I have written before about Elayne Boosler, one of my all-time favorite comedians and a real trailblazer — the first female standup to do contemporary, observational humor that was not as self-deprecating as that of her predecessors (e.g. Joan Rivers, Totie Fields, Phyllis Diller). Unfortunately, breaking the mold didn’t earn her appreciation from those who came before, particularly by the patriarchy of comedy in the 1970s and 1980s, when she was on the rise.
She talks about some of the obstacles she had to overcome on a recent episode of Heather McDonald’s podcast, “Juicy Scoop,” which I just listened to. Over the course of 80 minutes, Elayne is very candid about her career, particularly about how Johnny Carson (and Fred DeCordova and Peter Lasally) refused to put her on “The Tonight Show,” even though male comedians of her era were repeatedly given star-making slots. It was a glass ceiling she was only able to break when Helen Reddy guest-hosted for Carson and invited her on — Elayne did so well Helen took her on the road for months as her opening act.
On the podcast, Elayne also explains in depth how, even when she was selling out clubs across the country and doing two-and-a-half hours on stage each night, HBO and Showtime refused to give her a special, claiming no one wanted to listen to a woman for an hour. She eventually proved them wrong and had a successful career — which she only retired from a couple of months ago — and is still very funny, as you’ll discover when you download that episode.