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Sunday AM Musings and We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen (2012)

Sunday AM Musings and We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen (2012)

In the last several weeks, I’ve been having a rough time at work.  It’s not caused by anyone or anything in particular. It’s just been extremely busy for several months and I hit exhaustion. I spent plenty of time at work fighting to focus because I was so darn burned out, and it certainly didn’t help matters that I had a ton of things I needed to focus on.  I woke up this morning feeling so much better.  Maybe it was a couple days in the mountains, maybe it was the cumulative effect of spending a lot of the last two weeks not physically in the office, maybe it was because I took Baby Beez to the pool yesterday and we had so much fun, and then I crashed on the couch at 8pm so now I’m feeling extra well rested.  Ironically, now that I’m feeling ready to go back into the office and take names and kick butts, I actually leave for family vacation in about two weeks.   I do need this energy for that lead up time, because I’ve got a lot of big things on my plate that need to be resolved before we set sail, and I’m going to need a lot of focus to get that done.

I really enjoyed this BlogHer post titled “Please Don’t Declare Yourself an Expert on Your Blog.” It argues that “expertise” has been diluted because anyone can declare themselves an expert on the internet, and that there is value in being a student, learning from others thoughts and posts and experiences, instead of dictating what to do.  This perspective rang true with me.  I’m not shy about sharing my experiences or thoughts, but I am careful with disclaimers that what works so well for me may not work for everyone (this is particularly true with parenting issues).  I’ve found that the blogs I enjoy most take a “sharing” approach– here’s what we did and had a lovely time, or here’s what I think, what has been your experience?  There have been blogs that I find extremely off-putting, because the blogger puts herself on a pedestal and declares herself an expert.  I recall a series of posts by one blogger about “How to Have a Perfect Marriage,” and the only thing it inspired me to was some serious face-punching.  It’s a fine balance– no one will acknowledge your expertise unless you claim it, but if you trumpet it too loudly and insist on making every post a “how to” on how you do everything perfectly, well then that’s a recipe for reader hate.

On to the book!

This was my month to pick a book for book club.  I take this honor entirely too seriously, and have been racking my brain about WHAT TO PICK FOR THIS SACRED MONTH OF MY SELECTION!  I read a ton of magazines (seriously, like 10 subscriptions), and read with my phone in hand, so that I can immediately add recommendations from the “books” section into my Goodreads.  I’ve got almost 50 selections on my “To Read” list.  Picking a book to share and discuss with my friends is an opportunity I do not take lightly.

We’ve read a lot of fiction lately, so I opted to mix it up with a little nonfiction, and picked We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy, by Yael Kohen.  The book is structured in documentary style, constructed in snippets of recollections from various key members of the comedy industry– comedians, managers, writers, club owners, etc.

we killedThe book progresses from the emergence of women on the comedic stage in the 1950s all the way through the 2000s, and explores key evolution points in style, trailblazers in content, and the challenges women faced along the way.  I learned about the comedic style of women I’ve heard of, but have not been familiar with.  Thanks to the book, I also learned the vocabulary to identify what kind of comedy I like and don’t like (I’m a huge fan of improv and sketch comedy, not such a fan of observational and most stand-up).  Before this book, I just lumped it all together as comedy, and could not articulate why I thought one comic’s approach was funny but another’s was not.

We Killed is not a book of comedy, it’s a book about comedy, so if you’re looking for lots of laughs, this isn’t quite the right place. But it certainly is fascinating, and gave me a much deeper appreciation for the work of comedy.  I admit, that I’ve fallen into the false assumption that comics just “are” funny, and they get up on stage and show off their stuff.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Comedy takes hard work and practice.  Jokes are written, re-written and re-written.  Delivery is fine-tuned and sometimes overhauled completely, and women have had a unique position in the comedy world, facing frequent hurdles and sometimes even the unfortunate misconception that women just aren’t funny.  This book was awesome and taught me so much, and is an ideal read for anyone with even an inkling of interest in the art of comedy.

To supplement my book club meeting, I put together a YouTube playlist featuring many of the women in the book. Enjoy!

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