Today in 1949, a first for American network TV: a female comedian did a standup routine on the air.
(And yes, Mrs. Maisel fans, you’ll find some overlap in the story of this real-life comedian.)
She was known as Jean Carroll, born Celine Zeigman in 1911 and nicknamed Sadie as a kid.
Carroll had to grow up in a hurry, partly to get out of a house where there was alcoholism and domestic violence.
By age 12, she had earned essentially a high school education and was working two jobs to support her family.
One of those jobs was onstage: she could dance, sing and serve as the so-called “lemon act,” someone who was bad on purpose to amuse the audience.
Eventually she started touring as part of several duo acts, where she would ad-lib jokes.
In 1943, her husband and onstage partner, Buddy Howe, went into the military, so she started doing a solo act.
It was here that Carroll broke plenty of ground. Not only was she a woman in a field that was almost all men, she also avoided a lot of the standard gimmicks that comics used back then.
She didn’t focus her act on ethnic humor, she didn’t do wacky voices, and her jokes were clean.
Instead, she decided to be herself: she dressed on the glamorous side and made funny observations about everyday life.
In one of her famous routines, “That Dress Is You,” she imitated a pushy saleswoman in a department store, who told the customer that the size of the dress in the window is “your size.”
She also had a famous line about when she first met her husband: “standing up on a hill, his hair blowing in the breeze and he too proud to run and get it.”
Carroll appeared on big national programs like The Ed Sullivan Show and briefly starred in her own sitcom.
And her success paved the way for a whole new generation of funny women on TV – like Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller and Lily Tomlin.
Jean Carroll was sometimes billed as “the nations #1 comedienne” in a male-dominated comedy world, but she definitely didn’t earn that title by default.
Today in 1861 Kansas became the 34th state.
The community of Greensburg, Kansas is home to the world’s largest hand-dug well: 32 feet wide and 109 feet deep, all dug without machinery or power tools.
There’s a museum down there today.
The First Mrs. Maisel (Emmys.com)
Photo by Gus Taf via Flickr/Creative Commons