"I don't get what you see in Gilda Radner," I was surprised to hear my friend say. He was one of my first friends in college, and we had connected because we could both recite classic Saturday Night Live lines by rote. Still, he had his favorites (usually Mike Myers and Dan Ackroyd), I had mine (Gilda Radner and frequent SNL guest Madeline Kahn).
Looking back, I realize I couldn't tell him why I thought she was funny; to me, it was obvious in her overblown characters like Roseann Roseannadanna, Baba Wawa and the hyperactive Brownie Scout. Her enthusiasm, versatility and complete lack of self-consciousness are what caused her to stand out against her other female co-stars, the straight-laced Jane Curtin and perpetually dazed Laraine Newman.
But what I saw in Gilda Radner was the future: Molly Shannon's overly enthusiastic Mary Catherine Gallagher, Tina Fey's farcical interpretation of Sarah Palin, and even Myers' Philip, The Hyper-Hypo kid. And it was my friend's loss that he didn't see it too.
Radner died 22 years ago today, and while many have picked up where she left off, I still haven't seen anyone better. Here are some of here most memorable comedic moments.
Roseanne grosses out Jane for the last time.
The Judy Miller Show Because at some point, every little girl ends up marrying her teddy bear.
Emily Litella The hard-of-hearing librarian disses Jane.
Barbara Walters Interviews Marlene Dietrich Gilda + Madeline = No wrong.
The Way We Were as Lisa Loopner
No one can do simultaneous poignancy and hilarity quite like Gilda.