THE BLOG

A New Year of Female Comedy - the Ones to Watch

12/01/2014 22:44 GMT | Updated 14/03/2014 09:59 GMT

I was as dismayed as the very funny Anna Keirle who commented on Facebook this week about another article bemoaning the 'lack of female comics'... Cough, splutter, indignant face (with several chins for emphasis) Just what planet do these journalists live on?

You only have to scan the listings pages for television comedy to see who's popping up all over the place - not just the Mirandas and Millicans either but brilliant newbies like Katherine Ryan, Bridget Christie, Lucy Beaumont, Angela Barnes and last year's Funny Women Awards winner, Gabby Best, who is about to make her television debut on the next series of 'Live at the Electric'.

That said, if you are still grappling around for some attainable New Year resolutions after a two week Christmas binge, overdosing on Charlie Brooker's latest Screen Wipe, Big Fat Quizzes and endless reworks of the Morecambe and Wise story, then please let me prescribe a big fat dollop of live comedy with cream on top! You won't change your world, meet anybody or get any slimmer eating the last of the Celebrations in front of the telly. Get ye to a comedy club near you NOW!

Recently a well-known female comic of my acquaintance advised me sagely that the British comedy circuit is 'dead' and that she now earns her living abroad. Clearly I dwelt on this rather too much over the holidays, borne out by the fact that there is little traction for the 'squeezed middle' of comedy which sits between the many free shows on offer and the big name 'must see' acts who charge big bucks. Certainly this was my experience at the Edinburgh Fringe last year where the Free Festival dominated the headlines and awards, and visiting TV comics sold out their shows months in advance.

Yet the middle ground is very much alive and kicking on the circuit where great comedy can be bought for anything from £5, less than the price of a cinema ticket or a Pret sandwich these days, to £20. This week alone I have enjoyed two amazing shows at the Soho Theatre in central London and am loving the newest crop of female comics who are selling our their hybrid Fringe debut shows to enthusiastic audiences comprising largely of women, on the back of Beyoncé, Bic, Torville & Dean, feminism and therapy.

All life goes before you if you just get off your seasonally saggy booty and make an effort. This is not for the faint-hearted and, just like the male comedians you see live, this is uncensored, honest, ballsy stuff quite unlike what you can see nicely primped and neatly edited for the small screen. It's worth remembering that the live circuit is where is all the TV stuff begins. And, despite how the bias may look on panel shows, sisters really are doing it for themselves although recognition for this invaluable live work is hard won.

I have often thought that maybe my job is done here at Funny Women. Indeed, seven or so years ago, another well-known female comic suggested to me that it already was! I was told in no uncertain terms that I had achieved my quota of new female comedy and should move on. Yet Anna Keirle's frustrated Facebook comment says it all! The world is still not open to as much female comedy as we think it is. Equality, feminism, the 'have it all' generation but there are still four men to every one woman (or maybe less) performing on the live comedy circuit.

That said, Miranda's brand new mega arena tour has already sold out and new dates have been added. Meanwhile Bridget Christie will have completed nine weeks of sold out shows at the Soho Theatre before she can go home and lie down for a rest! Clearly there is an appetite for all things feminine and funny and articles about the lack of female comics should be banned!

My company runs the Funny Women Awards and we are currently gearing up for the 12th year running after last year's record breaking number of entries across four categories covering stand up, variety, writing and best show. I can guarantee that some of these amazing women will be making their way into your front rooms via the goggle box sooner than you think. This is the nursery slopes for new performers and I am really proud that we continue to encourage and develop new comedy. Great comedy queens Miranda Hart and Sarah Millican have both graced the Funny Women stage at some point in their careers, so you never know who will be the stars of tomorrow.

So forget those empty New Year's resolutions about silly diets and unattainable relationships and go and have a girly laugh instead! Here are just a few recommendations.

Luisa Omielan: What Would Beyoncé Do?!

High energy, despair-fueled polemic that leaves you oddly uplifted and wondering if Beyoncé has been to see this show for herself. Luisa rips it with her intensely personal journey through family and relationships. If you like Beyoncé and singalongs go along now before it sells out at the Soho Theatre and check out her tour dates.

Bridget Christie: A Bic for Her

Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award winner challenges why women cannot drive racing cars or use a pen. One of my most favourite female comics is currently part way through an epic nine-week sold out run at the Soho Theatre. I have seen all of Bridget's shows and this latest is threaded with little flash backs - but no more performing 'burn the witch' rituals to just one audience member in an Edinburgh dungeon for Ms Christie! Her time has definitely come! This show runs until 19 March at the Soho Theatre.

Suzy Bennett: Dancing on Thin Ice

Another intensely personal journey, Suzy explores her obsession with ice dancing champions Torville and Dean. Like the previous two shows, it has the right mix of humour and pathos, and you leave the theatre wanting Suzy to become your newest BFF. This show did not get the credit it deserved in Edinburgh so please get along and see it before it is 'retired'. Say good bye to the last ever season of Dancing on Ice and the Bolero with Suzy's one off finale at the Leicester Square Theatre on Wednesday 19 February.

Twisted Loaf: Half Baked

The 2013 winners of the Funny Women Awards have already made one earlier, a full show that is. A version of this debuted at last year's Camden Fringe but they will be taking the show to this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Catch it now as it is developing - often the best time to see new emerging talent as they prepare for the industry's biggest 'trade show'. This is French and Saunders full frontal with the League of Gentleman, with lots of grotesque characters and clever clowning. Libby Northedge and Nina Smith go the extra performance mile and demonstrate why they are winning awards. Three chances to see them at the Leicester Square Theatre, Sundays 2, 9 and 15 February.

Hope and Gloria: the Dr Hope Group Therapy Session

Another perfectly formed show that won the first ever Funny Women Best Show Award last year. Alex Maher's crazy therapist Dr Hope, takes her audience on a journey of self-discovery to achieve an entertainment high that she created night after night at last year's Edinburgh Fringe. Her characterisation is first class and you come away wondering where Alex ends and Hope springs! Two performances take place at the Leicester Square Theatre, Thursday 6 and Friday 7 February.

This is just canapés before the main meal as more and more female comics and performers take to the stage across the UK this year. Be sure to check out the festival season in Bath, Leicester, Brighton and Edinburgh. Get savvy and book ahead for the shows you really want to see and make the most of previews and 'works in progress' when you often get a chance to see the big names at a fraction of the price you would have to pay for the finished product.

Above all, please support live comedy as, without it, the good stuff does not make it on to television. And if you want to kick start your own comedy career I am, of course, recommending our Funny Women Workshops especially our wonderful Workshop Weekend on 8th and 9th February. For a full run down of the events that we run at Funny Women, plus reviews and recommendations of shows that 'You Might Like', please visit www.funnywomen.com.