Dorothy Parker’s Legacy of Witty Women

Posted by Rose Moore

Dorothy Parker is remembered for many things: poetry, stories, her reign on the Algonquin Round Table, her involvement in civil rights, her skewering of the unfair and the mundane in equal measure. But it's Parker’s wit that is her greatest legacy – and to many, her wit as a woman (of all things!) that makes the great poetess as memorable as she is.

Parker’s witticisms appear in every collection of sassy quotations, and while her voice comes through as sharp as can be, she remains deeply relatable. Nearly a hundred years since her famous luncheons, Parker’s attitude toward love, life, and the joys of alcohol still ring true. Now, though, her attitudes toward party girls and easy money aren’t quite as shocking as they once were – in fact, a plethora of women are following in Parker’s footsteps, penning hilarious memoirs that chart new journeys through bedrooms and barstools, and we’re bringing you the best of them.


Like Dorothy Parker, their wit is quotable and close to home. Stories of romantic misadventures and silly stories mingle with more biting commentary on feminism, mental health and social status. Where Parker went from Vanity Fair and the New Yorker to Hollywood and screenwriting, many of these women are doing the opposite – starting in stand-up and on screen before moving to books. All of them bring their own kind of wit and wisdom to their literary efforts, carrying on the legacy of one of the sharpest tongues ever transferred to a page.


Amy Poehler (Yes Please)

Poehler shot to stardom through Saturday Night Live and the smash hit political comedy Parks and Recreation. Her memoir was one of the most anticipated books of 2014. A frank look at parenthood, love, friendship, drugs, and work, Yes Please is full of life lessons – all told with her signature humor. Like Parker, Poehler isn’t shy about her life story, and although she doesn’t like “people knowing my sh*t,” she certainly doesn’t hold back.


Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened)

Better known as The Blogess, Jenny Lawson is actually a huge fan of Dorothy Parker. She even named her dog after the famed poetess (Dorothy Barker, for those wondering). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is one of three books she has written (alongside Furiously Happy and You Are Here), all of which wander through her social adventures, mental health struggles, relationships, and motherhood. She is brash and ballsy, peppering her work with expletives (and animal bodies), but her warmth shines through every word.


Chelsea Handler (Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea)

Well-known on TV and the stand-up circuit, Chelsea Handler has written several books about her life, but Are You There, Vodka is one of her best. An unflinching look at her party years and her love affair with a good martini, Handler’s collection of essays is often ridiculous but always hilarious. Another offering that is truly Parker-esque is her earlier offering: My Horiztonal Life: A Collection Of One Night Stands. A rollercoaster ride through her varying sexual encounters, it’s the book that launched her writing career.


Tina Fey (Bossypants)

Tina Fey’s Bossypants is a straightforward comedy memoir, but from the title down, it skewers the idea that women shouldn’t be assertive, or funny. Fey, who is undeniably both assertive and incredibly funny, challenges the norm – and as we find out in Bossypants, has done her whole life. From her childhood through her time on Saturday Night Live, to her stint as the now-iconic Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, to her struggles to balance working life and motherhood (and the judgements of others).


Kelly Oxford (Everything Is Perfect When You Are A Liar)

Kelly Oxford’s Twitter feed is the stuff that dreams are made of. The screenwriter is consistently hilarious, and her recent tweets about her daughter are just the latest to set the internet alight. Her first book, Everything Is Perfect When You Are A Liar, is a collection of essays that presents her as a terrible person – but an incredibly likeable, relatable one because of it. Oxford’s wit is self-deprecating and always on point, and while the leap from tweet to tome is a big one, she manages it with style.


Mindy Kaling (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?)

Mindy Kaling has penned several books that explore her life and her experiences in Hollywood, with a distinctly un-Parker-ly focus on anxiety, but a very Dorothy commentary on the difficulties of finding love. Original and always fresh, Kaling also writes and stars in The Mindy Project, a series that follows the same themes that she focuses on in the books. As one of the few Indian-American comedy stars, Kaling is following in Parker’s footsteps as she challenges preconceptions and breaks boundaries.


Jane Bussmann (The Worst Date Ever)

From the cover of The Worst Date Ever, you would be forgiven for thinking that Jane Bussmann’s offering is another lighthearted journey through sex and dating, but you would be very mistaken. Sick of the world’s obsession with celebrity culture, Bussmann travelled to Uganda with conflict resolution expert John Prendergast. The book is darkly funny – black humor is a necessity when looking at war crimes and the horror of the Lord’s Resistance Army. She also balances that with a parallel story of her attraction to Prendergast – adding a light romance to a very dark topic, and creating a book that is fresh, funny, heartbreaking, and illuminating in equal measure.


Sarah Silverman (The Bedwetter)

Sarah Silverman is known for tackling sensitive and taboo subjects, and her memoir is no exception. The Emmy winning comedienne charts her awkward teen years, potty-mouthed childhood, and late-life-bedwetting with utter frankness and not a little sarcasm. The Bedwetter is written with sincerity as well as humor, and her inimitable style shines through from start to finish.


Samantha Bee (I Know I Am, But What Are You?)

Samantha is best-known for her work as a correspondent on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart before starting her own late-night show (Full Frontal With Samantha Bee). A political commentator and gifted comedian, her book I Know I Am, But What Are You? is a collection of essays that strays from the political and into the personal. Bee presents her life to the reader in stories that bounce from subject to subject – as long as that subject is slightly embarrassing and deeply imperfect. Adorable and hilarious, I Know I Am, But What Are You? is a must-read for fans who want to get to know Bee a little better.


Sloane Crosley (I Was Told There’d Be Cake)

Crosley’s name routinely comes up in lists of the funniest women in America, and we couldn’t collect the wittiest voices in writing without including her. Her bestselling collection of essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, is a brilliantly funny look at her life after she first moved to New York City – charming, earnest, and fighting failure, Crosley is a bright voice in the big city. Since then, she has brought together a second set of essays, How Did You Get This Number, which picks up where I Was Told There’d Be Cake leaves off, and made her fiction debut last year with The Clasp