Host, Dave Schwensen, and his friends Kelly, Tom, and Logan have chosen some of their favorite comedians from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. They take a look at how these comedians got started, their most successful comedy albums, and their lasting influence today!
Jean Carroll entered the scene when women were only a part of the background, the straight man in a comedy duo, or on the Chitlin Circuit. Her elegant looks and casual, conversational comedy sent her straight to the top! Audiences loved her and she did 20 episodes of the Ed Sullivan Show, and was said to be the inspiration behind “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Listen in as Dave, Kelly, and Logan introduce us to Jean Carroll!
Dave Schwensen: Hi. Welcome to what's so funny. I'm your host, Dave Schwensen, and today I'm joined by two good friends. My cohost, Kelly Thewlis.
Kelly Thewlis: Oh, hello.
Dave Schwensen: Hi, Kelly. Welcome back.
Kelly Thewlis: Hi, thank you. Good to be here.
Dave Schwensen: All right. Well, guess what? We get the Logan Rishaw with us today. So the three of us are back together.
Logan Rishaw: Hey, Dave. Hey, Kelly. Good to be back.
Kelly Thewlis: Hey.
Dave Schwensen: All right. So what do you guys been up to? What's going on? Kelly, tell us what you've been doing? I haven't talked to you in a while.
Kelly Thewlis: I know. Well, you know what? I was actually on vacation, so I just got back from that and it was a good family vacation. Not very relaxing, but lots of material to be found.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah, I was going to say in the old days, you'd invite us over for a slideshow, but now we can just check out Facebook or something.
Kelly Thewlis: Yeah. Yeah. Facebook is my slideshow. There will be a link in the comments of this podcast if you guys want to see my vacation photos.
Dave Schwensen: Very good. Logan asked where'd you go? We want to be your nosy. Where were you?
Kelly Thewlis: Oh yeah. Well, we went to the exotic land of Marblehead, Ohio.
Logan Rishaw: Oh, wow, swanky.
Kelly Thewlis: The Great Lakes as they call it, the Great Lake Erie.
Dave Schwensen: The beautiful Lake Erie, sure.
Kelly Thewlis: Yeah. But it was actually a lot of fun. My family, my grandparents used to have a home up there. So we spend a lot of times there as a kid. So now it was fun bringing my own child up there to experience it. She's never seen the big beach or a lake before. So it was a lot of fun like that.
Dave Schwensen: Well, just think he could have taken Logan to meet with you, that way he could have said you had three children with you.
Kelly Thewlis: Well, you guys are always in my heart.
Dave Schwensen: Okay. Enough of that.
Logan Rishaw: We'd rather be on a beach.
Dave Schwensen: I'm tired of this nonsense. Logan, what's happening with you, man?
Logan Rishaw: I'm actually just prepping up for a vacation this week. I'm going to Hocking Hills in Ohio. So I'm going to do some hiking, hang out in a cabin and avoid people for as long as possible.
Dave Schwensen: Wow.
Kelly Thewlis: Nice.
Logan Rishaw: Yeah.
Dave Schwensen: I'm not going anywhere. What the heck?
Logan Rishaw: Do you want to come to Hocking Hills? You like to hike.
Dave Schwensen: Actually, no, I don't.
Logan Rishaw: Well you begrudgingly hike often.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. I like to be close to the water, to be honest with you. All right. Well, it's fun talking to you guys, but I even know what's more fun than that is talking about our special comedian today, Jean Carroll.
Kelly Thewlis: Yes.
Logan Rishaw: Yeah, let's talk about Jean. This is kind of an interesting one, because not a lot of people know about Jean Carroll.
Kelly Thewlis: Which is really a shame. It's such a shame. I'm so excited that we're doing this to bring her some light. She should be known by more people.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. She is kind of like someone, I don't want to say she's been forgotten because she's influenced so many comedians, but she retired from comedy a long time ago and her name is not really ...
Dave Schwensen: It used to be like a household name, Jean Carroll, back in the 30s, the 40s, the 50s, and even into the 60s. Then she dropped out, she stopped, she retired. So a lot of the newer comedy fans don't really know much about Jean Carroll. So we're going to fill them in.
Kelly Thewlis: Yeah. She has come back into some people's field of vision here just because of the show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. A lot of the writers have given credit to her backstory, Jean Carroll's story, as some inspiration for the show. So there's been a little bit more exposure to Jean Carroll in recent years, but really still, unless you're digging up those facts, you don't really know that.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. There's been some tributes to her. I mean, some of the comedians she influenced specially like Lily Tomlin, Joy Behar. Then of course the-
Kelly Thewlis: Phyllis Diller.
Dave Schwensen: The late Phyllis Diller. That was their influence.
Logan Rishaw: Yeah. There's just not that much there because she retired so early like you said. It's kind of before a lot of these things were being recorded. There's clips of her on Ed Sullivan, but she's only got one album and it's a great album.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. Logan, didn't you dig that album up for us?
Logan Rishaw: Yeah. So it was tough for us to find on short notice because there's not a digital presence. You can still definitely buy the album. I ordered a copy. It was $10 with shipping included, so people can find it at least. But it's called Girl in a Hot Steam Bath, came out in 1960.
Logan Rishaw: For us, I had to just start digging online and I found an Indian music streaming service that had it. You couldn't get it on Spotify or Pandora. It was like Ghana, and Indian country-specific music streaming service. So I had to finagle a bunch of things, make it look like my computer was located in India so I could even stream it. Then I was able to get us all copies so we can listen to it on short notice, but you can definitely find an LP of it if you still listen to that kind of stuff like I do.
Kelly Thewlis: That was going to be my question. I was like, when you say you could buy the album, you mean like the album-album, the record album, correct?
Logan Rishaw: I don't even think there were CDs of it, but you can buy the record and I mean it's cheap. It's 10 bucks. You can have it shipped to you, but it's worth it for sure.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. Well, I was surprised when I got that email from you that you had the link and I tuned in and listened. I went, wow. I mean, I thought this would be out of print. I didn't know you can get this anywhere.
Kelly Thewlis: I was trying to figure out how to plug my record player back in. I was like, I don't know.
Dave Schwensen: I'm running around here looking for a stereo needle.
Logan Rishaw: But it's a good album. I think it holds up today.
Kelly Thewlis: It does.
Logan Rishaw: I mean, we talked about Morton Sahl having the first standup album, but she was one of the first people doing standup. Even though the album came out a year after his, she's been kind of doing it for a lot longer than he was, I think.
Dave Schwensen: Well, let's look back at Jean Carroll, because I think this a very interesting story. Again, like a lot of comedy fans, I'd heard of her, I've seen clips of her over the years. I'm not that unfamiliar with her, but I really didn't know her history. Where she came from or how much of an influence she really is, still is. On especially, I hate to say female comedians, male comedians, female comedians, everybody's a comedian.
Dave Schwensen: But you look back at, well again, like when she started, there were no female comedians, standup comedians at that time. Moms Mabley, I'll go with her. I always think she was the earliest, but she was kind of in a whole-
Logan Rishaw: She was kind of in a separate circuit though.
Dave Schwensen: Yes.
Kelly Thewlis: Completely separate.
Dave Schwensen: She was in the children's circuit. It's awful to say, but back in those days was divided, black clubs and white clubs. Moms Mabley and all these great comedians that were African American, they were the black clubs and the white audience did not know them.
Dave Schwensen: So then you had Jean Carroll coming out as the first really female standup comedian. I can't emphasize how important that is, because really back in the, we're talking about 1920s. She was in Vaudeville with a song and dance team. That's how she started performing professionally as an entertainer, was song and dance.
Kelly Thewlis: As a child too. She was very young when she started doing it. She was very successful. By age 12, she was supporting her entire family.
Dave Schwensen: She won a talent contest when she was 11 years old, singing and dancing and an agent saw her and put her in Vaudeville. Put her in with two guys and another girl. There were four kids and they would sing a dance and they made tons of money. She supported her family. There were a couple of brothers and sisters in her family. She was the main support.
Kelly Thewlis: Yeah. It's kind of interesting too, her culture of the time, she's quoted as saying, "Whoever was making the money was the one that had the say in what was happening." So by age 12, she was making the money. She was supporting the family and she said she didn't have a childhood anymore. She was the one brought in-
Logan Rishaw: She was calling the shots.
Kelly Thewlis: Yeah. She was the one brought in if there was an argument, they'd all look to her because she's the one with the money, which is just crazy. I think that really, you kind of see why ... we'll talk about it more later, but why she did end up leaving comedy is because she was just already so young and already considered to be an adult.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. Well, I read something about her too. Even about her childhood. I mean, let's go way back because I know she was born in France and I'll even say the year was 1911. I remember reading this. It was before World War I.
Dave Schwensen: But she moved when she was a baby to the Bronx in New York. Her father was some kind of a, was he a political prisoner or something? That was going on with whatever was going on in Europe. But they came over here. But I guess there was a point when she was a very young girl, her father must been a very violent drunk. He was beating up her mother and she said, "There's no way a man is going to have that much control over me." Because her mother had no place else to go. She had no one to rely on. She had to deal with it.
Dave Schwensen: So I think that was the basis of why she became such a real powerhouse, hard worker. I mean, she got in Vaudeville, she didn't stop. She just worked and worked and worked. She supported the family. I mean they left the father, he was gone, but it was her mother and her siblings. She didn't stop. So yes, she had no childhood.
Logan Rishaw: Her Vaudeville days too, she was kind of working two or three person shows where someone was the straight man. Then she would come in and add a punchline to whatever they were doing. It really wasn't until the late 30s or 40s that she branched off on her own and started doing what we know as standup now.
Kelly Thewlis: That's sort of, I feel like the times though, per se, because you just didn't see these female performers being solo acts, you just didn't see it at that time. So even Vaudeville, if you saw a female performer by herself, she was usually a stripper. She was a dancer, or a stripper, or maybe a singer, but not a comedian. You just didn't see that.
Kelly Thewlis: So you're absolutely right, Logan. Her first act was called, she toured with Marty May and it was Marty May annoyed by Jean Carroll was the name of their act. Which I think is so funny and interesting that they had to have that annoyed by Jean Carroll.
Dave Schwensen: Well, he found her in that song and dance team because she would, I think between the songs, she would stop the band and talk about something that happened that day. Nobody else was doing that. So she'd had a natural sense of humor. She would say, "Wait, wait, before you start that song, let me tell you where I ate lunch today." Or something like that. It would turn out to be very funny.
Dave Schwensen: That's where this Marty May saw her doing that. He said, "Okay, here's my meal ticket here." But they were all comedy teams back then. There were no standalone women stand up comics. It wasn't even accepted really. The audiences did not want to see that.
Logan Rishaw: Even once it started kind of becoming a thing, the female comics at the time, they were frumpy or they had some kind of gimmick that made them just kind of goofy.
Logan Rishaw: She played it so normal. She was elegantly dressed and she didn't put herself down really. So it was a very different style than what was common.
Dave Schwensen: Ditzy. George Burns and Gracie Allen. Okay, perfect. I mean, they were at the top comedy, male, female comedy team at the time and Gracie just played ditzy. That was her role. Then you look at a Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Lucy was, even though she was glamorous in her movie career and everything else, but she had the flaming red hair and she just played, what do you want friend, frenetic or whatever. I don't even know what the word. She was crazy but she was Lucy. That was her whole thing.
Kelly Thewlis: She was shoving herself into everything Ricky was doing. She wasn't the one with any sort of power in that relationship. Whereas Jean's character, I mean, it's not her character, it's her real self, but her stage presence is she's just all the power. She stands there unapologetically herself.
Kelly Thewlis: One of the things I did think was interesting was that, although she does dressed very elegantly, she said her beauty was a distraction. She noticed that. She saw women in the audience felt threatened by her or were commenting on her legs or something like this. So she would make adjustments. She said she would cover as much of her body as she could.
Kelly Thewlis: She wore long dresses and long gloves and did as much as she could to kind of cover up. That way she wasn't, that sort of image of herself, wasn't being a distraction to her actual material, which I found very interesting.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. I mean, you're right about that. They all judged her and seriously a woman walking on stage alone in the 1930s to do stand up comedy was not acceptable. They didn't care for this stuff. Who did she think she was? She was solo for a little while, but then she hooked up with another comedy team. Her future husband, who I think it was Buddy Howe?
Logan Rishaw: Yeah.
Dave Schwensen: So-
Kelly Thewlis: Who really championed for her. I mean, that's a-
Logan Rishaw: Once he saw how funny she was, he thought she should just do it herself.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah, but they did a lot of years the two of them again. I mean he was the straight man and we all know the straight man. Every great comedy team, George Burns was the straight man to Gracie Allen's comedy. Dean Martin was the straight man to Jerry Lewis comedy. Even the Smothers Brothers, Dick Smothers was the straight man to Tommy. But there was always a straight man.
Dave Schwensen: So he was the guy who kind of like held it together. He was the one who had the common sense, or the smart one and she was playing off of him, joking around with him. They were pretty successful. I mean, they were very successful.
Dave Schwensen: But then he got drafted, and we're talking about Buddy Howe, he got drafted in World War II. So he had to leave and she was back to being a solo act. When he came back, he saw her. She was a hit and his attitude was, "I'm just going to bring you down." He was smart enough to know, "I shouldn't be in this act. You're great on your own." So he became her manager
Kelly Thewlis: In his own right, he became a very successful manager. He ended up working for a talent agent out there and represented a lot of people.
Dave Schwensen: International Creative Management, ICM. Anybody in the entertainment industry knows who that is.
Kelly Thewlis: ICM, yeah.
Dave Schwensen: They're ICM. They're huge.
Logan Rishaw: It would have been so easy for him to come back from the war and say, "Okay, let's do our act again." But he was able to step back, get out of the spotlight, and just say, "You need to do this. I'll figure out a different way to be successful."
Dave Schwensen: He really, as a manager, he did a great job because I think it was only within a matter of just a couple of years after World War II ended, she was headlining all the major clubs.
Logan Rishaw: She was doing shows at Madison Square Garden.
Dave Schwensen: Yes. She even came out after, I think one year, I think it was after 1948 or something, she said she could play anywhere she wants and she can name her price, and they'll give it to her. Just can't emphasize how big she was as an entertainer, the late 40s going into the 50s.
Logan Rishaw: Part of that was television too because she was huge on Ed Sullivan Show. She had an exclusive contract and she was getting $10,000 in appearance to go on his Sunday night shows.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. Let's put this into perspective because I can't help myself. You know me, I've written a couple of books on the Beatles and I do kind of talk about music and comedy at the same time.
Logan Rishaw: Oh, do they have a connection to Ed Sullivan?
Dave Schwensen: Oh, let me tell you the connection. Jean Carroll, she signed a contract with Ed Sullivan. This is in the 1950s, early 1950s. Every time she appeared on the show, she got $10,000. I mean that was big money back in the 50s. Put it in perspective, when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in the 1964, when they blew up, they got $10,000 for three appearances. He only gave him 3500 or something for each appearance.
Logan Rishaw: Did they have to split it too?
Dave Schwensen: Yeah, they had to split it. That was the total pay.
Logan Rishaw: That's why you got to be a solo act.
Dave Schwensen: Yes. So here, they did three shows. They got 10,000 bucks. Jean Carroll would do one show, she got $10,000.
Logan Rishaw: She did about 20 shows.
Dave Schwensen: Yes. Yeah. But she kind of got upset with Ed Sullivan. I think there was a problem there because she, in an interview I read with her, Ed would do things. He felt he had her under control because he was giving her that much money. She had an exclusive contract. So he felt he had really too much control. This was a live television show on Sunday nights, they go out live.
Dave Schwensen: Right before she would go on stage, he'd come over, maybe whisper in her ear and say, "Can you cut four minutes out of your act?" She's like, "What?" Or he'd say, "Can you cut three minutes tonight?" Just before she's going on stage. I mean, think about that as a comedian or as any entertainer, you got your act, you're ready to go, it's a national audience, millions of people across the country are watching and Ed Sullivan says, "Cut four minutes out of your act."
Logan Rishaw: I can't even imagine how nerve wracking that would be because you don't want to embarrass yourself. Even though every time you're on there, it's a lot of viewers, it could be their first time seeing you, even if it's your 10th time on the show.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. So I think there was a little bit of animosity there. When that contract ended, even though she continued to appear on the Ed Sullivan show, I've seen clips of her in the 1960s.
Dave Schwensen: Going back to being the only female stand up comedian, they compared her a lot to Milton Berle and Bob Hope. I think she got tired of that. She's a female-
Logan Rishaw: We should definitely talk about her style a little bit. Because it's so conversational and casual. At first, I guess she was criticized as seeming too intimate. It was almost like off-putting to audiences early on.
Kelly Thewlis: Which again, I think was probably more of the fact that she was a woman.
Logan Rishaw: Probably, yeah.
Kelly Thewlis: I think that really had a lot to do with it because I mean, we saw that sort of style happen with other comedians of that time, but it was her that they said that sort of natural conversation was just not acceptable. I think there was just a lot of people looking for ways to put her down because she was a woman.
Logan Rishaw: Oh, definitely. She was kind of getting criticized from men and women.
Kelly Thewlis: Oh yeah. All over. She really had to defend her right to be on stage and she did it. It's really interesting too, because a lot of the comedians that we sort of review, we did an episode on Red Fox recently. Where he was like, "I'm going to be a star no matter what. It doesn't matter what comes in my way." She's like, "I don't care if I'm a star."
Kelly Thewlis: She really had no cares whatsoever of fame and fortune, but she just did it because she enjoyed it and she was good at it. So she was like, "I'm just Jean Carroll. I'm not playing a character." She got accused of stealing jokes a lot, stealing material. She was like, "Nope, I write all my own material." In fact, they say a lot of people actually probably stole their acts from her.
Dave Schwensen: Going back also to her material and what she was doing. Think back to those times in the 1930s, when she was doing this, it was Vaudeville. These were all men stand up comedians and they were all stealing each other's jokes. They all had the same act because there was no television. So you could see a comic-
Kelly Thewlis: You wouldn't get taught.
Dave Schwensen: You wouldn't get caught. You could see a comic in Cleveland one night and Detroit, the same night, doing the same act. They all had the same jokes and what they did. So when she came along, she wrote her own material, which there used to be gag writers. Everybody hired a writer and gags, they got to buy jokes, buy jokes. She started writing her own material, but it was based on her life as a woman.
Dave Schwensen: Things that interest her. I mean, at that time too, it was family, it was shopping. The comics back then were making jokes of "Take my wife, please." Well, she talked about her husband and they couldn't steal that and it really just set her apart. It was a whole different ball game.
Logan Rishaw: Then after she had a kid, there were people at the shows, women at the shows were asking like, "Well, what's your baby doing if you're on stage? Who's taking care of your kid?"
Kelly Thewlis: Which sadly is still a thing as a female comedian with a child. You get that question of like, "Well, who's watching your kid?" Well, her father is, so *BEEP* off. Sorry. You can that out, Sarah.
Dave Schwensen: I thought this was a family show.
Kelly Thewlis: Cut that out, Sarah.
Dave Schwensen: Wow.
Kelly Thewlis: But no, I mean-
Dave Schwensen: We dug into something personal here now.
Logan Rishaw: Yeah.
Dave Schwensen: Kelly, who's watching your child now?
Kelly Thewlis: I know. But really we do, we still get that. Even the comments about dress. I remember just a couple seasons ago on Last Comic Standing, there was Aida Rodriguez, the critique was, "Well, you're too pretty to be on stage." It was like, how is that critique? So we still unfortunately see these sexism things going on today, which is part of the reason why I'm so excited we are doing this episode.
Dave Schwensen: I agree all the way with what you say.
Logan Rishaw: Yeah.
Dave Schwensen: I mean, I honestly do. I mean, my gosh, you think we've evolved since the 1930s to accept everyone's personal life, what they do when they go on stage, and they talk about it. So you're a mother and you're on stage, you're only performing an hour every night, Hey, you got 23 hours a day with your kid.
Logan Rishaw: But what I will say is what I really like about standup is getting different people's perspectives on the world. You can't have that if it's all men and that's kind of what Vaudeville was. You had a lot of take my wife jokes, but it's interesting to hear someone from the 40s and 50s having that perspective of, here's why my husband's a dope.
Dave Schwensen: Again, the thing is too that she came out as herself. She didn't try to goofy herself up, look funny like Phyllis Diller with the fright wig and the big earrings. Lucy with the teeth blacked out and all that kind of stuff, like they did all that.
Dave Schwensen: I mean, she came out like she was going to an evening affair, a black tie affair with her formal gloves up to her elbows and her elegant dress and her hair and everything. They weren't used to seeing someone like that on stage and then doing comedy.
Kelly Thewlis: Talk about something that is still relevant, her material, that we kind of touched upon this before, that album Girl in a Hot Steam Bath, a lot of those jokes, yes, there are some timely things. It starts out with a joke about her wanting to buy a mink coat, but if you replaced mink coat with an iPhone or whatever, it's still really plays well.
Dave Schwensen: It so does.
Kelly Thewlis: A lot of her material is like that. It's minor tweaks to update it, but for the most part, it's still very much relevant.
Logan Rishaw: The jokes are all certainly still there, there's nothing that's being missed in translation.
Dave Schwensen: She's very New York when I listen to her. I mean, I think she grew up in the Bronx, but she has that real New York accent. When she talks about people, I mean again, but the bit about buying the mink coat, you know she's dealing with a guy from the mob or somebody, somebody's connected. "Okay. Don't you worry about."
Dave Schwensen: When she goes into buy a dress, "Oh, don't worry, honey, that's your size." She imitates those people with the real New York, kind of Bronx, the kind of people you would meet in that situation.
Logan Rishaw: I love that character too. That was a fun character to just listen to her do.
Kelly Thewlis: Oh yeah.
Dave Schwensen: Oh yeah. It still holds up. I mean, I'll tell you guys, I lived in Manhattan, in New York City for a lot of years. I went down a couple places to buy a few things and you've met some of those people and you were almost afraid not to buy it. Okay, I'll take it. But I bought a suit one time from a guy, it must have fallen off a truck or something down in Mulberry Street. I'm like, "Yeah, I guess I'll take it. Doesn't fit, but doesn't matter. I guess I'll take it."
Logan Rishaw: Just buying suits off Red Fox.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah, exactly. That's what it was.
Logan Rishaw: I was really impressed by the album. I mean, even that first bit about the mink coat, that's a 12 minute story, and that's a big way to open your album is one 12 minute story and it kills. It's so funny.
Dave Schwensen: The thing is too about her writing. It is a lot of jokes in there. I mean, she's doing monologues, she's telling you a story, but there are jokes within the story.
Dave Schwensen: I don't know if non comedians would understand that. I mean, there's some comics who are great storytellers and you laugh because there's so many colors and descriptions and things like that in the story. Then there are other comics were are more joke tellers. She seems to combine that.
Logan Rishaw: Yeah. I mean, if you took just the one-liners, you would still have nine minutes of one liners in there. There's three minutes of actual story just peppered with jokes everywhere.
Dave Schwensen: Her stage experience, again, you have to learn this stuff on you stage. You can't sit in your living room and practice to be a comedian. You have to be out in front of an audience and hear what works. So when you watch her, if a joke is working and the audience is laughing, I can't explain it.
Dave Schwensen: She goes, "And as I was saying ..." And all of a sudden she'll stop and the audience is laughing. Then she'll say another joke, "But you know what I mean?" Then she'll stop and they'll keep laughing. It's like she wants to-
Logan Rishaw: Yeah, she adjusts her pacing a lot.
Dave Schwensen: Yes.
Logan Rishaw: It's amazing.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. You really watch her do that. It's experience. I mean, years and years of experience. She's good.
Kelly Thewlis: You can tell so much of this is just her, living her life, finding the funny in her own life experience, because she laughs at her own jokes. You can tell she's just up there on stage, just enjoying herself.
Kelly Thewlis: I mean, it's a shame that there's no video of this album out anywhere because I'm sure it was just ... I mean, there are clips of her that you can watch that are just so much fun. But I really would have loved to have seen this whole album live, because she just seems like she's having so much fun.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. I think now that, Kelly, you just reminded me. I think I read somewhere on her once that she stopped performing, again, to be a wife and a mother. But also I think she stopped laughing at her own material. I think she said that in an interview. She finally was done.
Logan Rishaw: She would have a hard time going through with shows when she was dealing with things at home. Her daughter had medical problems, and so did her mom and sister. Some nights she'd have to go perform and do her act, but she just wasn't happy while doing it.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah.
Logan Rishaw: That can be really tough.
Dave Schwensen: If you watch her, when she's really cooking, really great, like on the ed Sullivan show, these clips are on YouTube or some of these others. When she's happy, she's laughing at herself. She is having a good time. You can tell.
Dave Schwensen: I assume then there were times that it was just too hard for her to go on stage. Then she had some health problems too. I heard she had a heart attack or something. She had a heart condition.
Kelly Thewlis: She had a heart condition her entire life. But in 1969 she had a heart attack and that was it. That was her excuse to, I didn't really want to say excuse, because it sounds like she was looking for one. But she kind of was, and that was it. That was her out of show business. She said, "I had a heart attack now I'm done."
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. That was it. She lived a long life after that. I mean she retired what, 1968, 1969. She didn't pass away until 2010. It was just a few days before she turned 99 years old.
Logan Rishaw: She never went back to comedy, which I thought was interesting. Because she had offers every now and then.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah.
Logan Rishaw: Lilly Tomlin I think offered to have her guest host the Tonight Show with her and she turned it down.
Kelly Thewlis: Her own husband, they said that was still, her retirement was like the biggest fight in their relationship. He would still bring it up. Of like, "You got to get back out there." Because he just really believed in her and enjoyed her talent. But she was done, which I respect that too. I really do.
Kelly Thewlis: She said she could have been the next, I Love Lucy. She had two sitcoms. Well, no, she only had one. Sorry, she had one, it was 1953. It was called Take it From Me. But they kind of like also was called AKA The Jean Carroll Show. But that was a time where you could just switch the titles whenever and no one noticed. But it was her own sitcom show, but she only did it for what, 12 episodes or something.
Dave Schwensen: 12 episodes. 1953 into January, 1954. She was primed to be the next Lucille Ball. Or I don't know, what years Lucy was on. I think Lucy was on at that time too.
Kelly Thewlis: I think it was around the same time. Yeah.
Dave Schwensen: Okay. Yeah. But her show was different that she would open up, and I read this too and you can find television history. I love finding that kind of stuff. She would open up each show with a monologue.
Logan Rishaw: Yeah, she would break the fourth wall.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. She would break the fourth wall. Then I think even after some of the scenes, she would turn to the camera and do a bit of a monologue about of what people saw. But from what I understand, they said that because she was so into, they didn't know if it was Brooklyn or the Bronx where this sitcom is supposed to take place. They thought people in the Midwest couldn't relate to it. They were having a hard time.
Dave Schwensen: But also I read, this is interesting, and I don't know the actor's name, but whoever they cast to play her husband on the show, I think she did not like this guy.
Kelly Thewlis: Yeah, I heard that too.
Dave Schwensen: Yeah. She said he was miscast. They should have got someone else. I don't think she liked him. I don't think they got along. I don't know that for sure. But that's why she pulled the plug, said she wasn't happy.
Dave Schwensen: It was her show and she wanted him out and someone else in and the network says, "No, you can't do that. That's who we cast. He's going to be your husband. You don't call the shots." She goes, "Yeah, you think so? It's my show. Guess what? We just pulled the plug on it."
Logan Rishaw: It's a shame you can't really find that stuff. But it's really fortunate that there is at least one album of hers and it's fantastic.
Dave Schwensen: And you found it, Logan, and we thank you.
Kelly Thewlis: All you have to do is change your computer to say you're from India and you can have it too.
Logan Rishaw: Or you can buy it, get a record player.
Kelly Thewlis: Get a record player.
Logan Rishaw: Listen to it. It's definitely worth the investment.
Dave Schwensen: Well, while you guys are changing your computer formats to India, I'm going to say this has been a lot of fun talking with both of you, Kelly and Logan. I had a blast because I'm telling you, Jean Carroll is really a legend of comedy, so special.
Dave Schwensen: I'm so glad we had this opportunity to talk about her. Because like we said in the beginning, I don't know how many people really know of her. All the people she influenced.
Logan Rishaw: Yeah, I had a lot of fun. I'm glad we got the name out there so people can actually look into her. Because she gets overlooked a lot and she shouldn't because she's one of the first and one of the best.
Kelly Thewlis: If anyone out there listening to this finds anything that we haven't talked about today, leave it in the comments of the podcast so we can discover it too, because I would love to see more Jean Carroll material.
Logan Rishaw: Absolutely.
Kelly Thewlis: So if any other comedian detectives out there know where we can find the stuff, please put it in the comments of the podcast and share with everyone.
Dave Schwensen: Also, if you do any babysitting when Kelly's onstage.
Kelly Thewlis: Please.
Dave Schwensen: Had to throw it in. All right, on that note, I'm going to sign off. I'm going to thank you guys for another fun time. I enjoyed this a lot. So Kelly Thewlis, it was good talking with you.
Kelly Thewlis: Oh, it was so good to talk with you too.
Dave Schwensen: We'll talk with you again soon. Logan Rishaw.
Logan Rishaw: Thanks again, Dave, it's always a blast.
Dave Schwensen: All right, man. I had a good time. All right. That's it. I'm Dave Schwensen. You're listening to What's So Funny. Until next time, keep laughing.
Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to What's So Funny. That's all we have for you, for now. Be sure to check back in for the next season of Comedy Classics. Special thanks to executive producers, Joan Andrews and Michael DeAloia. Producer, Sarah Willgrube and audio engineer, Eric Koltnow.