Ten Reasons Why Cloris Leachman Kicks Betty White’s Butt

Betty White is lovely, talented and charming, but for sheer substance, chutzpah and staying power, I’m giving my “Kick-Butt Babe Award” to the brilliance that is Cloris Leachman. Here’s why:

  1. In 1962, on one night, she was a guest star on three different LIVE television shows. Top that, Tina Fey!
  2. She dares to bare, with style. In an homage to (or parody of) Demi Moore’s naked pregnant Vanity Fair cover, Cloris Leachman posed nude, painted with images of fruit, for Alternative Medicine Digest in 1997.
  3. She’s a former beauty queen (Miss Chicago, 1946), yet enthusiastically embraces opportunities to take roles that are comically unglamorous. Which is probably why Mel Brooks tapped her for the evil Nurse Diesel (“Those who are tardy don’t get fruit cup!”) in High Anxiety and the mysterious Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein.
  4. Although when cast as landlady Phyllis Lindstrom in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cloris Leachman had more acting experience than Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper put together, but never hogged the spotlight.
  5. In addition to her Oscar and nine Emmys (more than any other television actor), this seasoned Broadway pro also sings.
  6. While other actresses complain about quality roles for older women, Cloris Leachman has never lacked for work. She has been working pretty much steadily since high school, and she’s now in her mid-eighties. What other actor has had this much staying power?
  7. In her own words, she’s one firecracker of a dancer. (She made it to the sixth round of Dancing With The Stars in 2008, partnered with pro Corky Ballas.)
  8. In addition to the regular role of Jenga-master, randomly-demented Maw Maw in the new sitcom, Raising Hope, she currently has four movie projects in various stages of production, and is starring in a one-woman show about her amazing body of work.
  9. Who else do you know that’s been on Lassie, Joan of Arcadia, Two and a Half Men, AND kissed Ronald Reagan? (Besides Margaret Thatcher.)
  10. Like Lady Gaga, she’s worn garments made from food. Cabbage, to be more precise, for a 2009 PETA ad. The dress is rather elegant, but I don’t believe she’d be able to do a jive in it.
  11. Bonus reason! She gives good interview… while wearing her fuzzy bedroom slippers.
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14 thoughts on “Ten Reasons Why Cloris Leachman Kicks Betty White’s Butt

  1. JenD says:

    She also appeared on Kathy Griffin’s My Life on the D List where she played her hilarious self. Oh, and she’s a spunky broad, to boot! Another great article, Laurie.

  2. procomicdiva says:

    okay I got to admit to some bias here myself but for a good reason… I worked with the lovely miss Leachman on a made for tv scary movie starring the Olsen twins. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106763/
    At the time she had just quit or was trying to quit smoking and said it was hell. It was the first thing she asked me when hitting the makeup trailer do ya smoke honey ? nope said I, quit two years ago! good for you honey? Now if only I could kick the G-d dam sugar habit [ big smiles as she popped a caramel into her mouth] at the time I was what is laughingly called a featured extra [I played one of the witches] so one step up from box lunches. She didn’t care, didn’t put on airs we talked for almost an hour about nonsense and stuff and acting [ my role model for why I treat folks the same, extra or cast now on any set I am on] Yes sir for me Cloris Leachman rocks!!!

  3. procomicdiva says:

    ps that was the movie where i accidentally uh flashed my naughty bits to Meshach Taylor[ combo of going commando and the hole in pants provided by wardrobe] sighhh memories 😉

  4. Peabea says:

    Thought she was so glamorous on Mary Tyler Moore (first ever experience of her), and have loved whenever she is in anything since. Have seen her in the new sitcom Raising Hope. I agree with your award…Cloris is yes a great actress and now reading CJ’s comment a wonderful and personable human being. Great post as usual Laurie.

  5. Sally G. says:

    Wow, I didn’t know most of those things about Cloris Leachman – so thanks for the perspective. Diva, it’s nice reading about your experience with her too.

    I’ll admit, I personally did not care for Cloris’ participation in Dancing with the Stars – I don’t feel she took it very seriously and seemed to mock it all more than give it the respect it deserved. Not saying it was physically easy for her, I give her props for that ~ but I felt she brought the show down each week she was on it.

    As for Betty White – I was a big fan up until she did SNL. I guess I’m a stick-in-the-mud, but I felt much of what she did on that episode was beneath her and not particularly funny ~ though I’m not one who finds old people cursing to be particularly humorous.

    Not sure if I have anyone to offer up for the sheer substance, chutzpah and staying power award though. If I look to Dancing with the Stars, I’d say Florence Henderson is representing the seniors beautifully. She’s giving it her all and is very much still in top form without the need for comic distraction to get votes.

  6. Annie Boreson says:

    Laurie, got to agree with you…Cloris rocks. Thanks for the fun facts. Sally made a comment about Betty White’s performance on SNL – I found her performance tasteless and annoying. Pretty much shot Cloris’s approval rating to the stars.

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