A Brief History of Female Best Comedy Album Nominees at the Grammys

Comedy Features The Grammys

UPDATE: Kathy Griffin has finally won the Grammy for Best Comedy Album after six consecutive nominations.

Tonight’s Grammys will have more than a few hotly contested races., but the only category of interest solely to comedy fans is, naturally, Best Comedy Album. This year the nominees include two women. If either of them wins, it will be the first time a woman has won the award since Whoopi Goldberg took it home in 1986. They would be only the third woman ever to win the award in its present-day incarnation. Other than Whoopi, only Lily Tomlin has taken home the prize. She won in 1972.

The two women nominated this year are Kathy Griffin and Tig Notaro. Griffin is nominated for her album Calm Down Gurrrl. This is her sixth consecutive nomination in the category. Though she’s never won a Grammy despite all the recognition, Griffin is a two-time Emmy winner, and in December she entered the Guinness Book of World Records for “Most Comedy Specials by a Comedian” with 20 televised specials. If anyone deserves a “Lifetime Achievement” nudge, it’s her.

This is Notaro’s first nomination. Her album, simply titled Live, is a recording of her now famous performance at Largo last August in which she candidly discussed her breast cancer diagnosis, the death of her month and other recent hardships she endured over a four-month period. The album sold 100,000 downloads in six weeks.

The history of the Best Comedy Album category is an interesting one. From the award’s inception in 1959 to 1967, if was called “Best Comedy Performance” and several times awards were divided into two groups, “spoken” and “musical.” From 1968 to 1991 the award was called “Best Comedy Recording.” It was then changed again to “Best Comedy Album.”

In 1994, the award was limited to only spoken word comedy, and the name of the award was modified to “Grammy Award for Best Spoken Comedy Album” to reflect the distinction. In 2004, the name was solidified, or re-solidified, to “Best Comedy Album.” Musical comedy acts were welcomed back and—interestingly enough—that’s the year Weird Al Yankovic won for his album Poodle Hat. It was the second time he won the award.

I’m not saying Weird Al isn’t funny. The other album he won for was Eat It and you can’t dispute that his famous parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” deserved some kind of recognition based on its popularity alone. But it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that only two women have ever won the award, given the historically male-dominated nature of comedy, but with the ever-present and Griffin and Notaro’s inspirational story in the mix this year, as a comedy fan, I’m looking forward to tonight.

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