Quite remarkable

Carla Lane created funny women – because that was the norm in the 80s
Viv Groskop

British women were funny in the 1980s. What the hell happened?

66 thoughts on “Quite remarkable”

  1. Mmmm…. That’s about the time I stopped finding British women amusing. Avoided them like the plague, ever since.

  2. “I found it odd after the death of Victoria Wood that a lot of people seemed to say that she had been inspiring because “she was the only woman up there doing it”. Of course she was inspiring and extraordinarily talented, no question.

    But it had nothing to do with the fact that she was a woman: she was just brilliant at what she did.”

    It seems to me that she’s implying that ‘identity politics’ happened.

    Hmmm. This will not go down well at the Grauniad…

  3. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Joyce Grenfall, Victoria Wood, and that’s about it.

    I’ll never understand what women find funny about French and Saunders. I understood that they got a start slipstreaming behind all those Comic Strip people, but you’d have thought they’d be gone by now.

  4. And indeed, it doesn’t:

    “with voices that could strip paint and withering looks that could castrate a man at 20 paces.

    Cybernautic: How did that get past the editor?? Jesus. Have some self-awareness.”

    Veryumble: Spare me the mock outrage. That sums up Aveline pretty well.

    Cybernautic: No ‘mock outrage’ necessary. This newspaper should be leading the way in making such remarks a thing of the past, not encouraging them.

  5. JuliaM,

    You just have to look at women on panel game shows. Other than Sue Perkins on QI (who suits that more than her normal work), most of them might as well not be there.

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    I wouldn’t have thought that Ms Lane wrote all that much that was funny. She had a male supervisor for the Liver Birds. There were not a lot of laughs in Bread which was mainly about the very amusing topic of a controlling evil b!tch living off the immoral earnings of her children and benefit fraud. Nor was Butterflies particularly funny. At least I don’t remember it so. Cheating on a perfect decent good man is so rarely amusing.

    What they were were typical female emotional drama verging on porn. Especially Butterflies. An aging housewife has to bear the terrible burden of being sexually attractive to a wealthy businessman? The horror.

    Those shows are mainly interesting for who did well and who did not. Who would have guessed Joey Boswell would have gone on to direct Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors? The only film he did worth mentioning. Why did Adam Parkinson do so well and Russell a lot less so?


    Presumably Nicholas Lyndhurst was just very lucky that his next role was Only Fools and Horses. If Hall had got that role instead presumably we would never have heard of Lyndhurst.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    The Stigler – “Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Joyce Grenfall, Victoria Wood, and that’s about it.”

    I had to sit through Baby Momma once. If there was a single laugh in that film I would be very appreciative if you could point it out. Tina Fey and Poehler are not funny.

    Sara Silverman is if you think jokes about nice Jewish girls enjoying being sexually assaulted is funny.

  8. “Sara Silverman is if you think jokes about nice Jewish girls enjoying being sexually assaulted is funny.”
    Is she the one did the gag about the gorilla? I’ve always liked that one.

  9. SMFS,

    Yeah, Baby Momma isn’t too good. But I love 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation. YMMV of course.

    I don’t like Sarah Silverman and I didn’t like Joan Rivers either. It’s fine to be shocking, but you have to be funny with it.

  10. I watch almost no BBC TV, but listen to Radio 4 a lot, which has many good comedy programmes.

    In my opinion, almost all the female comedic talent on Radio 4 is fvcking useless, but for once the BBC gets gender balance right by giving us wall to wall exposure to the world’s unfunniest male comedian – ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

    Marcus Brigstocke

  11. Personally, I always thought Smack The Pony was some of the best comedy I’ve ever seen. But despite Sharon Horgan, there just doesn’t seem to be that many funny women comedians on the telly. I must admit the endless sourfaced SJW’s banging on about equal representation really doesn’t help. On the other hand, perhaps if we did a Herr Flick and doubled the playing speed, we might find the endless whining sounds like Donald Duck and becomes funny?

  12. The Meissen Bison

    BraveF: I grant you Prigstocke if you concede a tie between him and Jeremy Hardy.

    Has any Venn diagram expert ever mapped the overlap between political and humorous content, I wonder? There seems to be a point at which political content drowns wit.

    And talking about funny women, what about the old Danish one whose name mercifully escapes me?

  13. The problem is not that women aren’t funny, once they are allowed to let rip with the “trying to get a marshmallow in a money box, didn’t know she’d been raped until the cheque bounced and ooh it’s just like a penis only smaller” good solid music hall stuff they’re fine but the feminists won’t allow it.

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    In fairness today this woman made me laugh:


    I know, I know. I am a bad person. Still very funny though.

    However there is a mildly interesting issue here. People have always complained about IQ tests on the grounds of culturally specific Upper Middle class questions – such as those about rowing. Isn’t this the sort of test that should be race neutral?

  15. Having been to my fair share of ‘club’ comedy nights on the stag-night circuit I have a lot of sympathy for female comedians, and also gay ones, fat ones, black ones, and any others who are not ordinary white blokes.

    Why? Because the circuit is loaded with people in those groups doing routines about their being in those groups. And the crowds lap it up like gurning idiots. The laziness of those comics is rewarded. The straight white guys have to work harder because they can’t read off a list of obvious gags or get a laugh by saying ‘cunt’ whilst simultaneously possessing one. Say what you like about Jo Brand.. but there are fat birds getting paid today for telling jokes she was doing 20 years ago on the telly.

    It’s for inventive comedians from the multitude of ‘minority’ groups to rise up and crush the shit ones who are killing their average, mind. But there’s plenty around.

  16. Are there any right-wing female comedians? Or at least ones who are willing to say anything? I’m after something like Frankie Boyle before he started writing for the Guardian and turned PC.

  17. I thought Jane Horrocks did some good stuff with Never Mind the Horrocks….and I met Jo Brand in a bar in Edinburgh…..very funny lady and delightful with it……

  18. Bloke in Spain: I know nothing about Sarah Silverman, but if “the gag about the gorilla” is what the earlier comment suggests it was in Trevor Griffiths’ 1975 play Comedians and was probably a staple of Northern workingmen’s clubs long before that.

  19. @NickInNeuch
    If the punchline’s “But he’s never written, never phones” it’ll be the same one.

  20. I enjoyed Watson and Oliver, who seem to have been buried by the BBC. Possibly because they deliver an old fashioned simple humour without political overtones…

  21. With your fucking intellect you’d be wanting a naked female chubby brown.

    I pity your wives.

  22. “I’ll never understand what women find funny about French and Saunders.” Quite. Just emphasises how good Vic Wood and Joyce Grenfell were.

    But the big jolly lass who falls over a lot seems to me to be genuinely comic. Amanda? Matilda? Anyway, what joy.

  23. I quite like French & Saunders, esp Saunders. Big Ab Fab fan. Big fan of Spaced & Green Wing, both with female writers or co-writers.

    However, I have to say that I find very few stand-ups funny, except in very small doses. Only one I can think of I’d pay proper money to see is Dylan Moran.

    All a matter of taste though, eh? I think Miranda Hart is utter rubbish and am amazed anyone finds her amusing.

  24. It *is* identity politics, feminism and leftism that has suppressed female humour.

    For something similar, compare black musicians in the 70’s to now. In the 70’s black musicians were mostly positive and happy people, who played great music. Then as leftism took hold in the music business they got angrier, and the music got worse and worse. (The same also happened to whites in the music business, but not to the same extreme.)

  25. BBC Radio 4 comedy is the worst fucking shite in the world. I’d like nothing better than to sharpen Jeremy Hardy with a penknife and then use him to stab Marcus Brigstocke to death.

  26. Sarah Silvermann has had a damscene conversion to SJW bollocks, and thus doesn’t do the material that made her famous in the first place. Twat.

    Amy Schumer steals all her material – and its a fat SJW nerd as well.

    But the girl that proves Milo’s law – that Feminism is cancer – is none other than Kate Smuthwaite. FFS I have had hemorrhoids that had a better personality than that bag of noxious shit

  27. I sneeze in threes

    Chubby Brown is a great stand up, no bluer than Jimmy Carr ( what’s the difference between premier ship football and rape, ……). Of course Chubby plays to packed houses of working class oiks and so must be despised.

  28. [American troll alert]

    British women were funny?

    [/American troll alert]

    And now I get to display my Jazzy Jeff impersonation.

  29. Tina Fey can be funny, but Pohler is awful and drags her down, try watching the pilot of 30 Rock where she plays the Jenna character, terrible.
    Mark Thomas used to do politics and comedy that was funny, but generally agree they don’t overlap too well in stand up.

  30. “British women were funny in the 1980s. What the hell happened?”

    Aren’t all British women comedians actually men in drag?

  31. You know, every female Brit comedian I could name off the top of my head I know of because of Absolutely Fabulous.

    French, Saunders, Richardson, Horrocks, and . . . oh wait, there’s Izzard . . . nope, just another guy in drag.

  32. The single best comic actress, as distinct from comedienne, working today is Julia Louis-Dreyfus (certainly when playing Vice President (and now President) Selina Meyer in Veep.

    The show is awesome. I genuinely do not think there has ever been a funnier, better acted or more twistedly believable comedy. If you haven’t seen it, do.

    Jo Brand is funny and pretty brave in her own way. Sure, some of the gags are aimed at right wingers, but plenty are not and we can laugh at ourselves unlike the cunts on the other side (see Arnald).

    I went to Jongleurs a while back and was really disappointed to see Jo Caulfield topping the bill (as was my wife). She (Jo, not my wife) was hilarious. I almost literally pissed myself. I was quite drunk, mind.

  33. Also, there’s still some great comedy still on Radio 4.

    Just A Minute, and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue obviously, but there are one or two others.

    Sadly, what isn’t great tends to be absolute rubbish. Yes, you! Brigstocke!

  34. “British women were funny in the 1980s. What the hell happened?”

    Leftist shite is what happened. As witness Arnaud.

  35. Jack C: It all went downhill on the Home Service after Round the Horne & Horne a’ Plenty.

  36. Sarah Silverman did have one good joke: “Everybody blames the Jews for killing Christ, and then the Jews try to pass it off on the Romans. I’m one of the few people that believe it was the blacks.”

    But that was years ago.

  37. Stop me if you’ve heard this one – Thatcher!

    That was Ben Elton. How we laughed!!! ?
    British comedy has declined since those Olympian heights of subtlety, I’m sure.

    (BTW, French comedy doesn’t even translate into French.)

  38. Bloke In Overalls

    Female comedians that I think are good.

    Pam Ayres, liked her when I was a kid and like her again now in my middle age. Saw her in Auckland a year or so ago, on stage by herself with nothing other than a glass of water and a table to put it on. Great night, good story teller and she certainly isn’t relying on her “funny accent”. The Radio 4 shows that she has done in recent years are a good taster.

    Dame Edna, obviously, and despite usually trusting his judgment, Barry Humphries isn’t always complimentary about her.

    Ad Fab, haven’t watched it since it was first out but did enjoy it then. Joanna Lumnley was probably the reason that it worked and the reason you watched it.

    Same with the Good Life and Penelope Keith. You soon realised that you were watching it mainly for her (and to a slightly lesser extent Paul Eddington).

    Radio 4 & Radio 4 Extra shows that have been on in recent times that I have liked
    Wilson Dixon
    Pam Ayres
    Bleak Expectations
    Ed Reardon
    I’m Sorry I will read that again
    Round The Horne
    Dad’s Army
    Fags Mags & Bags (You might like this if you if you liked Still Game)
    Linda Smiths A Brief History of Time Wasting
    Ross Noble Goes Global
    The Consultants
    The Unbelievable Truth
    Armstrong & Miller
    Alex Horne and the Horne Section
    In and Out of the Kitchen (Miles Jupp)
    Hamish & Dougal

    I am commenting from the opposite side of the world so the people in these shows are not (for the most part) household names for me.
    If there are any odious lefty SJW greenie types amongst this lot that are constantly in your ear, then I can understand that knowledge would taint your perception of the show they are in.

  39. >The single best comic actress, as distinct from comedienne, working today is Julia Louis-Dreyfus (certainly when playing Vice President (and now President) Selina Meyer in Veep.

    Well, if we’re talking comic actresses, as opposed to female comedy writers, then there are quite a few in the UK. Katherine Parkinson, Sarah Alexander, Tamsin Greig, Olivia Colman and Doon Mackichan are all very good, plus quite a few others.

    But female comedy writers are a bit of a different story, Obviously Victoria Wood stands out, but you wouldn’t really call her “today’s generation”. And while I’m not that keen on Jo Brand, she can write. Julia Morris, who did Human Remains, has a lot of fans, but I haven’t seen that show.

    >I went to Jongleurs a while back and was really disappointed to see Jo Caulfield topping the bill (as was my wife). She (Jo, not my wife) was hilarious. I almost literally pissed myself. I was quite drunk, mind.

    I’ve seen Jo Caufield live too, and she’s pretty funny. And obviously not very political. The two are clearly connected. Most female stand-ups think comedy is just whining about feminist issues in a sarcastic tone of voice.

  40. I think Ronni Ancona is hilarious and what I’d call a naturally funny person, i.e. if they came round for dinner they’d have you hosing yourself as opposed to someone who needs a script to be funny.

  41. Tel: “Most female stand-ups think comedy is just whining about non-existent feminist issues in a sarcastic tone of voice.”

    There–fixed it for you.

  42. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Sarah Silverman used to be hysterical, but then she got Obama’s knob stuck so far down her throat it cut off the oxygen to the funny parts of her brain.

  43. So Much For Subtlety

    Bloke In Overalls – “Same with the Good Life and Penelope Keith. You soon realised that you were watching it mainly for her (and to a slightly lesser extent Paul Eddington).”

    The problem with massive data dumps is that it reminds you of how rare and unusual a female comedian is.

    I am an enormous admirer of Ms Keith but there is no evidence she could be funny. She certainly could read a script written by funny people and read it well. But I don’t see her doing stand up. The whole point of the Good Life was that she was not funny. It is an early sign of how annoying the PC brigade would become that in fact the two straight men, supposedly the butts of the humour of the two cool kids, were funnier and more appealing than the people the writers wanted us to like. But it is not a sign that Ms Keith was funny.

  44. Bloke In Overalls

    SMFS – you are right, Penelope Keith is just a very good actress and this post’s topic is really about the creation of funny by women and not women’s ability to deliver funny created by men.
    So I am stumped there, except I still stand by Pam Ayres – well I had a good night out and I am pretty sure she wrote what she performed.

    By the way the following night we went to a Dolly Parton concert – now there is woman who can put on a good show, and I am reasonably ambivalent about country music.

  45. Isn’t an actress who can do funny as much a funny woman as female comedy writer?

    The funniest man I know is a retired lorry driver. He is never going to produce a stand-up set or write a TV comedy. But his description of a hospital appointment would leave you in stitches.

  46. @MC hands down the funniest people I’ve ever known have been soldiers, builders, plumbers and so on. Ordinary blokes the lot of them.

  47. BIO,

    We saw Pam Ayres in Mackay, presumably on the same tour. I must confess, we were given the tickets in order to accompany friends and would probably not have gone otherwise, but we thoroughly enjoyed the night and would pay to see her again if in the same town at the time. She wouldn’t be worth airfares and hotel accommodation.

  48. To be fair to Pam Ayres, there are very, very few comedians or comediennes we would pay airfares and hotel accommodation to go and see.

  49. Liberal Yank would probably know more than most on here, Carol Burnett is one of the funniest comediennes I ever seen.

  50. Of the new generation Katharine Ryan and Roisin Conaty are pretty good as standup and I’d agree about Jo Caulfield. Susan Calman and Miranda Hart are both good writers as well as performers Wasn’t till the tribute show that i fully realised the sheer volume and scope of Victoria Wood though – truly outstanding.

  51. Carol Burnett was pre-80s.

    The best current show that I know of is CBS’s Mom. Allison Janney and Anna Faris are the leads. But, AFAIK, neither are British so I didn’t bring them up.

  52. Bloke In Overalls

    Jonathan – yes Caroline Ahern in the shows you mention and her Mrs Merton – very sharp I thought.

    And what about the two women that did Kath & Kim (Gina Riley and Jane Turner) ? That is their creation.

    DocBud – on flying to see someone.
    I flew to Melbourne to see Dylan Moran.
    What a let down that was – not doing that again, they can come to me from now on.

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