Can We Talk?
In her tribute to the late comedian Joan Rivers, Katha Pollitt wrote that “comedy had a big No Girls Allowed sign on the door for most of her career” [“Rivers Gets the Last Laugh,” Sept. 29]. But I remember, as a boy growing up during the late 1930s, ’40s and early ’50s, enjoying the excellent humor of funny ladies of radio, television, movies and live theater: Billie Burke, Eve Arden, Judy Canova, Ethel Waters, Shirley Booth, Kathleen Lockhart, Connie Brooks, Jane Ace of Easy Aces, Ann Sothern in Maisie, Myrtle Vail and Donna Damerel in Myrt & Marge, Cathy Lewis and Marie Wilson on the My Friend Irma show, Gale Storm in My Little Margie and Audrey Totter in Meet Millie.
There were many hilarious co-equal stars of male-female comedy teams: Fanny Brice in Baby Snooks, Marian Jordan of Fibber McGee & Molly fame, Ernestine Wade as Sapphire on Amos ‘n’ Andy, Gracie Allen with George Burns, Mary Livingstone with Jack Benny, Portland Hoffa with Fred Allen and Mary Tyler Moore with Dick Van Dyke. And, of course, there were the true greats: Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, with their incredibly funny sidekicks Vivian Vance and Vicki Lawrence. Joan Rivers, of course, ranks up there with the best of them.
John A. Moore
“Survival of the Sexiest”
Critiques of evolutionary approaches to human behavior often have a stereotyped form of describing a pedigree of error, from the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer, to the sociobiology of E.O. Wilson, to the evolutionary psychology of Leda Cosmides and John Tooby. Mal Ahern and Moira Weigel’s broadside against evolutionary psychology, “Survival of the Sexiest” [Sept. 29], conforms to the genre.
Spencer, we are told, “hailed natural selection as a force driving the improvement of the human species,” but Ahern and Weigel neglect to mention that Spencer was the author of The Inadequacy of “Natural Selection” and a staunch defender of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, in part because the malleability of human behavior was more compatible with his views on social progress.