'Women Like Us'?

Bush-Bailey, Gilli (2014) 'Women Like Us'? Comedy Studies, 3 (2). pp. 151-159. ISSN 2040-6118


This article works to excavate the historical depth of representations of working women in comedy, arguing that the constructio∂n of women in comedy has deep historical roots that are reflected in cultural understandings and expectations of women in popular performance today. Catherine Tate's outraged (and outrageous) ‘Nan’ (2004), Mabel Constanduros’ ‘Emily’, a forerunner to her long-running and forthright radio character ‘Grandma Buggins’ (1925–1948) and Fanny Kelly's lovelorn, and lachrymose household servant, ‘Sally Simkin’ (1832), are just three examples among the numerous characters created by female comedy writers and performers over the past 200 years. Delighting their audiences with a potent mix of sentimentality undercut by their deliciously shocking observations about life, these characters work to demonstrate a deeply embedded set of constructs that make up the stereotypical representation of the metropolitan working woman. Deploying a deliberately eclectic mix of approaches from the cultural turn in performance theory and feminist revision, this article uses the methodologies of theatre historiography to make connections between the latest women on the comedy sketch scene and their predecessors, arguing for renewed understandings in our critical appreciation of writing and performing ‘funny’ women.


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