47. Elayne Boosler
Imagine the prototypical female comic of the 1980s: Big hair, suit jacket with shoulder pads and the sleeves rolled up, the ubiquitous brick wall behind her. You’re imagining Elayne Boosler – but before that image became a cliché, it was just part of the stand-up act she had been honing for years. At a time in which women comedians were not talking about sex, Boosler addressed it head-on ("Men want you to scream 'You're the best!' while swearing you’ve never done this with anyone before," was an early, signature line). She was also key in convincing the industry to pay attention to women: In 1985, without a network to support a comedy special, Boosler financed the production of one on her own, titled "Party of One" – and when that became a hit, Showtime signed her for several more. She was the best at what she did, so much so that everyone kept copying her until the Eighties comedy boom went bust. Accept no substitutes.