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This special, produced by The Museum of Television & Radio and hosted by Megan Mullally, celebrates great women of television comedy. This program consists of clips from the Museum's television collection and interviews with some of television's most talented women comedians. Mullally, on the set of her own hit television series "Will and Grace," begins by saying, "If you want to define the art of television comedy, you can do it in just one word -- Lucy": Marlo Thomas notes Lucille Ball's influence on all young comedians; Betty White comments on Ball's comedic boldness; Phylicia Rashad simply states that "Lucille Ball will undoubtedly be considered the funniest woman in the history of television"; Jenna Elfman shares her favorite Lucy moment; Mullally concludes that Lucy opened the door for all sorts of funny women. Clips are shown from the following programs: "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Carol Burnett Show," "That Girl," "Murphy Brown," "Cheers," "Friends," "Alice," "Saturday Night Live," "Seinfeld," "Ellen," "Golden Girls," "Sanford and Son," "Dharma and Greg," "Third Rock from the Sun," "Will and Grace," "The Jeffersons," "The Flintstones," "Malcolm in the Middle," and "Laverne and Shirley" Next, Mullally introduces another set of clips and interviews which focus on the hilarious lengths these funny women will go to for love. Clips shown include "Ally McBeal," "Sex and the City," and "Taxi." Sarah Jessica Parker explains, "There's something inherently funny about dating, being single." Cindy Willams adds, "dating is funny, it's a ritual of life that we all go through... nobody escapes it." Accompanied by clips from "Seinfeld," Mullally declares that by the time the show aired, "women were free to be as crude as the boys"; she also notes that the character of "Elaine" was the first of its kind. Next, the women of sketch comedy are featured and clips include Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Gilda Radner, Molly Shannon as "Mary Catherine Gallagher," and Goldie Hawn. As Mullally points out, the art of television comedy found its home over fifty years ago with Imogene Coca in "Your Show of Shows"; Linda Lavin adds that improvisational skills like Coca's could only be seen at the theater until that time. Carol Burnett, Mullally acknowledges, is the "reigning queen" when it comes to creating unforgettable characters. But others have followed: a clip of Lily Tomlin on "Laugh-In" as the irrepressible telephone operator "Ernestine" from "Laugh-in" is shown, and Tomlin discusses Ernestine's immediate popularity. Gilda Radner's characters including "Lisa Loopner" and "Rosanna Danna" are also shown. Carol Burnett shares one of her favorite sketches from "Saturday Night Live" featuring Radner and Steve Martin; Candice Bergen adds, "Gilda was so lovable, so endearing." The next group of funny women all played television wives. Mary Tyler Moore, who played Laura Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show", talks about how her character was conceived to be the "straight man," but she adds, "feeding the straight line is a wonderful thing, but getting a laugh is God's own gift." Clips from "The Honeymooners," "All in the Family," "Malcolm in the Middle," "Home Improvement," "Happy Days," "Maude," "Mad About You," "Roseanne" all display the roller-coaster ride that is marriage. The rise of women in the workplace has also created some of television's funniest moments. Penny Marshall notes that Marlo Thomas in "That Girl" was the first of the working women. Marlo Thomas adds that many people ask her what "That Girl" would be like today, and she replies, "She would be 'Murphy Brown'." Clips from other shows which featured funny working women are shown, including "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Roseanne." Megan Mullally then introduces the theme of motherhood and notes that many hilarious moments on television have come from television moms. Segments shown include "Mama's Family," "Roseanne," and "Malcolm in the Middle." Both Vicki Lawrence and Candice Bergen agree that motherhood is ripe with comedy. Marlo Thomas and Marion Ross talk about the show "Roseanne," noting that never before had a "realistic" mother been portrayed on television. Next, physical comedians such as Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Ellen Degeneres, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are featured. Marshall and Williams discuss their comedic antics on "Laverne and Shirley." Ellen Degeneres admires the fearless physical comedy of Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. Julia Louis-Dreyfus adds that as a comedian you must not worry about looking ugly or foolish, "because a laugh will wait for you on the other side." She goes on to say that the audience identifies and roots for these funny women. Marlo Thomas adds that all of these women tried to express and share a part of themselves with the audience, for she says, "it's very touching to me, that all of these women were quite brave." Megan Mullally thanks everyone for watching and wishes all a good night. Commercials deleted.

Cataloging of this program was made possible by The Marc Haas Foundation, 2002/2003.


  • DATE: April 15, 2003 Tuesday 8:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:05:47
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:76232
  • GENRE: Specials
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Comedy; Women comedians
  • SERIES RUN: NBC - TV, 2003


  • Robert M. Batscha … Executive Producer
  • Eamon Harrington … Executive Producer, Director
  • Diane Lewis … Executive Producer
  • John Watkin … Executive Producer, Producer
  • John C. Fitzgerald … Producer
  • Kate Harrington … Associate Producer
  • Caroline Stack … Associate Producer
  • Sharon Rennert … Production (Misc.), Editor
  • Harry Watson … Production (Misc.), Editor
  • Megan Mullally … Host
  • Gracie Allen
  • Kirstie Alley
  • Bea Arthur
  • Ed Asner
  • Lucille Ball
  • Roseanne Barr
  • Candice Bergen
  • Carol Burnett
  • George Burns
  • Imogene Coca
  • Jane Curtin
  • Ellen DeGeneres
  • Jenna Elfman
  • Calista Flockhart
  • Jackie Gleason
  • Goldie Hawn
  • Helen Hunt
  • Jane Kaczmarek
  • Linda Lavin
  • Vicki Lawrence
  • Shelley Long
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  • Penny Marshall
  • Steve Martin
  • Audrey Meadows
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • Carroll O'Connor
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Rhea Perlman
  • Gilda Radner
  • Phylicia Rashad
  • Joan Rivers
  • Marion Ross
  • Molly Shannon
  • Jean Stapleton
  • Marlo Thomas
  • Lily Tomlin
  • Betty White
  • Cindy Williams
  • Tracey Ullman
  • Dick Van Dyke
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