chapter  7
Margaret Cho and Ellen DeGeneres
Pages 16

AS THE ARC OF WOMEN IN COMEDY EXTENDS ACROSS THE CENTURY, certain developments are notable. The foundation of the arc is strong, thanks to the pioneering work of comedians like Phyllis Diller, Lily Tomlin, and Roseanne. Other women will add to the sweep of this arc, each with her distinctive voice. Many will continue the tradition of women as satirists; others will steer a gentler path. As two of the most prominent comedians of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Margaret Cho and Ellen DeGeneres each define different directions for women’s stand-up. Their career paths, however, are remarkably similar and reflect those of stand-ups, like Jerry Seinfeld, who have reached celebrity status. Both came up through comedy clubs, gained national recognition for excellence in their stand-up acts, and then were asked to join the increasing number of comedians who have starred in television sitcoms.1 Both had their shows cancelled to great personal disappointment. Cho’s show, All American Girl (1994), played for one season; DeGeneres’ show, Ellen (1993-1997), was cancelled after five years amidst a media frenzy when both she and her television character came out as gay. Both women have been in several films and both have written books. Cho’s book, I’m the One That I Want, grew out of her successful concert by the same name and chronicles the devastating personal effects of the cancellation of her television show. My Point… And I Do Have One, DeGeneres’ book, relates her observations of daily life.