February 27, 2013

These days, you can’t swing a Fendi or a regular priced purse without hitting someone who wants to talk about the golden age of women in television comedy. And with good reason! Between Tina, Amy, Mindy, and, of course, Lena, there is a huge amount to be excited about. These women are taking leading roles in television like never before, and it’s definitely a big, important cultural moment.

But listen – these ladies aren’t the first! Women have always been funny on television; people just used to pay less attention to them. As such, there’s an entire cadre of unsung female comedy heroines, and they deserve some praise. Here are 5 women from relatively recent days that now seem distant – the 90s and early 2000s – who were regularly absolutely hilarious on TV:

Jennifer Aniston (Rachel)


One of my most steadfast beliefs – along with, you know, everyone be nice to each other and let gay people get married and stuff – is that Friends was a great show. Yes, it was popular and thereby not hip, but it was FUNNY – so, so funny. Now, all six of the friends wereuniquely important in their own individual ways, but I have a favorite: Rachel.

As Rachel, Jennifer Aniston displayed seemingly effortless but always impeccable comic timing. Her delivery was stellar. Remember the time that she got drunk on a “getting over Ross” date, and then borrowed a stranger’s cell phone to leave him a voicemail? Gold.

Unfairly, the world has focused much more on Jennifer’s love life than on her work and her talent, and she’s not often included in the discussion of funny women. I’m here to set the record straight: woman is SMART and FUNNY, and she deserves our respect.

Cynthia Nixon (Miranda)


People have mixed feelings about Sex and the City, now that it’s gone. And yes, it had ups and downs and the movies were an atrocious abomination. But when the dust from the trashy movies and the terrible Samantha plotlines settles, one aspect of the show emerges clean, pure, and true: Miranda.

Miranda was funny in a clear, simple way. She was smart and she didn’t take crap. She owned her home, she trained for a marathon, and, although she was the least conventionally beautiful of the four, she had lots of sex. I love picturing her at brunch, reacting with frank, honest horror when one of the other ladies did something insane – strong but subtle humor. I’ll always love (and in some ways aspire to be? It’s complicated but intense) Miranda.

Christina Applegate (Kelly)


As Kelly Bundy, Christina Applegate was iconic. Kelly was a dumb blonde, but Christina was no fool – she created a hilarious, specific character in the heart of a traditional late 80s/early 90s sitcom.

Of course, Christina went on to prove her comic genius in Anchorman (and, prior to her impending departure, she’s done totally solid work in Up All Night too) – but Kelly is where it all began. This is another very funny woman.

Megan Mullally (Karen)


When Megan Mullally entered a scene in Will and Grace, she elevated the entire show into greatness. With just a single insult, she’d take something sort of boring and make it epic. Were it not for Karen, Will and Grace might never have become the hit that it was. Karen was a unique creation. Karen made QUIPS.

Megan Mullally has continued to be amazing on TV – in Party Down (RIP), and OBVI on Parks and Rec. But my heart lies with the dysfunctional, cloying, magical Karen.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine)


Julia L-D IS part of the current conversation, since she’s killing it on Veep. But what I want to talk about is Elaine. ELAINE.

Sweet lord, Elaine was hilarious. The lone woman in a group of guy friends (were they friends?), she did MUCH more than hold her own – she totally dominated. That dance? The time she ate that ancient cake from Peterman’s office? Every interaction with Puddy? Almost everything Elaine does makes me LOL.

Seinfeld wasn’t originally written to include Elaine (the lady part was going to be a sassy waitress named Claire). I weep to think of the world we’d all live in if we didn’t know her. Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine deserves all of the awards and accolades and plaques and halls of fame. All of them.

Let’s Love some Ladies on Portable.

Leave a Comment