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Funny Women final 2008
The final of the 2008 NIVEA Funny Women Awards at the Comedy Store on Monday June 23. Canadian Katherine Ryan won the first prize of £1,000, a luxury holiday, a year's supply of NIVEA products and a paid gig at the Comedy Store.
Original Review:The final of the Nivea Funny Women Awards last night celebrated the brand of comedians that form a minority on the circuit, usually stereotyped and marginalised to the extent that you’ll rarely see two on the same bill. Yes, there were some fine musical acts here.
It was a huge surprise that the best of them, Pippa Evans, didn’t win. That she wasn’t even placed is virtually a miscarriage of justice. Nonetheless, she can take solace in the fact that she’s got the talent for a sustained and stellar career in comedy, even without the temporary fillip a competition victory would have provided.
She performed as Loretta Maine, the scarily intense singer-songwriter who won her the runners-up place in this year’s Hackney Empire competition. This wonderfully unbalanced character flips between sweet and psychotic in a chord change, as she delivers beautifully bitter lyrics about the men – and the music business – that have wronged her.
The nuanced songs are great on their own, before you even consider some of the truly impressive one-liners between them. These inspired, quotable pearls of wisdom show that fine comic writing underpins her flawless, perfectly timed performance. Her set is subtle enough to be believable, but not too understated to be hilarious. A class act, for sure.
Evans may have been robbed, possibly because she was drawn first in the running order, but over the years – and despite an ever-changing judging panel - Funny Women has always tended to favour the bolder, louder comedians.
Tonight was no exception, with first place going to the brash, almost shrill, Katherine Ryan, who may be from Canada, but owes her perky persona to West Coast America. Dressed in bright, girlish pink, she gossips animatedly, her bubbly banter dripping with ‘Oh my god!’s and a deliberately exaggerated girlish laugh that accompanies every bitchy punchline. It could easily become infuriatingly grating for much longer than the ten minutes offered here, but she just about got away with it.
She has a tendency to head too quickly towards the bad taste, but you can’t deny that even if the jokes do rely on rape or bestiality, they are good lines – and she certainly has the chutzpah to pull them off. Some of her material is less convincingly pitched, which is when her energy doesn’t quite see her through, but that will surely be solved by experience.
Runners-up were Sara Pascoe and Rachel Stubbings. The breathlessly excited Pascoe bucked convention and started with her poorest jokes – imaging there was another competition called ‘fanny women’ for example. Yet despite the considerable handicap of such terrible material, she sold it so well that she still managed to get the audience on her side.
It meant that when she hit her stride with inventive routines about badly-punctuated abortion adverts or her ideal man, all taken to just the right lengths of stupidity, it hit home hard. Much of her act is an enjoyable fusion of silliness and intelligence - a comic who can get Nietzsche and cunnilingus into the same breath has to be applauded. She couldn’t quite shake the addiction to bad jokes, which had a habit of surfacing every now and then, but otherwise there was some impressive work here.
The deadpan Stubbings was a different kettle of fish. She is a female Gareth Keenan, mimicking The Office boy’s every personality quirk – from empty threats of violent outbursts, to saying the most inappropriate things without a flicker of emotion.
Unfortunately, though, there were very few jokes. The reading of a list of pet peeves scrawled on her arm provided a few titters, but little more, and the complete lack of enthusiasm in her deadpan persona proved as infectious – and welcome – as crabs. The judges must have obviously seen something in her, but I couldn’t share their vision.
Of the other acts, Grainne Maguire is an engaging and natural performer, but in need of some stronger writing. There are some nice touches in her routine – from her never-impressed dad, or the campness of Catholicism – yet these isolated moments don’t quite clump together into something solidly funny.
She’s also dabbling in the fashionable area of whimsical lo-fi comedy, with similarly mixed results. An enjoyable bizarre piece about robins and migrating birds provides a hearty laugh when she snaps out of it and back to reality, but the home-made cartoons on her flip chart were less reliable.
Girl & Dean are an almost defiantly old-school sketch double-act, starting with a skit that could almost have appeared in any undistinguished university revue of the past 30 years, adopting posh voices as they acted out a scene set in Pangbourne Women’s Institute.
Their rigid dialogue is too-clearly scripted, even when they start to talk as ‘themselves’ – speaking like no real person does outside of comedy sketches. But their emotional chill began to thaw as they went on, as a few genuinely funny lines crept into their banter and they became more relaxed. They probably can write quite well, but they need to leave the drama-school performances behind.
Rachel Fairburn cut a compelling figure as a sweet, but doom-laden Mancunian, sharing not just an accent, but a whole comedy outlook, with Caroline Aherne. Her material exposes her relative inexperience, with probably as many misses as hits. When it failed, it really failed – the extended bibliophile/paedophile confusion, for example, fell at the first - but when it worked it was fresh and imaginative. That, plus her stance and persona certainly suggest potential.
Rowena Haley was the night’s other musical turn, and while her songs felt slightly two-dimensional in comparison to Pippa Evans’s nuanced act, there was certainly plenty to enjoy. She’s entertainingly intolerant, whether it be of public displays of affection, desperately tedious boyfriends or rough families running amok in shopping centres or Yates’s Wine Lodges, the bilious passion is unmistakeable. Combined with an obvious skill for songwriting, this makes Haley a more-than-solid comedian, even at this early stage in her career.
Elaine Malcolmson really struggled, not helped by unimaginative material that she bled dry. Set-ups about Heather Mills or What Would Jesus Do immediately suggests she’s often going down the same route as much more experienced comics – against whom she can’t hope to compete. Each premise is also laden with so many useless tag-lines, extending the routines long after the audience loses interest, that eventually the routines collapse under the sheer weight of mediocrity.
Sarah Campbell talks about being middle-class and a lesbian, brought up so she has to ask the audience: ‘I’m gay, does anybody mind about that?’ Not only do we not mind, we don’t care, which rather sinks the whole set. In fact, the only think we probably care about less is the fact she had a bad hairstyle 20 years ago, but she talks about that at great length, too. Shame, she had a great opening line – but absolutely nothing to follow it with.
Such anomalous glitches aside, this was a mostly impressive night. Even if the wrong Funny Woman won.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Good grief. I attended this show as a punter, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Lots of the Funny Women were funny and also women. I am inclined to agree with the review, in as much as I feel that Pippa Evans/Loretta Maine was definitely deserving of either a place, or at the very least the sort of special mention afforded Rachel Fairburn, who was plenty entertaining in her own right. I should probably hasten to add I thought that Katherine Ryan was excellent and a deserving winner. Anyway, I never normally write on these sort of things, but I'm thoroughly agog at the sheer level of bovine stupidity on show on this page. The show was great and has now been rather sullied by the unseemly, poorly reasoned, and poorly spelt clucking of these faceless funny women apparatchiks.
Extra Extra! man finds blond, middle class southerner more attractive than regional northerners from either the Americas or the UK! Shock! The show was fantastic it's just a shame that all the reviews are about the awful review. ps. Katie, I guess if you're having a competition open to women only you have to make that fact clear. You're right that funny is funny but in a very male-dominated profession it's good to have somebody fighting to get women up there. If this night had been open to men and women, how many women do you think you would have seen on that stage? just have a look under P on the Chorlte comedians page. 2 women only http://www.chortle.co.uk/comics/p/
Shit happens. Bad losers are everywhere in comedy. Maybe time to re-think funny 'woman'. This implies that it is a special needs group like funny 'alligators'. They have been hoist by their own petard. I hate fucking categories. Funny is funny. So there.
I agree with many of the comments about this reviewer and would add that he clearly has a problem with female comedians in general. However, looking at his other reviews he seems to have a problem with non London based comics and Northeners in particular. How predictable then, his comparison of Rachel Fairburn to Caroline Aherne, when clearly they are not alike apart from both sharing a Manchester accent, Caroline's standup was charecter based and Rachel's is not. I also don't understand his remark about the bibliophile joke Rachel did, it neither confused bibliophile with peadophile nor was is drawn out. Mr Bennet also failed to mention that Rachel got a well deserved 'Special Recommendation' from the Judges. A reviewer has a respnsibility to review what actually happened and far from being hit & miss, Rachel did a strong set with excellent material quite unlike anything else on the night. Mr Bennet then goes on to rubbish Rowena Haley, who was a strong guitar act and just as funny as his favourite, Pippa Evans, but in a different way. Again however, she was gulty of coming from the North All in all, a mean minded/loaded review. Perhaps you should get more people in to share the load as you are clearly not up to the job.
Erm..... what.... It's more like a episode of Loose Women than a review. Half of the review is dedicated to what should have happened in the reviewer's mind just tell me about the night, and what happened and review that otherwise we could all be here for a very long time, as we skip through Bennett's mind and his views on the decor of the venue "they should of opted for a dark green paint on the wall with soft up-lighting instead I was disgusted to find they had gone for spot lights and a navy blue theme"
I'd just like to say that this is an appauling review and i fail to see how it made it onto the website. not only does it spend too much time focusing on a girl who not only didn't win, but dealt with losing very badly as well, it fails to show any genuine respect for any of the funny women who performed. Whilst you accuse others of being 'crude' or 'brash' you hardly show and sense of erudition yourself, it seems in rather poor taste to compare someones performance to a sexually transmitted disease(crabs?). All in all this review appauled me, Katherine Ryan was a clear winner with a virtually unanamous respect from the entire audience. Not to say that Pippa Evans' performance was anything less than entertaining, but i personally believe that the best woman did win and a majority of others believed this too and in my opinion that's what really matters.
What a pity that Mr. Bennett feels that it is right to be derisive about every act reviewed without the proper research to justify his words. You might want to brush up your accents too so you know the difference between Canadian & obviously fake American. The show was quite one-sided with the crowd (and judges) having picked Miss Ryan along with a host of industry. While there were may have been obfuscations of order the top two were undeniable in the eyes of all that were there. Funny how you failed to mention Pippa's refusal to take the stage with the other acts at the final. Such an act of cowardice and selfishness might be rewarded by the petty but admonished by the general public looking for a quality show. May you continue to stifle the dreams of the up and comers Mr. Bennett. Your failure precedes you.
Well done Katherine! I picked you as my favourite. Let's hear it for the North Americans!
City Life Comedian Of The Year Final 2008
Hackney Empire New Act of the Year 2009
Laughing Horse New Act Final 2007
Stand Up Get Down
Girl & Dean
Reduced Edinburgh Fringe Impro Show
Super Great Comedy Good Show
Cheese and Pineapple Club
Girl And Dean
Late N Leith
Laughing Horse: About Comedy Course Graduation Show
Pippa Evans And Other Lonely People
Reduced Edinburgh Fringe Impro Show 
So You Think You're Funny 
Elaine Malcolmson & Niall Browne: All Kinds of Everything
Pippa Evans: Your Evening's Entertainment
Addicted to Danger!
Edwards And Stubbings Stand-Up
Edwards And Stubbings The Late Show
Grainne Maguire: We Need To Talk About Bonnets
Loretta Maine: I’m Not Drunk I Just Need To Talk To You
McNeil & Pamphilon: Addicted To Danger
Sara Pascoe Vs Her Ego
Sarah Campbell: 27 Up
Christmas For Two: Friends With You
Get Up, Stand Up! Gala
Katherine Ryan: Little Miss Conception
Rowena Haley: Nothing to Write Home About
Sara Pascoe vs The Apocalypse
Elaine Malcolmson: Relevant Experience
Gareth Morinan Presents A Wilmops Good Improv Show
Grainne Maguire: Where Are All the Fun Places and Are Lots of People There Having Better Fun?
Katherine Ryan: Nature's Candy
Loretta Maine: Bipolar
Rachel Stubbings Is Stubbing Out Problems
Sara Pascoe: The Musical!
Grainne Maguire's One Hour All Night Election Special
Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans: Wonder & Joy
Sara Pascoe Vs The Truth