She was one of the guys on Seinfeld, but she had many memorable moments all her own: dancing spastically, yadda-yadda-ing, hoarding contraceptive sponges, getting dumber while abstaining from sex and being "Queen of the Castle." She was also the first to break the "Seinfeld Curse" with her subsequent hit comedy, The New Adventures of Old Christine.
On her popular E! talk show, Chelsea Lately, Handler says the things most of us think (but aren’t as inclined to utter in public) about the pressing pop-culture issues of the day. There’s not a politically correct bone in her body; watching her is like reading the tabloids with your best friend and a vodka gimlet by your side.
Daytime’s dancing queen (not to mention CoverGirl model and now American Idol judge) strikes a chord with her gentle observational humor. "Sometimes, when I’m trying to get dressed, I find myself just staring at my clothes for an hour," she writes in her bookThe Funny Thing Is. . . . "It is so hard to decide what to wear. And it got me thinking: That’s why prison wouldn’t be so bad."
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This legend was one of the first women to write her own starring roles. She created a sensation with suggestive one-liners like "When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better" and "I used to be Snow White, but I drifted." She knew how to pick her men, too: In her first two major films, She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel, she shared the screen with Cary Grant.
It’s hard today to appreciate how groundbreaking That Girl was when it debuted in 1966. This sitcom was the first to showcase an attractive, single working woman living on her own, and even though Thomas’s Ann Marie met her boyfriend Donald (Ted Bessell) in the very first episode, they never progressed beyond an engagement-because getting married wasn’t the point. The series succeeded for five seasons largely on Thomas’s charm and ability to make living in late-‘60s New York (where even a struggling actress could apparently have a cute apartment and a kicky wardrobe) look dreamy. (Note to Mad Men‘s Peggy Olsen: Your new role model awaits.)
When she won the Oscar for her pivotal portrayal of Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, she was the first black woman to score an acting statuette in 50 years and only the second in history. Goldberg’s prodigious talents have also earned her a Grammy, a Tony and an Emmy.
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Silverman’s mockery of social taboos ("I don’t care if you think I’m a racist," she has joked, "I just want you to think I’m thin") has won her a devoted following. In 2008 she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to surprise the host (her boyfriend at the time) with a music video called "I’m F—-ing Matt Damon." The song, about a secret affair between her and Damon, became a YouTube sensation and won a Creative Arts Emmy. Silverman now has her own show on Comedy Central and just published a memoir, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.
As Edina and Patsy, the Champers-swilling, hardly-working, Lacroix-obsessed publicist and fashion editor in Absolutely Fabulous, they set new standards for vapidity and self-absorption. But man, did they have fun!
We loved her as Rob Petrie’s suburban wife Laura, but this seven-time Emmy winner really came into her own as Mary Richards on Mary Tyler Moore-the news producer with spunk, an unforgettable group of friends and a seemingly endless supply of beaux. For a generation of viewers, she made Saturday an appointment-TV night.
This controversial, tattooed Korean-American standup found short-lived sitcom stardom on 1994’s All-American Girl, the second show in television history to feature an Asian family. After that series collapsed, Cho experienced body-image and substance-abuse problems, chronicled in her one-woman show and subsequent book entitled I’m the One That I Want. She’s currently appearing on the Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva.
Radner was the first and arguably the most talented comic actress to gain fame on Saturday Night Live. Others had more success after the show, or have been greater forces as writers/producers, but none have had Radner’s ability to be inventive, hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes all within the same sketch. "You feel completely in control when you hear a wave of laughter coming back at you that you have caused," she wrote in her autobiography,It’s Always Something.
Eleven years after Mary Tyler Moore ended, another hugely influential sitcom about a happily single woman working in TV news bowed. Candice Bergen’s Murphy Brown suffered no fools and ruffled feathers all the way up to the office of the Vice President, when Dan Quayle made headlines for attacking Murphy’s decision to have a baby on her own as undermining "family values." Bergen won five Emmys in seven years, then withdrew her name for consideration for more honors.
The candy-factory fiasco, the grape-stomping adventure, filming the Vitameatavegamin commercial-the physical comedy in these and so many other I Love Lucy episodes put Ball on par with greats like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Sykes has brought her trademark sass to series including Curb Your Enthusiasm and The New Adventures of Old Christine. "I enjoy playing. . . the wise-crack underling," she has said. "I think anyone who’s in power and someone that you root for, you like them because they have someone close to them who tells them like it is." On the news and political front, she hosts The Wanda Sykes Show on Fox on Saturday nights, and she was the first openly gay person, the first black woman and the first woman in 16 years-all rolled into one!-to host the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2009.
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Long a cult favorite for her work in films such as Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Lynch has come into her own on Glee as Sue Sylvester, the scheming cheerleading coach and queen of the withering remark: "I’m going to ask you to smell your armpits. That’s the smell of failure, and it’s stinking up my office.’‘
When this petite, Emmy-winning redhead is around, no celebrity is safe. Perhaps that’s why the D-List star claims to have been banned at one time or another from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show With David Letterman, Live with Regis and Kelly, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The View.
For 11 years families gathered to watch The Carol Burnett Show, generally acknowledged to be the last successful variety program and the home of much inspired sketch comedy and classic-movie parody. "I don’t know how long we’re going to last, and that’s not even a question in my mind," Burnett recalls telling her show colleagues, in an interview with The New York Times. "We’re just going to go out there, and get in the sandbox, and we’re going to play and have fun." They did, and it showed.
Four words: "One ringy-dingy! Two ring-dingies!" On Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Tomlin performed indelible comic monologues as the snorting telephone operator Ernestine and bratty, chatty five-year-old Edith Ann, among other characters. She later mesmerized Broadway audiences in two one-woman shows.
This brilliant sketch comedian skewered everyone from Laura Bush and Rachel Maddow to Dina Lohan and Renée Zellweger on her Showtime series, Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union. Among the comic inspirations she has cited: Gilda Radner, Carol Burnett and Lily Tomlin.
Early in her standup career she billed herself as a "domestic goddess." When her sitcom Roseanne debuted in 1988, the world got to see what a tongue-in-cheek concept this really was. Her realistic portrayal of a hassled, blue-collar working wife and mother was smart, caustic and hugely popular. Even when the show tackled heavy subjects such as teenage pregnancy and domestic violence, she made us laugh in recognition.
The SNL alum’s spot-on parody of Sarah Palin was very good for her career (and perhaps less so for Palin’s). But Fey didn’t stop there-she’s won multiple Emmys for 30 Rock and proved herself a big-screen draw in Baby Mama and Date Night. "I feel like I represent normalcy in some way," Fey told Vogue. "What are your choices today in entertainment? People either represent youth, power, or sexuality. And then there’s me, carrying normalcy. Me and Rachael Ray."
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