As a Jewish woman comedian, Cory Kahaney knows she’s in good company—think Roseanne Barr, Sandra Bernhard, Gilda Radner, Jackie Hoffman, Sarah Silverman. But it was a revelation when, a few years ago, she discovered the work of Jean Carroll, a master of deadpan wisecracks, and Totie Fields, a zaftig entertainer who expertly ridiculed social norms. They were among a handful of feisty Jewish female stand-up comedians who appeared regularly on variety television and radio programs in the 1950s and 60s.
Kahaney has since put together The J.A.P. Show, a stage production featuring stand-up routines from four contemporary Jewish women comics and archival tape of these “Queens of Comedy”—Carroll, Fields, Belle Barth, Betty Walker, and Pearl Williams.
Here, she shares stories of their lives and work, along with some of the best bits from her show.
Left: Totie Fields, as seen as co-host on The Mike Douglas Show in 1967. Shown with Mike Douglas. Right: Jean Carroll, circa 1953.
Photos: Totie Fields, copyright © CBS/Photofest. Jean Carroll, Photofest.