Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Funny ladies

Here’s a FQ from Kendall Rivers that became an entire post.

I have quite a list of favorite comic actresses who also happen to be gorgeous proving that there are quite a bit of funny women who are beautiful though it's not always easy to find them from what I read or heard from various showrunners of sitcoms. Who are some of your favorite comic actresses tv or film?

I don’t know why they have to be beautiful.  And to me, when a woman actress is funny she is beautiful. 

So I’m going to just list a bunch, knowing full well I’m inadvertently leaving some out.  So don’t hate me if I overlooked your favorite.  However, there are also names left out on purpose… like Mindy Kaling (who I don’t find funny for a second). 

But among the ones I do find funny (in no particular order) …

Lucille Ball
Shelley Long
Audrey Meadows
Barbara Stanwyck
Carole Lombard
Kate Hepburn
Wanda Sykes
Eden Sher
Elizabeth Banks (when she’s not hosting game shows)
Rosalind Russell
Eve Arden
Carol Burnett
Betty White
Bea Arthur
Georgia Engels
Rita Moreno
Mary Tyler Moore
Suzanne Pleshette
Marion Lorne
Laurie Metcalf
Marla Gibbs
Alison Janey
Doris Roberts
Diane Keaton
Tracey Ullman
Bette Midler
Madeline Kahn
Lizzy Caplin
Whoopi Goldberg
Patricia Heaton
Zara Cully
Peri Gilpin
Judy Holliday
Jane Lynch
Gracie Allen
Elizabeth Montgomery
Leah Remini
Nancy Travis
Lisa Edelstein
Jane Kaczmerek
Leslie Jones
Melissa McCarthy
Kate McKinnon
Tina Fey
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Gilda Radner
Catherine O’Hara
Andrea Martin
Kim Fields
Jean Stapleton
Charlotte Rae
Rhea Perlman
Lisa Kudrow
Julie Kavner
Valerie Harper
Cloris Leachman
Amy Poehler
Wendie Malick
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Margaret Dumont
Kristen Bell
Constance Wu (although not a fan)
Ellie Kemper
Sarah Silverman
Jane Krakowski
Parker Posey
America Ferrera
Julie Bowen
Esther Rolle
Imogene Coca
Lily Tomlin
Isabel Sanford
Laura Linney
Frances McDormand
Joan Cusack
Jan Hooks
Cecily Strong
Rachel Dratch
And the ones I overlooked

74 comments :

Troy McClure said...

Sorry to be a courtroom lawyer but I was recently browsing old blog posts and I read your review of The Mindy Project in which you say you liked her previous writing and acting. What changed?

http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-mindy-project-review.html

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

You (correctly) mentioned Allison Janney, but I'll include Anna Faris, Jaime Pressly, Sadie Calvano and, really, every female cast member of "Mom"--an outstanding ensemble. Also, Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown"), Rose Marie (Van Dyke show), Alice Pearce ("Bewitched").

Glenn said...

You posted Isabel Sanford twice. (But she deserves it.)

I never liked Jennifer Anniston in anything after Friends, but she is awesome as Rachel.

Anonymous said...

Grace Allen
Jean Arthur
Awkafina
Fanny Brice
Judy Canova
Diana Serra Cary
Nancy Cartwright
Carol Channing
Imogene Coca
Bebe Daniels
Joan Davis
Elinor Donahue
Marie Dressler
Mrs Drew
Irene Dunne
Alice Faye
Gracie Fields
June Foray
Judy Garland
Marla Gibbs
Charlotte Greenwood
Jean Harlow
Gale Henry
Mary Holland
Judy Holliday
Darla Hood
Alice Howell
Mary Ann Jackson
Marian Jordan
Julie Kavner
Kay Kendall
Angela Lansbury
Lauren Lapkus
Florence Lake
Dorothy Lee
Natasha Leggero
Beatrice Lillie
Riki Lindhome
Mary Livingstone
Rose Marie
Elaine May
Anne Meara
Ethel Merman
Kate Micucci
Bette Midler
Colleen Moore
Polly Moran
Tawny Newsome
Mabel Normand
Ego Nwodim
Tig Nitaro
Claudia O'Doherty
Edna May Oliver
LaWanda Page
Lennon Parham
Barbara Pepper
Bernadette Peters
Mary Pickford
Zasu Pitts
Mae Questel
Gilda Radner
Margaret Rutherford
Andrea Savage
Betsy Sodaro
Penny Singleton
Yeardley Smith
Ann Sothern
Jessica St Clair
Barbra Streisand
Lily Sullivan
Constance Talmadge
Shirley Temple
Thelma Todd
Lily Tomlin
Vivian Vance
Marsha Warfield
Mae West
Jane Withers

StoicJim said...

Haha, maybe you should have just posted the ones you DON'T find funny. That's a long list.

Anonymous said...

Will no one say a word for Mary Wickes?

Sean said...

I would underline Diane Keaton and Parker Posey as very underrated. Both of them gave me bellylaughs and their humor is driven by their acting talent.

But Lucille Ball is still THE standard for female comedians in my book. Her work still holds up (and more) many decades later.


Sean

Scottmc said...

The name which stuck out the most was Margaret Dumont. Groucho Marx claimed that Dumont didn’t understand most of what he said to her in their movies. She doesn’t have a lot credits beyond the Marx Brothers movies. She was either the perfect comic foil or she was playing a typical society matron, a part which could have been played by another studio contract actress in the 1930’s. I’m just not sure.

Wm. Adams said...

So pleased to see Eden Sher on your list. Her work on The Middle was always stellar and always ignored during awards season. She's a gifted comic actress.

Pat Reeder said...

How about Thelma Todd, on her own or with Patsy Kelly or Zasu Pitts? Also Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers and Betty Hutton. And the great early ladies of stand-up, like Jean Carroll, Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields and Moms Mabley.

Minor typo: It's Georgia Engel, not Engels. She showed up one day in my first wife's ballet class in Dallas. Very nice, sweet lady. Georgia, I mean.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Kathy Greenwood

Buttermilk Sky said...

Hattie McDaniel famously said she would rather play a maid than be one, those being the career choices available. But given the chance, she could subvert the standard Hollywood domestic and be hilarious (see ALICE ADAMS, for example). Did you know she was also a singer?

No one would call Thelma Ritter beautiful but her sharp comedy brightened films from ALL ABOUT EVE to REAR WINDOW. Same for Kathleen Freeman -- the diction coach in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, the world's most terrifying nun in THE BLUES BROTHERS.

Beautiful and funny: Ginger Rogers. Backwards in high heels.

Alan Christensen said...

I'll second Mary Wickes. I'm always delighted when she turns up in an old show or movie. Ditto Kathleen Freeman.

Steve Bailey said...

Jane Russell FTW!

sanford said...

Thelma Ritter was also great on Night Court

Unknown said...

Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves, too!

Lemuel said...

How about Ellen Muth from DEAD LIKE ME?

blinky said...

Just because Milton Berle and Terry Jones were men doesn't mean they were not funny women too.

Unknown said...

I was expecting to see Jenna Elfman as you've mentioned her so many times here. But that is such a great list.

Anonymous said...

And of course
Jane Ace
Elvia Allman
Bea Benadaret
Sara Berner
Mary Boland
Clara Bow
Alice Brady
Billie Burke
Mae Busch
Marion Davies
Selma Diamond
Jan Duggan
Sally Field
Bonnie Franklin
Louise Fazenda
Anita Garvin
Alice Ghostley
Jody Gilbert
Paulette Goddard
Audrey Hepburn
Portland Hoffa
Kathleen Howard
Patsy Kelly
Winnie Lightner
Babe London
Marjorie Main
Minerva Pious
Edna Purviance
Jobyna Ralston
Martha Raye
Donna Reed (sort of)
Lyda Roberti
May Robson
Ginger Rogers
Irene Ryan
Sybil Seely
Alison Skipworth
Margaret Sullavan
Fay Tincher
Wanda Wiley

Anonymous said...

I'm all for recognizing talent and spotlighting funny women; but it bothers me that we are quick to point out women we don't find funny(in your case Mindy Kaling and Maya Rudolph)

I'm not calling anyone sexist here, but how often do people so this with men? I can only remember people dissing Dane Cook in the 90's

Not even my style, but couldn't we only focus only on the ones we like?

Just throwin' it out there, but I never found Robin Williams very funny. Maybe like your Kaling and Rudolph, I say it because I want to know if others feel the same, or is it me?

Arthur Mee said...

Great list!

And someone above commented on Margaret Dumont. OF COURSE she understood the insults and comments thrown at her by Groucho or W.C. Fields. But part of her enormous acting talent was that she could convince you that not only did the character not know she was being insulted, but that it was SO natural-seeming that it must be that the actress didn't know either. THAT'S talent.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you left her off because she's really only played one role (and literally played it for half of her life), but I've always found Kaley Cuoco on BIG BANG to be very funny. I think Elizabeth Montgomery gets in because your animal lust trumps comedic judgement
-30-

Troy McClure said...

Not a single mention for Kathryn Hahn?? She's glorious!

Anonymous said...

I remember an interview with Tina Fey back when Mad Men was a new show and she was going to have Jon Hamm as a guest on 30 Rock or SNL. She said she was immediately asked (maybe by Amy Poehler, "But is he funny?" because the stigma is the same for attractive people no matter what the gender.

Many a sitcom just didn't work because the male lead was no match for the female. Lucy herself never found anyone as good as Desi to play off of. Desi was good looking and so was Kevin Kilner was perfect on Almost Perfect and the show suffered without him. (now that we know about Les Moonves, one has to wonder if he fired him for personal reasons).

But for every Hamm, Arnaz and Kilner, there is a McGinley, God bless him.

Elf said...

Paget Brewster
Kristin Wiig
Casey Wilson

Arthur Mee said...

Anonymous, watch the early seasons of Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery is a delightful light comedy actress. She's also charmingly funny in game show appearances, like on "Password" -- she comes across as a genuinely modest, friendly knockout who can be sneaky-funny and is smarter than she thinks she is. If she'd been born about 25 years earlier, she would have been Jean Arthur.

AlaskaRay said...

OMG, you forgot Rosanne Barr. Someone might think you don’t like her!

Sue T. said...

Bonnie Hunt

Mike Bloodworth said...

Why limit your list to "real" people? Betty Rubble and Jane Jetson are hot and funny. Donna Tubbs-Brown is O.K. However, I've never thought that Marge Simpson, Peggy Hill or Lois Griffin were particularly attractive.

M.B.

DBenson said...

On the flip side: Are there highly talented women -- or men, for that matter -- who are lousy at comedy? Or is it mainly a matter of casting, as when a actor who radiates gravitas plays a goofball?

Certainly there are "serious" actors who can play both drama or comedy, but are there some who simply don't have comedy chops in an otherwise extensive skill set?

DBenson said...

On the flip side: Are there highly talented women -- or men, for that matter -- who are lousy at comedy? Or is it mainly a matter of casting, as when an actor who radiates gravitas plays a goofball or a very naturalistic actor attempts a highly stylized farce?

Certainly there are "serious" actors who can play both drama or comedy, but are there some who simply don't have comedy chops in an otherwise extensive skill set?

Elf said...

All of the women on Late Night with Seth Meyers:
Amber Ruffin
Ally Hord
Karen Chee
Jenny Hagel

Kosmo13 said...

No mention yet of Barbara Feldon?

thirteen said...

The dig at Mindy Kaling seemed gratuitous to me. However, I've mostly seen her play the sober assistant to someone who was supposed to be funny, e.g., Kirstie Alley in Drop Dead Gorgeous.

YEKIMI said...

Of those listed, how many would have been able to make it as stand-up comics? It's one thing to be funny in a scripted show [where you could have as many takes as needed to get it right] vs. going onto a stage on your own and performing jokes.

71dude said...

Edie McClurg
Polly Holliday
Jane Dulo
Marsha Warfield
Ann B. Davis
Audra Lindley
Annie Potts
Toks Olagundoye (best part of THE NEIGHBORS)
Katherine Helmond
Wendi McLendon-Covey
Kaye Ballard
Vicki Lawrence
Beverly Archer
Loni Anderson
Katey Sagal

D McEwan said...

"sanford said...
Thelma Ritter was also great on Night Court"


Huh? Night Court debuted in 1984. Thelma Ritter died in 1969. Even if they dug her up for the show, 15 years in her grave would not have left her very "funny."

Cap'n Bob said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I'm another person who never found Robin Williams funny other than his first appearance as Mork. Too hyper.

Another talent overlooked is Christine McIntyre, who played in numerous short subjects with The Three Stooges.

Troy McClure said...

DBenson

Kristen Stewart is a very good dramatic actress but has zero comedic ability. This became apparent while watching the recent godawful Charlie's Angels reboot in which writer/director Elizabeth Banks made the bizarre decision to cast Stewart as the comic relief, giving her most of the jokes. Every "kooky" moment and every one liner landed with a thud. It was excruciating to watch.

Anonymous said...

Cristela Alonzo
Cameron Diaz
Téa Leoni
Diana Lynn
Carmen Miranda
Daphne Pollard
Raquel Torres
Lupe Velez
Janet Waldo
Virginia Weidler

Tony.T said...

Gloria Grahame.

Anonymous said...

Julie Andrews
Symona Boniface
Eleanor Bron
Dawn French
Hermione Gingold
Gertrude Lawrence
Sarah Jessica Parker
Diana Rigg
Jennifer Saunders

Anonymous said...

Thanks for saying Amber Ruffin. She is delightful and I think we will be seeing her more than just on Late Night w Seth

Anonymous said...

A few of these were standup comics but I think women have always had trouble getting stage time so that field is under-represented. Many of the more recent names came up in the improv scene thru Second City, Groundlings, or UCB.

Great list.....I really learned to appreciate Julie Bowen (and Modern Family) recently. Her non-verbal skills (mostly reaction shots and face expressions) are always spot-on. I thought that show was annoying, self centered jerks until I saw the incredible combination of talent with her and Ty Burrell. In my mind they are really married.

Chris said...

Friday question: how and why do writers like Dave Hackel fade out? So many of them just fall off the radar at some point, never to come back, except for an obituary 40 years later. Actually, seems like the most common fate unless you're Larry David or David Simon.

Is it the business? Other things? You might've answered this throughout the years but are you guys ever coming back to imdb or is it done?

Todd Everett said...


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Thanks for saying Amber Ruffin. She is delightful and I think we will be seeing her more than just on Late Night w Seth



We will have the opportunity. She’s getting a late-night show on Peacock.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone mentioned her.
Completely underrated and wickedly funny on Green Acres.
Eva Gabor

Check her out.

Anonymous said...

Often on Broadway.....

Helen Broderick
Jean Dixon
Lynne Fontanne
Luella Gear
Josephine Hull
Lee Patrick
Martha Sleeper- Hal Roach Silent Comedies; Broadway; Duffy’s Tavern (in Puerto Rico); Then jewelry Designer
Dorothy Stickney

Anonymous said...

Lucille Benson
Stockard Channing
Dorothy Gish
Jean Hagen
Myrna Loy
Giulietta Masina
Paula Prentiss
Wendie Jo Sperber
Gale Storm
Holland Taylor

Anonymous said...

Jeannie Berlin
Carrie Fisher
Meg Ryan (who did more films with Tom Hanks than you’d’ve thought)

chicoruiz said...

If there were a Mt. Rushmore of sitcom actresses- Ball, Moore, and Louis-Dreyfus would surely take three of the spots. Who would the fourth be; Betty White maybe?

Lynn said...

So at this point it seems that we've narrowed the list of favorite comic actresses to every woman who ever appeared in a comedy film or television series.

Klee said...

Miss Coco Peru, Jennifer Coolidge, all the gals from Sex and the City except for SJP, all the gals from AbFab.

Anthony Adams said...

Natalie Wood?

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

One more...Julia Duffy.

Tom Asher said...

I used to find Kate McKinnon hilarious. Now, not so much. I feel like she's trying too hard or something. I find her stuff brings SNL to a halt (to me), until Cecily Strong picks it back up again.

Kudos to Anonymous for his/her list... Holland Taylor kills it in everything she's in!

Bob Waldman said...

Nanette Fabray on Caesar's Hour was amazing.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I used to find Kate McKinnon hilarious. Now, not so much. I feel like she's trying too hard or something.

She's very talented, but Michaels went to her once (or twice, or three times...) too often for impressions. "It's a woman playing a Republican man! That will piss off trump!" And I say that as someone who hates trump (and Giuliani, and Sessions, and Lindsey G) with the white hot intensity of Diane Chambers' thousand suns.

No love for Bebe Neuwirth?

No said...

Put Shelley Long and Carol Burnett at the top of my list too.

More recent ones:

Desi Lydic (writer on Comedy Central's Daily Show)

And a couple of recent Jimmy Kimmel guest hosts:

Iliza Shlesinger

Whitney Cummings

Matthew Brannigan said...

As a Brit, let me add Victoria Wood, a bona fide comedic genius and much missed.

Kendall Rivers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kendall Rivers said...

I agree with most of the list and will only add Markie Post, Jane't Dubois, Katy Sagal, Christina Applegate, Amanda Bearse, Kirstie Alley, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Terri J. Vaughn, Lori Beth Denberg, Julia Louis Dreyfous, Belita Moreno, Phylicia Rashad, Jackee Harry, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Anna Maria Horsford, and Eva Gabor.

Stephen Gallagher said...

Someday we'll get to see Judy Greer headlining in a role that's worthy of Judy Greer.

John the Red said...

Great call on Jane Kaczmarek. She was absolutely brilliant in Malcolm in the Middle. How she never won any of the seven Primetime Emmys she was nominated for is beyond me. As I believe Julia Louis-Dreyfus said to her after she won it over Jane once, "You got robbed." I couldn't agree more - and a classy move by Julia.

I see several people mentioned women from Laurel & Hardy shorts/movies. Bravo!!! Anita Garvin was the ultimate "if looks could kill" comedienne. Thelma Todd could play it battleaxe wife or sweetheart, to equally great effect. And don't forget Mae Busch. Lethal aim and an attitude to match.

Daniel Moniz said...

Leslie Jones? I can't believe anyone finds her funny, but I won't go into that.

Question: You chose Sarah Silverman, who btw I really like, however, I thought you HATED potty humor? Is it because of her past and her still being friends with Jimmy Kimmel?

Kendall Rivers said...

I'd could kick myself for forgetting Lawanda Page aka Aunt Esther! One of the most unique and truly hilarious comic women in the biz, and one of the most unique and hilarious period.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

My one comment on your list is that I wish the ones who are dead...weren't.

wg

Sean said...

Lauren Graham


Sean

mike schlesinger said...

As a Broadway habitue, I must add Sutton Foster, Laura Benanti, Bebe Neuwirth, Kristin Chenoweth, Jackie Hoffman, Kelli O'Hara, Katie Finneran, Andrea Martin, Tammi Blanchard, Jennifer Simard, Beth Leavel, Annaleigh Ashford, Celia Keenabn-Bolger, Megan Hilty and--yes, I know you hate her but I don't care--Christine Baranski.

Dixon Steele said...

Not sure why all the continuing hate for Mindy Kaling. I loved the movie she wrote, LATE NIGHT, and her performance in it was fine.

And you don't like Christine Baranski???!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajvCMC8Na3M

Kendall Rivers said...

@Dixon Steele I don't think it's as much hate as it is just not finding her that appealing as the critics makes her out to be. I've seen her in only a little bit of things and she seems... fine. Not special or anything but there are other actresses out there who don't get half the push she does and imo deserve much more attention and love. For example younger actresses like China Anne McClain and Rhyon Brown, two very talented young black actresses who have such great skill at their ages yet of course are overlooked and deserve more push than actresses that are just ok or alright.

mike schlesinger said...

Kendall, I've occasionally good-naturedly chastised Ken for making less than flattering remarks about Baranski. Maybe "hate" is too strong a word, but he certainly doesn't care for her.

It's also worth noting that at 68, she's not only as busy as ever but also remains a highly attractive and desirable woman. In an industry where 40 is the new Dead, that's not something to be easily dismissed. She's also a two-time Tony winner who's an accomplished singer and dancer in additional to her acting, and her marquee value is such that she was paid a huge amount of money (and given top billing) to play the supporting role of the maid in the 2008 revival of "Boeing Boeing"--which in turn won Mark Rylance the first of his three Tonys as well as another for Best Revival of a Play, none of which might have happened without her ability to open the show in the first place.

Kendall Rivers said...

@mike Schlesinger I was actually referring to Mindy Kaling lol I actually like Christine especially when she played Dr. Nora on Frasier.