The Book Of Jezebel: R Is For Radner, Gilda


As you may have heard, in just 6 days, we’ll be publishing our first book, a 300-page, hardcover, illustrated encyclopedia called The Book of Jezebel. In honor of this milestone —which took many years and dozens of contributors to execute—we’ll be posting one entry from the book a day, starting with “A” and continuing on through to “Z.” Although the book itself has already been printed — it’s gorgeous — questions, additions, annotations and suggestions on the entries that appear online are welcomed and encouraged.

Radner, Gilda (1946-1989)

Exhibit A in the age-old debate, “Are women funny?” Not only the first woman but the first performer, period, to be cast on Saturday Night Live in 1975. Featured on the National Lampoon Radio Hour, alongside John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray (with whom she had a torrid affaira nd who made her laugh “till I peed in my pants and tears rolled out of my eyes”). Created legendary SNL characters including bushy-haired Roseanne Roseannadanna (catchphrase: “It’s always something—if it ain’t one thing, it’s another”) and hearing-impaired eldercrone Emily Litella. Stunning Baba Wawa impersonator. Struggled with bulimia during her run on the show (as chronicled in her bestselling memoir) and later told a reporter she had “thrown up in every toilet in Rockefeller Center.” Fell into deep love with Gene Wilder when filming Hanky Panky and fulfilled many a woman’s dream of marrying Willy Wonka. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986 and bravely wrote her way through chemotherapy, finding the funny in illness even on the eve of her death. When she died on May 20, 1989, Steve Martin was rehearsing to host SNL and replaced his monologue with a clip of him and Radner dancing goofily all over the set. (We dare you to watch it without tearing up.) Lena Dunham, one of Radner’s many spiritual descendants, has said that if she ever has a “headquarters,” she wants it to be on the downtown New York Street Gilda Radner Way.

(Image via Getty.)

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