Funny Girls

A tribute to Britain’s favourite female comedians and comic actresses.

Celebrating female comic talent, the Mediatheque has rounded up the work of forty funny girls from a century of British entertainment. As well as household names (Thora Hird, Hattie Jacques, Margaret Rutherford), this collection hails lesser-known comedies now ripe for rediscovery, with films starring Florence Turner, Mary Brough and Doris and Elsie Waters.

You can also enjoy many rarely-screened TV favourites, including Sykes, The Joyce Grenfell Show and Beryl Reid Says Good Evening, and shows featuring hilarious turns by everyone from Hylda Baker and Millicent Martin to Julia Davis and Meera Syal. Comic styles may have changed dramatically over the decades, but whatever your sense of humour, there is a funny girl here for you.

Ten to try

Mary Jane’s Mishap (1903)

Laura Bayley learns not to play with paraffin – the hard way.

Tilly, The Tomboy, Visits the Poor (1910)

Anarchic fun with silent stars Alma Taylor and Chrissie White as havoc-wreaking schoolgirls.

Aunt Sally (1933)

Slapstick meets the Folies Bergère in this Cicely Courtneidge vehicle.

Gert and Daisy’s Week-End (1942)

Wartime hijinks with radio stars Elsie and Doris Waters.

Genevieve (1953)

A drunken Kay Kendall gets vampish with a trumpet.

Sykes (1962)

Hattie Jacques finds herself handcuffed to Eric Sykes.

The Bed (Comedy Playhouse) (1963)

Thora Hird hones her battleaxe persona in the pilot to the long-running sitcom Meet the Wife.

Fawlty Towers (1975)

Hell hath no fury like Prunella Scales’ Sybil Fawlty.

Wood and Walters (1982)

Victoria Wood’s first TV sketch show, co-starring Julie Walters.

The Mrs Merton Show (1995)

Spoof chatshow with Caroline Aherne: just what first attracted Debbie McGee to the millionaire Paul Daniels?

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