Quirky TV "it" girls like Kat Dennings, Zooey Deschanel, and Lena Dunham may seem like pioneers, outmaneuvering Hollywood's beauty norms, but their offbeat allure is nothing new. There is a long history of charismatic yet odd ladies on TV, such as Lucille Ball, Joan Rivers, Carol Burnett, and Goldie Hawn in "Laugh In," whose quirks captured audiences.
At this year's MTV Movie Awards, Emma Stone (the latest Hollywood quirk queen and recipient of the ceremony's Trailblazer Award) mentioned Gilda Radner as one of her influences. The legendary Radner was an original "Saturday Night Live" cast member in the mid-'70s. She helped open doors for other funny ladies with her classic "SNL" skits, like Rosanne Roseannadanna and her spot-on Barbara Walters spoofs.
Original, Sketch Comedy Crack-Up
Carol Burnett is another queen of comedy. Burnett created, starred in, and hosted a successful, multi-Emmy-award-winning comedy sketch show in 1967, "The Carol Burnett Show." Her variety show was the first fronted by a woman and the pattern from which shows like NBC's "SNL" were cut.
Burnett would open her show with a stand-up skit addressing the live audience and her signature Tarzan call would kick off the festivities. The show's ensemble cast performed original comedy skits and spoofs of films and celebrities.
Now, quirky entertainers like Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, and Dunham carry the torch by writing and producing their own (usually female-centered) TV and film projects. Fey's "Mean Girls" and Wiig's "Bridesmaids" helped further prove that women can be lucrative box office draws. Dunham's indie film "Tiny Furniture" spawned a similarly themed HBO comedy, produced by Judd Apatow, about the awkward growing pains of women in their 20s.
The Moore the Better
Mary Tyler Moore also paved the way for future quirky girls. Her '70s sitcom, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," showcased her individuality as a comedian and an independent woman. Unlike Moore's previous sitcom role as housewife Laura Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," Mary Richards was a career-driven news producer with an upbeat personality and funny foibles, which made her that much more interesting.
Dennings and Deschanel, like Moore, showcase endearing peculiarities that enhance their appeal and apparent beauty.
Late Night Trailblazers
Joan Rivers is an original quirky trailblazer, who started as a stand-up comic and was one of the first female talk show hosts in the late night zone. Today, she remains one of the funniest, most acerbic and original women in show business. Rivers' scathing and side-splitting observations on E!'s "Fashion Police" prove she's still not afraid to speak her mind and challenge industry standards.
Chelsea Handler is also on E! and shares Rivers' flare for speaking her mind. Since the debut of her show "Chelsea Lately" in 2007, Handler is also one of few women to snag a late-night talk show spot. Despite their similarities, Rivers and Handler are not fans of one another.
A Head for Business
Lucille Ball had classic Hollywood beauty and the ultimate quirky girl image that made her timeless sitcom, "I Love Lucy," a runaway hit. The show debuted in 1951 and is still in syndication today. The iconic redhead produced and retained the rights to her sitcom and pioneered the idea of making money off of reruns.
Quirky is certainly making a refreshing resurgence, but shows like Dunham's "Girls," Deschanel's "New Girl," and Dennings' "2 Broke Girls" are all possible due to the TV trailblazers who broke down stereotypes. Their predecessors fought to prove women could be funny, headline shows, successfully produce and write their own material, and be desirable without fitting into prescribed Hollywood beauty standards.
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