A very funny woman

Transgendered comic scoops contest

A contest to find Britain’s funniest woman has been won by a comic who used to be a man.

Transgendered Debra-Jane Appelby triumphed at the Funny Women competition in London’s Comedy Store last night, after 150 hopefuls entered the competition.

The 38-year-old IT contractor from Keighley, West Yorkshire,does not mention her sex change in her act, and the judges - and the audience - were unaware of her past.

In a statement, Funny Women spokesman Simon Russell said: 'Debra-Jane Appelby informed the organisers and sponsors of Funny Women in advance of the competition that she changed gender to become a woman more than a decade ago.  In any event it is known in comedy circles that this is the case, though it is not a feature of her life that Debra-Jane uses in her act.

'Whilst Funny Women understands why Debra-Jane wanted to be open with the production team, it was never considered as grounds to view her participation in the competition to be any different from any other woman. '

Organisers say none of the finalists and judges they have contacted said Appelby's gender change was an issue that should have affected her winning the £2,000 prize.

The Funny Women statement added: 'There is also a sense of considerable frustration that a line-up of ten women performing brilliant stand-up to a packed audience is not the focus of attention.'

Appelby has been performing for about two years, and this is her second competition win, after taking the Leicester Comedy Festival’s comedian of the year contest in February, and she debuts her first hour-long show, Appleby's Journey To The 21st Century at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

Appelby said her victory was 'brilliant', adding: 'The Funny Women Awards is a fantastic competition because it does more than just identify ‘winners’, it celebrates women doing stand-up and it raises money for good causes.”

'The variety and quality of the comics in the competition was amazing and I am stunned but delighted to have been considered worthy of a place in the final, let alone the winner.'

Runner-up was Sarah Millican, with Ruth Bratt – recently seen on Channel 4’s FAQ U – coming in third.

The other  finalists were Wendy Wason, Steph Baker, Jude Mahon, Julie Jepson, Emma Fryer, Becky Love and Helen Keen.

Funny Women producer Lynne Parker said; 'We have seen the standard rise each year and every finalist is an outstanding performer in their own right – we can expect to be entertained by these women for many years to come. Debra-Jane was particularly impressive and she and several others will be ones to watch.'

This is the third year of the contest, previously won by character act Jade The Folk Singer and stand-up Zoe Lyons.

The final of the Babycham Funny Women Awards was hosted by Jo Caulfield and judged by  Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray, Jan Ravens from BBC’s Dead Ringers, Sarah Mahoney from the Paramount Comedy Channel, Comedy Store owner Don Ward, Vanessa Haynes from Celador Productions, Chortle editor Steve Bennett  and Debbie Djordjevic, editor of www.handbag.com.

Published: 5 Jul 2005

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