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Jean Carroll

Comedian
1911 – 2010
Jean Caroll, speaking at the Friar's Club in NYC, November 2006
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Jean Caroll. Testimonial at the Friar's Club in NYC, November 2006.
Photo by Gary Holmes.

Born Celine Zeigman in Paris in January 1911, the woman whom American audiences knew as the stand-up comedian Jean Carroll came to the United States with her family as a baby. She grew up in the Bronx and began her career in her early teens dancing in an amateur show. A talent agent spotted her, and soon she was performing on the vaudeville circuit. A long career in show business followed, decades as a solo nightclub act, regular on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and radio scriptwriter that paved the way for the likes of Phyllis Diller, Lily Tomlin, and Joan Rivers, one of six funny Jewish women featured in the JWA-produced film, Making Trouble.

Jean Carroll Audiocast

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Comedian Cory Kahaney talks about Jean Carroll with Professor Joyce Antler.
Jean Carroll, headshot
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Jean Carroll. Headshot, c.1950.
Digitized by Gary Holmes.

When she died on January 1, 2010, the New York Times wrote that her

ready wit, impeccable timing and unorthodox blend of glamour and humor made her one of the first female stars of mainstream stand-up comedy. . . Ms. Carroll's comic gifts were perhaps nowhere more evident than they were one night in May 1948 at the old Madison Square Garden, when she performed at a benefit for the United Jewish Appeal. Israel had been declared a state that month, and after hearing impassioned speeches and the playing of 'Hatikvah,' most of the audience was in tears. Then came Ms. Carroll's turn.

It was a delicate spot for a comic to be in, as Mr. Howe recounted in interviews afterward. Unfazed, Ms. Carroll leaned into the microphone. "I've always been proud of the Jews, but never so proud as tonight," she said. "Because tonight I wish I had my old nose back."

In this audiocast, comedian Cory Kahaney (who also appears in Making Trouble) talks about Jean Carroll with Brandeis Professor and Jewish Women's Archive Board member Joyce Antler.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "We Remember - Jean Carroll, 1911 - 2010." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/weremember/carroll-jean>.