz Winstead among others—as well as actresses, stand-up comics, writers, producers, and female comedy troupes—Fields shares true stories of wit and heroism from some of our most treasured (and under-represented) artists. At its heart, The Girl in the Show captures the urgency of our continued struggle towards equality, allowing the reader to both revel in—and rebel against—our collective ideas of “women’s comedy.”

I can’t even imagine the extent of the research that Anna Fields did for this novel.  It’s smart and funny and so interesting.  I never really thought about the…we’ll say sociology of comedy, especially female comics (or the way that I gender comedians, like I JUST DID).

Like Anna (and a lot of the women mentioned here), I absolutely love Gilda Radner.  Part of it (on my end) has nothing to do with how funny she is (although she is hilarious), it’s because I have hair that’s a lot like hers and it’s the first time I saw someone who looks like me be funny and get to do things. It meant a lot.  And I know women younger than me probably feel the exact same way about Molly Shannon and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling.

What I didn’t understand before reading this book was the sort of throughline connecting Gilda to the women after her and how all of that really began with Lucille Ball, who was the first woman to be a really powerful comedian.  She created and wrote a show, and she was protective of her character.  She set rules for what Lucy would and wouldn’t do, but also made rules like, “Lucy can make fun of Ricky’s accent; nobody else can.” There was no way any earlier lady could’ve even made a rule like that, let alone have it be listened to.

This book is smart and important (and relevant) but it’s also really fun.  If you like to laugh, read this book.  Highly recommended.

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