Friday, September 5, 2008

Birthday Trifecta: Funny Ladies

Today, three women born under a giggling star:

Jane Curtin was Saturday Night Live's first all-purpose woman, more nuanced than Gilda Radner and, unlike Laraine Newman, actually funny. She's always struck me as a lost outpost of classic film comedy - the straight woman who ends up upstaging the more flamboyant, slapstick comics with her deadpan slow burns, exasperated glances, and cutting last words. Happy Birthday, you ignorant slut.

Speaking of flamboyant splapsticks, many happy returns to the divinely over-the-top Jo Anne Worley, television's first female drag queen, the woman who dragged the feather boa kicking and screaming into the sixties. She's still trooping, adapting her trademark laugh and triple- and quadruple-takes to big lady roles in The Drowsy Chaperone and Wicked, the kind of warmly familiar name who sells tickets in replacement casts and on the road.

Finally, a true stage lady who has a warm place in my heart for her work in three of my favorite films: True Stories, Dangerous Liaisons, and The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom. Curtin is a comic Leading Lady, a terrific foil, and Worley an all-out Zany; Kurtz is an Actress Who Can Do Funny, at home in Molière and O'Neill but game for everything from romping with Carol Burnett to high-concept New Television like her current Pushing Daisies (which has yet to show up in these parts but sounds deeply odd).

I'd like to think they are all Christmas-season babies, born of a glass too much Champagne and some mistletoe, coming into the world, as the summer fades away, with the kind of Little Something Extra that inclines us to laugh.

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