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Comedy

Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham became the first woman to win a Director’s Guild Award for Outstanding Director for a Comedy Series for her HBO series Girls, for which she writes, directs, produces and plays the lead character.

Joan Rivers and Jewish Comedy: A Remembrance

“I am not the ideal Jewish woman,” Joan Rivers admits in a comedy act filmed in the Jewish Women’s Archive film, Making Trouble. “I love to take [my audience] to the edge,” she says.  “I love to get them upset . . . And ruin their value system.” Known for her aggressiveness and her “unkosher” bawdy style, in critic Sarah Cohen’s words, Rivers (nee Joan Molinsky), Phi Beta Kappa Barnard graduate and daughter of a Brooklyn Jewish doctor, performed for over forty years. 

Anna Held

A scandalous figure who regularly changed details of her life to suit her image, actress Anna Held was best known for her relationship with Florenz Ziegfeld.

Nan Halperin

Nan Halpern became famous on the vaudeville stage not just for her comic performances but for the rapid costume changes that earned her the nickname “The Wonder Girl.”

Jennie Goldstein

Jennie Goldstein won the hearts of her audiences playing tragic roles in Yiddish melodramas, but when tastes changed, she showed her versatility by playing comic roles with equal skill.

Selma Diamond

Long before her final role as the grouchy bailiff on Night Court, Selma Diamond earned a reputation behind the scenes as a brilliant, salty comedy writer for some of the best shows on radio and television.

Joan Blondell

Known for playing character roles as a wisecracking, working-class girl, Joan Blondell performed in movies, television, and on stage from age one until her death.

Nora Bayes

A talented and popular vaudeville star, Nora Bayes became an example of the limits of women’s power and independence in the early twentieth century when her attempts to command respect from producers backfired.

Belle Barth

A bawdy comedian who inspired Bette Midler, Belle Barthe narrowly avoided trouble with the law by delivering some of her most wicked punch lines in Yiddish.

Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur made a career of playing formidable, opinionated women in movies and on television.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Comedy." (Viewed on October 21, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/comedy>.

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