Three years ago, I wrote a piece about Elayne Boosler, one of the seminal comics of the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, I’ve followed Elayne on YouTube as she has posted clips from some of the many standup specials she did on cable, and I just ordered her new boxed set, “Timeless,” which includes four of those shows plus a CD of all-new material she recorded this year.
Then I woke up this morning to discover that Jason Zinoman has written an appreciation of Elayne for the New York Times, reinforcing her place in the comedy pantheon:
Make no mistake: Ms. Boosler was its first female star, regularly putting out hours of jokes on cable in the 1980s and early ’90s that represented a break from the past. Unlike the acts of Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller, there was not a whiff of the borscht belt or the coffeehouse about her material. Her act — hard-hitting, topical and dense with punch lines — anticipated the future of comedy better than most if not all of her peers.
Decades before Hannah Gadsby argued that self-deprecating bits by comics from marginalized communities amount to humiliation, Ms. Boosler took pride in being a female comic who didn’t make herself the butt of the joke. Much of her act, alternating between scathing political gibes with raunchy takes on the life of a slovenly single woman, would not be out of place in the current material of Amy Schumer, Michelle Wolf or Ali Wong.
Read Zinoman’s full piece here, and be sure to listen to the audio clip from her new album that he has embedded.
But while you’re here, enjoy this clip of Elayne on David Letterman’s old NBC show, where she was the second standup hired to do a spot (Franklin Ajaye was the first). It’s from March 2, 1982, just a month after “Late Night” debuted…