What a timely episode of Pioneers of Television! Today is Betty White’s 91st birthday. Happy Birthday, funny lady. Everyone take a moment to thank Betty and the handful of women who contributed to the the progression of women in pop culture — specifically television. The “Funny Ladies” episode was eye-opening and I’m so thankful for all of the women who appeared in the show. Speaking of Betty White… who knew she was on television before I Love Lucy? I had no idea her career spanned as far back as the late 1940s! I just remember her from The Golden Girls and various Match Game episodes. She could rib Gene Rayburn with the best of ‘em.
Learning the back stories of Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, and many more was fascinating. Carol Burnett didn’t want to be a comedienne? Mary Tyler Moore wanted to sing and dance? Thank God their careers fell into place. We would have never known the working woman could “make it after all” and that Scarlett O’Hara’s dress was best tailored with the curtain rod attached. I was also fascinated that Joan Rivers and Tina Fey had both trained at The Second City in Chicago. Let me tell ya, I couldn’t stand Joan Rivers until I looked up some of her earlier stand-up acts on YouTube… she’s hilarious! This episode just furthered my adoration for her type of comedy.
The portion about women of colour in early comedy was also very moving. Marla Gibbs was a breath of fresh air and I have such a hankering to watch The Jeffersons after seeing her first appearance on the show. Such a hoot! I think this shows that comedy transcends gender and race; these women are proof that talent, intelligence, wit, and skill take precedence over stereotypes and discrimination.
Of course, I loved the portions about Lucille Ball… and I must admit, there was no “new” material. Her story is well-known and close to my heart. Actually, I’d like to share a recent discovery that my roommate made in The Lucy and Desi Comedy Hour. I laughed for five minutes and rewound this scene (specifically when she was “smokin’!”) several times. For your enjoyment — featuring the late great Talullah Bankhead…
Join me again next Tuesday night for another episode of Pioneers of Television! Have a great weekend.