Women Like Us?

Gilli Bush-Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article works to excavate representations of working women in comedy, arguing that the construction of women in comedy has deep historical roots that are reflected in cultural understandings and expectations of women in popular performance. 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 shocking observations about life, these characters work to demonstrate an 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-159
JournalComedy Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2012

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