Even in the most male-dominated comedy spaces, there are almost always the actresses and comediennes who serve as the "secret ingredient," the stealth scene-stealers among generally male-driven comedic movies and troupes (e.g., the original SCTV and SNL cast rosters). These are women who, though soundly outnumbered by men, manage to equal or even outshine their colleagues during their time on-screen, and prove to actually be covertly essential to the success of the listed movies and television shows, even if they aren't quite as well known as the male leads.
Remember to vote up the women who consistently - and hilariously - stole the spotlight in classic comedies.
- Photo: Young Frankenstein / 20th Century Fox
Madeline Kahn always knew how to extract the most out of her co-starring gigs. That extended to frequent collaborations with director Mel Brooks, in Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, and History of the World: Part I. Kahn was happy to take on outrageous accents and vamp ridiculously, if so required by Brooks.
She was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for taking on a hilarious German accent to portray Lili von Shtupp, a freelance seductress in Blazing Saddles. Kahn had another stellar early turn for Brooks in Young Frankenstein as Elizabeth, the fiancee of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder, a frequent co-star) who soon falls for his creation (Peter Boyle) due to some of his... physical attributes.Scene-stealer?
- Photo: NBC
Gilda Radner joined the ranks of the original Saturday Night Live's standout stars, along with Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and second-season addition Bill Murray. Radner, Jane Curtin, and Laraine Newman were the original female cast members among the show's "not-ready-for-primetime players."
Radner was a scene-stealing standout, playing a variety of wacky recurring characters. She is pictured above portraying the elderly Emily Litella, a hearing-impaired occasional editorial commentator on Weekend Update who kvetches about issues she thinks she heard discussed ("What's all this fuss I keep hearing about violins on television?"). Brash Weekend Update personal advice commentator Roseanne Roseannadanna, imaginative child Judy Miller, and not-quite-Barbara Walters anchor Baba Wawa number among her other memorable roles.Scene-stealer?
Carrie Fisher In 'The Blues Brothers'Photo: 20th Century Fox
Obviously, the two names above the title when it comes to The Blues Brothers are John Belushi (as Jake Blues) and Dan Aykroyd (as Elwood), but the John Landis-helmed classic is nothing if not generous when it comes to letting bit players enjoy some shine. This is true of the many, many excellent musical cameos (the Aretha Franklin performance of "Think" is a particular highlight).
Carrie Fisher gets to take a vacation from galactic adventure to show off her comedic chops playing Jake's jilted fiancee, furious and packing heat (a rocket launcher, an M9A1-7 flamethrower, and an M16 rifle) after he abandoned her at the altar (prior to his imprisonment at the start of the flick). She tracks and tries to kill the brothers four times throughout the film, before finally being duped by Jake with some outrageous explanations. Fisher (who was in reality dating Dan Aykroyd at the time) always remains fully committed to her bit as the homicidal ex-lover, which makes the comedy that much funnier.Scene-stealer?
Carol Cleveland In 'Monty Python'Photo: Monty Python and the Holy Grail / EMI Films
Frequent Monty Python troupe collaborator Carol Cleveland served as a versatile bit player across a variety of roles, first in 30 of the 45 episodes of the club's BBC series Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-1974), and then in all four of their theatrical features, from And Now for Something Completely Different... (1971) - which, despite its title, was mostly a compendium of refilmed sketches from the show - to The Meaning of Life (1983).
Cleveland's turn as Zoot and Dingo, horned-up twin sisters marooned in an isolated castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, while brief, was a typical showstopping role. Cleveland frequently operated as a foil to the Pythons in a variety of sketches. Whether she was the airhead wife in a couple seeking marriage counseling or a vampy seductress of milkmen, she was always putting her unique Carol Cleveland spin on the affair.Scene-stealer?