Glenna Schubert
August 06, 2015 7:38 am

Lucille Ball, otherwise known as the first lady of comedy, would have turned 104 today. Though we lost the legend in 1989, her legacy lives on. Ball’s work as the first female TV exec and a pioneering comedian totally paved the way for all the women we bigtime heart today: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, the list goes on. If you have somehow managed to miss the television classic I Love Lucy, get thee to Hulu immediately and binge-watch a ton of episodes. Her brilliant comedic skills provided not only a half hour of lol-ing, but also introduced women and men alike, to the formidable force of a fiery redhead who would not take no for answer. Here are just some of the reasons we’re dedicating this day to the great Lucille Ball.

She was a kickass business woman

Originally a blonde, B-movie actress, Ball showed that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and create your own opportunities. When studio execs told her no one would buy a lovable all-American woman married to Cuban bandleader, she ignored them and took her and partner Desi Arnez’ show on the road (literally) via a Vaudeville routine that would later lay the groundwork for the I Love Lucy pilot. She pioneered the multi-camera, in-front-of-a-live-audience comedy filming style. Alongside her husband, Lucy founded Desilu Studies, which produced I Love Lucy, and went on to bring us shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Untouchables, That Girl, and yes, Star Trek. In 1962, she bought out ex-husband Desi Arnaz to become the first woman head of a major studio.

She showed the world that, yes, women can do it all

Back when the show originally aired in the 1950s, it was unheard of for women to even say they were pregnant, let alone show it. While only referred to onscreen as “expecting,” Lucy’s pregnancy was chronicled in season two, with the birth of Little Ricky happening on the same day as the birth of Ball’s own son, Desi Arnaz, Jr. She was a career mom before that was a popular path, and proved that with hard work, it is possible for women to have it all.

Her facial expressions = comedy gold

She paved the way for other funny ladies

Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler—these women, among countless others, have been inspired by and compared to American’s first leading lady of comedy. In a world where people still ask “can women be funny?” (Seriously, though, is that still a question that needs answering?) Lucy’s work speaks for itself with a resounding “YES!” Lucy understood that she would have to work twice as hard and ignore the naysayers, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing what in the end was a wildly successful career both on and off-screen.

She supported other women in comedy

“Listen, kid, if you ever need me for anything, give me a call,” Ball told fellow comedy goddess Carol Burnett when she was still starting out. And she came through, according to Burnett, time and again.

She was a woman of epic wisdom

Here are just a few of the amazing things Ball said in her lifetime:

“I would rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”

“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

Ball did not let social norms dictate how she pursued her dreams, often fueled more by rejection than success. Today her work, crisp and nuanced as ever, holds up to contemporary sitcoms, proving that quality work stands the test of time. Lucy’s fearlessness has paved the way for women today, and for that she has our eternal love.

(Images via Giphy, Tumblr, I Love Lucy)

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