Victoria Wood tops funniest woman list

Victoria Wood has beaten other queens of comedy to be named the funniest woman of all time.

Victoria Wood has beaten other queens of comedy to be named the funniest woman of all time.

Dawn French, 48, and Kathy Burke, 42, most famous as Waynetta Slob, take second and third place.

Julie Walters, 56, Wood’s comedy partner, is fourth followed by Jennifer Saunders, 48, in the poll commissioned by the Radio Times.

The magazine credits Wood, 53, who got her big break winning New Faces in 1973, with “an unrivalled capacity to make the homespun hilarious”.

Vicar of Dibley star French is described as “a great big playful pixie with a God-given gift for clowning but also the capacity to reach right into the nation’s hearths and hearts”.

Burke, “however grotesque her characters, ... manages magically to make them appealing”, the magazine says.

Billy Elliot, Calendar Girls and Educating Rita star Walters is credited with having the ability to “play every kind of funny there is” while Saunders is both an “unnervingly accurate mimic ... and spectacular leading lady”.

Stand-up Jo Brand, 49, is sixth in the poll of 4,200 people, followed by Joyce Grenfell, who died in 1979 when she was about to be made a Dame.

“Totally fearless” US star Joan Rivers, 73, follows in her footsteps in eighth place.

The newest name in the list, Catherine Tate, famous for her “Am I bovvered?” catchphrase is ninth, and the late Lucille Ball, best remembered for I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, and Here’s Lucy, is tenth.

With the lack of many newcomers in the top ten, French says she is concerned about the dearth of younger female names rising up in comedy.

French, who is fronting a new BBC series, Girls Who Do Comedy, tells the Radio Times she and Wood were both surprised “that we hadn’t been overtaken by a new wave of younger women comedians” in the comedy world.

“We both thought that once the way had been opened up, there’d be a new breed of female stand-ups playing all the big venues,” she says.

“From Victoria’s point of view, she’d always said she intended to retire at 50, but when it came to it, she thought she might just as well carry on.

“When I was younger, I knew that if I was, say, out with friends in a pub where there were lots of young men, I ought to temper my humour a bit.

“Quite a lot of the women ... said there had been occasions when they too had curbed some of their funniness, out of respect for the egos of men, who needed the approval more.

“On balance, I’d say that’s quite a common thing; as a woman, you’re supposed to step back and let the men through.”

She adds: “So we’ve arrived; I’d just like to see more of us.”

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