Gilda Radner

Gilda Radner


6/28/1946, Detroit, Michigan, USA



Birth Name

Gilda Susan Radner


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America's Sweetheart," that's how one publication described Gilda Radner at the peak of her career on the comedy series, Saturday Night Live, a title few performers, comic or otherwise, have so aptly been worthy of. Gilda, an American comedienne and actress, born in 1946 in Detroit, Michigan to…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • When actress Emma Stone was asked about her comedy influences in a December 2010 Girlfriend magazine interview, she replied, "Gilda Radner is the whole reason I wanted to do what I do. My mom is such an enormous Gilda Radner and Saturday Night Live fan. She showed me Gilda at at a very young age and, ever since, it's been Gilda."

    • After Gilda's death her husband Gene Wilder testified before a Congressional committee that Radner's condition had been misdiagnosed and that if doctors had inquired more deeply into her family background they would have learned that her grandmother, aunt and cousin had all died of ovarian cancer, and therefore they might have attacked the disease earlier. At that same hearing, Wilder said, "If I need to cry or think a little bit, I'll go over to the cemetery where she is buried to make sure the tree our friends planted is doing well and the grounds are kept up. I think one of the things that would make Gilda happiest is if Sparkle, her Yorkshire terrier, pee-peed right on top of her grave. One for Mama. She'd laugh.'

    • After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Gilda poured her heart and creativity into her journal. She wrote about her new acting role, that of Invisible Cancer Woman starring in The Adventures of the Independent Baldheaded Chemo Patient, and mentioned how she wanted to establish a free cancer support community in New York when she felt better. Gilda's journal entries later became the book It's Always Something, a New York Times bestseller.

    • As children, Gilda's older brother, Michael, once described her as "a little ham."

    • Gilda distinguished herself as one of Saturday Night Live's most versatile performers, portraying such characters as hard-of-hearing media critic Emily Litella ("Never mind"), nerdish Lisa Loopner ("Oh, that's so funny I forgot to laugh"), frizzy-haired TV news reporter Roseanne Roseannadanna ("It just goes to show ya! It's always somethin'!"), and the inimitable Baba Wawa, a spoof of journalist Barbara Walters.

    • Gilda was offered the part of Laverne and Shirley's Shirley Feeney by Penny Marshall, but out of loyalty to Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, she chose to honor her contract with SNL.

    • Gilda became fellow cast member Jane Curtin and producer Lorne Michaels' go-between when differences caused them to stop speaking to one another in the second season of Saturday Night Live.

    • Gilda played Mike Myer's mother in a television commercial for British Columbia Hydro when he was just ten years old. Over the course of the four-day shoot, Myers developed a major crush on Radner and cried on the last day of production when they "went their separate ways."

    • Gilda wrote the song, "Goodbye, Saccharin" (which she performed as character Rhonda Weiss in a sketch for the NBC television comedy series, Saturday Night Live) in utter panic when it looked like the sugar substitute was going to be taken off the market. Recording artist Linda Ronstadt heard about the song and volunteered to sing backup, because the subject was so dear to her heart.

    • Gilda was a self-described starer. So much so, that while waiting to audition for a part in the film, Girl Friends, she stared so long at a large-breasted woman wearing an overly-coordinated outfit, that she missed her preparation time to read, and could only murmur her lines when her audition came up.

    • Gilda's favorite dish was Lemon Chicken, except for tuna fish.

    • Gilda's exercise routine, implemented during her years on the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live, to help maintain her low weight consisted of jumping jacks and pretend rope jumping. She felt that if she used a rope and missed, it would affect the flow. Gilda also supplemented the routine by dancing to records.

    • Gilda's favorite guest host, while a cast member on the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live, was political activist, Ralph Nader, because he never tried to upstage the regular performers.

    • Gilda's favorite magazine was Cosmopolitan, or Cosmo, as she referred to it.

    • Gilda, as a cast member of the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live, would sleep with a telephone in her bed so she could be ready when a writer would call in the middle of the night to tell her about lines that had been figured out for her.

    • Gilda and John Belushi became the NBC comedy series Saturday Night Live's best know regulars with the departure of fellow cast member, Chevy Chase, in 1976.

    • Gilda was mistakenly referred to as Gilda "Radne" (Radnay) during her screen test for the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live.

    • Gilda put her character from the television comedy series, Saturday Night Live, Baba Wawa's voice and mannerisms together, not by studying news correspondent Barbara Walters, directly, but by asking people "What does she do?"–- focusing on the things that stand out about her for other people.

    • Gilda worked as a junior counselor at her beloved summer camp, Camp Tamakwa (Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada) at age sixteen. Chevy Chase, fellow cast member of the television comedy series, Saturday Night Live, is also an alumnus of Camp Tamakwa.

    • Gilda and fellow Saturday Night Live cast member, Laraine Newman, spent an hour and a half taking turns making a pedal-controlled, lidded garbage can "talk" like a puppet when they were locked and forgotten in a closet during the production of a special Saturday Night Live episode in New Orleans, Louisiana.

    • Gilda broke a rib during the dress rehearsal of "The Judy Miller Show," a Saturday Night Live sketch about a little girl who stays in her bedroom doing shows and commercials, puts on costumes and has imaginary adventures. The character required her to run into a closed closet door several times, causing the injury. Gilda had the rib taped and performed that evening.

    • Gilda was proud to say she met her favorite comedienne, Lucille Ball, once.

    • Gilda had a reputation for bringing in homemade cookies to the Saturday Night Live studio.

    • Gilda sometimes took on the persona of her abrasive Saturday Night Live character, Roseanne Roseannadanna, to cope while living in New York.

    • Gilda was a tremendous dancer. She and Saturday Night Live writer (1975-1979), Marilyn Miller took private tap lessons to relax during the production of Saturday Night Live.

    • Gilda actually thought she was Lucille Ball when she did the I Love Lucy sketch opposite Desi Arnaz on the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live.

    • Gilda repeatedly listened to the soundtrack from the film, Out of Africa, to help her relax when she experienced sleep difficulties during her course of chemotherapy to treat her ovarian cancer.

    • Gilda's favorite childhood television show was Milky's Movie Party, starring Milky the Clown.

    • Gilda loved literature and poetry; Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson were among her favorites.

    • Gilda and the other cast members of Saturday Night Live got what she referred to as "Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland deals" their first season of the TV comedy series. They were paid $750 a show the first year, with gradual raises to $900 by the second.

    • Gilda started smoking at age fourteen.

    • Gilda was required to wear a wedding gown almost every day for two months while filming the movie, Haunted Honeymoon.

    • Gilda began her broadcasting career as a weather girl for college radio station, WCBN, while enrolled at the University of Michigan.

    • Gilda is buried at Long Ridge Union Cemetery in Stamford, Connecticut where she and husband, Gene Wilder, had a home.

    • Gilda once came to the NBC Saturday Night Live (comedy series) studio in her pajamas to write comedy material in the middle of the night.

    • Gilda was romantically involved with comedic actor, Dan Aykroyd, during their early days as members of Second City, an improvisational comedy troupe based in Toronto, Canada.

    • Gilda registered under the name Lily Herman when she was admitted to the hospital for diagnostic tests and subsequent surgery and cancer treatment to protect her identity: Lily for the name she had always wanted to name her first daughter, and her father's name, Herman.

    • Gilda is remembered after her death in Bunny Bunny - Gilda Radner: A Sort of Love Story written by her close friend and original Saturday Night Live writer, Alan Zweibel, published in 1994. The author used recreated dialogues between Gilda and himself to pay homage to the woman he worked with for over fourteen years and the friendship they forged. Proceeds from the book go to Gilda's Club, a nation-wide support community for cancer patients and their families established after Gilda's death. The memoir became an Off-Broadway play, and is being developed for a feature film for HBO Films. Gilda was godmother to Zweibel's three children.

    • Gilda's likeness was immortalized as a paper doll by Anne Beattes for Above Average Products in 1979. Avon Books published The Gilda Paper Doll Cut-Out Book the same year, featuring a cardboard Gilda of the late 1970's Saturday Night Live NBC comedy series, along with nineteen cut-out ensembles and wigs, enabling her to be dressed as a variety of her Saturday Night Live characters. The booklet also included a collection of funny quotes taken from the characters.

    • Gilda, along with several other original cast members of the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live, was interviewed by Playboy magazine in May 1977 and featured in its cover article titled, "Live from Playboy! The Saturday Night Gang Interviewed."

    • Gilda was photographed by renowned photographer, Francesco Scavullo, for the November 2, 1978 cover of Rolling Stone.

    • Gilda was one of the hosts of 1979's Music for UNICEF Concert: A Gift of Song, a benefit concert of popular music held in the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on January 9. Her contribution helped raise money for world hunger programs and marked the beginning of the International Year of the Child.

    • Gilda's family held a small, private funeral for her on May 24, 1989. It was a rainy day. In lieu of flowers, they requested donations be made to The Wellness Community, a cancer support system Gilda enlisted while battling her illness.

    • Gilda was honored by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, after her death, when she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 27, 2003.

    • Gilda was on the cover of the March 1, 1988 issue of Life Magazine which featured an article with her answer to cancer: healing the body with mind and heart.

    • Gilda had a childhood superstition she carried over into adulthood: on the first day of every month, the first words she would say when she woke up were 'Bunny Bunny' to make sure it was going to be a good month and to keep her safe from anything bad happening.

    • Gilda and husband, Gene Wilder's, first Christmas card together was a photograph of them at home in Los Angeles, California, in their four-poster bed.

    • Gilda had her Saturday Night Live (NBC comedy series) character, Roseanne Roseannadanna, talk about pubic hair on the soap in the bathroom, a sketch idea inspired by a true-to-life experience she had while staying at a Dutch youth hostel when she was eighteen.

    • Gilda performed as 18 different characters and impersonated 18 different celebrities during her five seasons on the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live.

    • Gilda earned sixty dollars a week pantomiming for children in Toronto, Ontario elementary schools in the early 1970s.

    • Gilda won a Grammy after her death for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording in 1990.

    • Gilda was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1992 for her achievements in arts & entertainment.

    • Gilda fulfilled her lifelong dream of performing on Broadway with her 1979 one-woman show, Gilda Radner: Live From New York. Musician, Paul Shaffer, and comedian Don Novello, as character Father Guido Sarducci, were featured. A film version and album of the Broadway performance were produced the following year under the title Gilda Live, but both proved to be unsuccessful.

    • Gilda was portrayed by actress Jami Gertz in Gilda Radner: It's Always Something, a 2002 made-for-TV movie based on Gilda's autobiographical book of the same title.

    • Gilda was offered her own prime time variety show in 1979 by NBC President Fred Silverman, but she turned down the offer.

    • Gilda dated Bill Murray in the 1970s, but their relationship ended badly.

    • Gilda, tired from the grueling schedule, left the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live, after her fifth season (1979-1980) to pursue Broadway.

    • Gilda, when working as a cast member on the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live, would Xerox a supply of giveaway photos of herself when the studio didn't provide her with enough to pass out and sign. She never turned a fan away, even when approached while dining, shopping, or even in the bathroom stalls.

    • Gilda underwent 9 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 radiation treatments during her battle with cancer.

    • Gilda was the first cast member to be hired for the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live, and did so without an audition.

    • Gilda, after being diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer, underwent a total hysterectomy, at which time, a grapefruit-size tumor was surgically removed.

    • Gilda tried fertility treatments in the mid 80s that resulted in two miscarriages.

    • Gilda was overweight as a child and struggled with body image issues her entire life.

    • Gilda's passing prompted husband, Gene Wilder, and her former psychotherapist, Joanna Bull, to open Gilda's Club, a free of charge and non-profit support community where the focus is on living with cancer, enabling men, women and children with cancer and their family members and friends to plan and build life-changing emotional and social support. The first Gilda's Club opened its signature red door in New York City in 1995. Since its inception, the Gilda's Club network has expanded to include 20,000 members in 17 cities in the U.S. and Canada. There are 11 more clubs in development–- the Gilda's Club Madison Wisconsin, Inc. is the newest of this network.

    • Gilda appeared in an off-Broadway production of The National Lampoon Show, a satirical revue in 1975.

    • Gilda was awarded an Emmy in 1978 for Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Varity or Music for her work on the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live. Also in contention was fellow Saturday Night Live cast member, Jane Curtin. To this day, Gilda is the only female cast member to receive the award.

    • Gilda dropped out of college to follow her sculptor boyfriend to Toronto, Canada where being a housewife did not work out.

    • Gilda was named after her grandmother, Golda, and Gilda, which came directly from the 1940's movie starring Rita Hayworth as the fiery redhead, Gilda.

    • Gilda commuted from the United States and France while filming Haunted Honeymoon in England, rather than be separated from her beloved Yorkshire terrier, Sparkle. Unlike the United States and France, the United Kingdom required a six month quarantine for animals entering the country, something Gilda was unwilling to subject her dog to.

    • Gilda made her film acting debut in Mr. Mike's Mondo Video, a parody of the controversial 1962 documentary, Mondo Cane. Haunted Honeymoon was her last feature film in which she co-starred with husband, Gene Wilder.

    • Gilda, as a member of Toronto's improvisational comedy troupe, Second City, joined forces with Chicago's legendary Second City in August of 1974 to open "The Canadian Show or Upper USA," the 48th revue, along with Toronto players Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Eugene Levy.

  • Quotes

    • Gilda: (about 'Saturday Night Live' guest host Raquel Welch) Now, I have seen her completely naked. It wasn't by accident; the other day at rehersal, like a mature adult I snuck into the bathroom and went quietly into the stall next to hers. I climbed up on the toilet seat and I peaked over the top. I feel I should tell you that Raquel Welch and I have exactly the same body. We're both alike, we're both women; we have exactly the same parts... only mine need a little regrouping.

    • Gilda: Show business is like riding a bicycle - when you fall off, the best thing to do is get up, brush yourself off and get back on again.

    • Gilda: There is no real security except for whatever you build inside yourself.

    • Gilda: I can always be distracted by love, but eventually I get horny for my creativity.

    • Gilda: One of the strangest things to me is when little children look at me and say, "Gilda Radner!" like Scott Towels or Snickers candy. It's like a brand name to them.

    • Gilda: But I feel with my life, somebody's been so generous with experiences for me-- whosever controlling it. I mean, I've enjoyed a real generosity there. So sometimes, I feel maybe I'm getting this all now and quickly because there's not going to be a whole lot later. I mean, maybe I'm going to die or something. I know that's an awful way to think, but I have been real fortunate. Real lucky.

    • Gilda: (in 1980) I think I'd be a neat old woman-- if I ever make it that far. I once said that to a guy I was out with and he said, 'You already are.'

    • Gilda: Humor is just truth, only faster.

    • Gilda: The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens, whether the cancer never flares up again or whether you die, the important thing is that the days that you have had you will have lived.

    • Gilda: I can't understand how I got famous. It seemed like I just kept taking jobs, and it turned out that millions of people were suddenly watching me do it. The first time I ever saw the word famous, it was on a menu in Detroit, where they said, 'Famous Chili.' Is that how famous I am?

    • Gilda: When I watch myself on Saturday Night Live, I go back to the mood I was in that week. If I was in love, I feel in love again. If I was having my period, my period comes again! Whatever I was going through at the time.

    • Gilda: (about walking head-on into a wall as a blind girl in one of her comedy routines) Yeah, I throw myself into it. I don't want to die. I have a real strong will not to bomb. I want to do the job well, not waste anybody's time who's watching. And, not jerk off.

    • Gilda: I have a pretty uncertain walk. But, that's alright.

    • Gilda: I love being a woman. You can cry. You get to wear pants now. You can always sit and think when you go to the bathroom. If you're on a boat and it's going to sink, you get to go on the rescue boat first. You get to wear cute clothes. It must be a great thing, or so many men wouldn't be wanting to do it.

    • Gilda: I don't worry about femininity–- I think I am feminine. But, I know I've scared many men off because of humor. I'll be funny instead of feminine. You're not likely to see me sitting back at a party being pretty.

    • Gilda: One great thing about not being superior, you get to change yourself. Wear high heel shoes, make yourself taller, put on makeup. And, you get to give up.

    • Gilda: (her running gag about why she took the 'Saturday Night Live' job) Now I don't have to make up excuses for not having a date. I'm working every Saturday night.

    • Gilda: (when asked about the disadvantages of being a woman in her line of work) When I was a little girl, I said, 'Gilda, are you glad you're a girl, or do you wish you were a boy?' I said, 'Boys have to go in the Army, get in mud, wear heavy stuff, and kill people.'

    • Gilda: My psychology is the same as that fat girl I grew up as. That is why I'm not afraid to do anything. I'll walk into a wall. I'm not afraid of anything.

    • Gilda: I always thought that my comedy grew from my neurotic way of life–- the way that I think. The plane is going to crash before it took off, so then it wouldn't ever happen. I never leave the house without thinking the house will blow up or catch on fire or, whatever, because it's also like a magic way of making it not happen.

    • Gilda: (about her uneasiness over her Roseanne Roseannadanna character, introduced on the TV comedy series, 'Saturday Night Live') People want to peg you. I don't care if I ever do Roseanne Roseannadanna again. I'd rather force myself to come up with someone new.

    • Gilda: (being attended to by her makeup man and her male hairdresser, and first responding with silence when asked by an interviewer if she wanted to be a movie star when she was a little girl) Are you talking to me?

    • Gilda: (when pressed by an interviewer's question whether her low weight is attributed to bulimia) Here it is: I had a cyst removed from an ovary and lost ten pounds and kept it off. So tell everyone: chew a lot of gum and have major surgery.

    • Gilda: I've been spending a year just looking for the sky. New York is really a weird place. You can't tell if it's the moon up there or just another street light. It's the only place in the world you can step out of a stretch limo right into a steaming pile of dog****.

    • Gilda: But I don't understand people who say they can't be funny in real life because it would use things up. That's like saying you can't write but so many songs because there's only so many notes.

    • Gilda: But, comedy albums–- that's one of the saddest sections in the whole record store. They don't even have fingerprints on them. What I would like would be for my album to be played in a supermarket. If they would play my album over the PA system and people would shop to it

    • Gilda: Show business is the opportunity to pretend. And, get scared. And, not be mediocre–- get everybody to look at you. And, you get to make people feel, ya know? I've got to work just as hard at that with one person as I do with 40 million people.

    • Gilda: Funny is the thin side of being fat.

    • Gilda: I want people to like me, but the more people like you, you realize how much you just want a few people to like you, who you can phone. Having the world love you is not gratifying because you don't know their phone numbers.

    • Gilda: I'm always there. I'm 32 years old. I like people. I like my job That person who loves doing it is always there. I don't want to miss the joke. I'm there taking care of you while I'm doing the job.

    • Gilda: I grew up in front of television, I guess I'll grow old inside one.

    • Gilda: (after being photographed for the cover of 'TV Guide' magazine) I'll be like a coaster in millions of homes in America. All week, people will be putting their beer on my face.

    • Gilda: I think clothes should make you feel safe. I like clothes you want to go to sleep in. I sometimes stand in front of a mirror and change a million times because I know I really want to wear my nightgown.

    • Gilda: There's always a moment before I go on Saturday Night Live that I go "I'm gonna–- I'm gonna fall over and I won't be able to do it." And, intense fear, and then right before I go on, there's a moment that I CAN'T wait to go on!

    • Gilda: I would say that Lucy, I Love Lucy, she was my idol.

    • Gilda: I could make a stab at "gorgeous" as long as I had something funny to say to get me out of it.

    • Gilda: I just want to be the right AMOUNT of "in touch" with childhood, that's all.

    • Gilda: (about 'Saturday Night Live') I have the opportunity, as a performer, to–- to test anything I want to, or come up with ideas, or fulfill anything I want to pretend, and there aren't many jobs like that available to performers.

    • Gilda: I'm not really an impersonator.

    • Gilda: The way I always feel is that Saturday Night Live is–- we do an under-rehearsed Off-Broadway show every week and we have opening night every week.

    • Gilda: A lot of my characters had a lot to do with growing up and I got a direct line to being a little girl, still, but I don't want it to be, um–- invade my life as much as it has. I'm less afraid to grow up.

    • Gilda: (about one of her characters from the television comedy series, 'Saturday Night Live') When I'm doing Judy Miller, it's amazing how my mind clears away. I have to just completely forget about whether people are looking up my skirt, and just flop around and be five.

    • Gilda: Fame changes a lot of things, but it can't change a lightbulb.

    • Gilda: (on the subject of her bag ladyness) I like a really big purse, and I mean really big. I always like to take a little of home with me wherever I go. People laugh at me, but they're the same ones that always need a toenail clipper or a big steel file that they end up borrowing from me.

    • Gilda: (about being an overweight child) I found that I could defuse whatever people might say about me being fat by joking first. That way they would have to deal with me as a person. If you can decide to be funny, I decided it then. I knew I wasn't going to make it on my looks.

    • Gilda: (from a 'Saturday Night Live' comedy routine) I guess in France, you don't order French fries. You just order fries. They'll know.

    • Gilda: Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.

    • Gilda: (about meeting her husband for the first time) I had been a fan of Gene Wilder's for many years, but the first time I saw him in person, my heart fluttered– I was hooked. It felt like my life went from black and white to Technicolor.

    • Gilda: Adopted kids are such a pain– you have to teach them how to look like you.

    • Gilda: I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.

    • Gilda: My life had made me funny, and cancer wasn't going to change that.

    • Gilda (in La Dolce Gilda): Dreams are like paper, they tear so easily.

    • Gilda: I'd much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they're the first to be rescued off sinking ships,

    • Gilda: I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn't itch.

    • Gilda: Comedy is very controlling -- you are making people laugh. It is there in the phrase "making people laugh." You feel completely in control when you hear a wave of laughter coming back at you that you have caused.

    • Gilda: I'm so full I can't hear.

    • Gilda: I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

    • Gilda:The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens, whether the cancer never flares up again or whether you die, the important thing is that the days that you have had you will have lived. (in her autobiography, It's Always Something

    • Gilda: While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die -- whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness

    • Gilda: It's such an act of optimism to get through a day and enjoy it and laugh and do all that without thinking about death. What spirit human beings have!

    • Trademark phrase:
      Roseanne Rosannadanna: It's always something.

  • Gilda Radner was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for it's first 5 years.

    Gilda was amazing. I'm only 15, so I never got to see her on SNL, but I've absorbed anything on SNL from the first 5 years, especially sketches with Gilda. I LOVE The Nerds, Emily Litella (my personal favorite is her Endangered Feces rant), and Judy Miller (Did you know she had a broken rib when she did that sketch-- she broke it in dress rehearsal running into the door repeatedly, but she still did the sketch). One of my all-time fave Gilda moments is her in the recording studio as Candy Slice, but I still loved her as Roseanne Roseannadanna ("It just goes to show ya, it's always something). Face it, Gilda was one of the reasons SNL survived those first five years. And although I was not alive for her death, may she rest in peace. She is missed.moreless
  • Life ended all too soon!

    I wonder what Gilder Radner would say with today's female comics if she were alive today. She was one of the all time great female comics and one of the first as she was really funny. Too bad that she didn't really let the fame outside of SNF grow but still, she has and always will be a legend IMHO!