'It's so cheery-uppy' | Jan Ravens picks her comedy favourites

'It's so cheery-uppy'

Jan Ravens picks her comedy favourites

Joyce Grenfell

My first choice, going chronologically, is Joyce Grenfell, who always reminds me of my mum.

My mum wasn't very keen on comedy. She couldn't see what was so funny about it. But she did love Joyce Grenfell and we used to sing this song about ballroom dancing called Stately As A Galleon.

It's about ladies going to ballroom dancing classes because there aren't enough men the ladies have to dance with the ladies. There are just some brilliant lines like: 'I dance with Mrs Tiverton she's light on her feet in spite/of turning the scale at 14 stone and being of medium height'.

We played it at my mum's funeral as the curtains drew on the coffin. It gave everyone a bit of a laugh as well as a bit of a tear.

Morecambe and Wise

The Morecambe and Wise Show is quite a boring choice, but it was appointment viewing and something everybody loved and everybody shared catchphrases from.

I really loved the West End tribute show The Play What I Wrote, too. We took the kids to see it as a Christmas treat. It was so funny, they did it so well. It was great to watch comedy together as a family, really lovely

It's difficult to pick a favourite sketch, but there's when they had Andre Previn on, 'all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order'. Then there's that brilliant gay abandon of when they're making the breakfast to the theme of The Stripper, which is just fantastic.

So silly and such great, physical camp comedy that there's something quite joyous about it

Not Only… But Also

Not Only… But Also was something I used to watch with my dad. I used to watch Spike Milligan with him, then he got me into Not Only… But Also and I just loved it.

It used to make me hysterical with laughter. I remember a sketch called Poet's Corner where they used to be these pretentious poets and then they'd get chucked in a pool of foam.

I guess the show must have got me into the sort of Peter Cook cleverness. Maybe my dad was subtly pointing me in the direction of Cambridge or something.... It was funny because my dad was a staunch Liverpool supporter with a season ticket to Anfield but every now and again he'd say: 'Why don't you read some of these books, they're really funny'. He got me into PG Wodehouse and the Billy Bunter books. Bizarre.

Alexei Sayle's Stuff

Often when you're in shows, you don't quite 'get it' But I use to laugh so much at Stuff. We'd do sketches, while Alexei also used to do stand-up bits to camera, filmed walking along in situ somewhere, so we never saw those routin es until we saw them fresh on TV.

We've got family catchphrases that we still use from the show, such as the routine in whichAlexei was talking about: 'No I never invest in anything dodgy, you know, apart from a few few quid in a South African poison gas corporation...' That idea of the most ideologically unsound thing being the South African poison gas corporation was something that stuck.

There was a particular sketch which I did with Alexei which I really loved, called The Bishop. Tony Millan played the bishop, acting like a cat, for example, mimicking they way they come and stand by your legs when they want to go out. Anyway, it was the most hilarious sketch. It was one of those when it was really hard not to crumple up laughing.

Victoria Wood

I mean, what can you say? Complete trailblazing genius.

Victoria Wood brilliantly created her own world on her own terms without nodding to anything or anybody else. She just got it done the way she wanted to do it in a very quiet and determined way and I so admired her.

If ever I see a sketch from As Seen On TV it's guaranteed to get me laughing – it's so cheery-uppy.

She so gets that Northern suburban world that I come from. All my mum's friends sounded like they are either in a Victoria Wood sketch or an Alan Bennet play. It feels very familiar to me. It's just brilliantly, brilliantly funny.

The rhythms are so funny, too. I've heard people say that in Dinnerladies the actors weren't allowed to change the lines. And that's like David Renwick, who wrote One Foot In The Grave and a lot of sketches on Alexei Sayle's Stuff – you can't change even an 'um' or an 'err' because it's written in the right rhythm.


I think Bridesmaids is a work of comedy genius. It was the first timeI'd come across Melissa McCarthy because I didn't watch Mike and Molly on the telly and sso when I saw her in Bridesmaids it was such a revelation. She was so brilliant in the character of the little, fat butch woman who was really predatory as far as that little guy who is her real-life husband, Ben Falcone. She was laugh-out-loud funny.

There are lots of brilliant moments. I loved Kirsten Wiig in the jewellery shop and the scene in the bridalwear store. There are lots of brilliant moments and it’s so great there's a panoply of female talent in there. It was a great laugh and a great film – and I loved Chris O'Dowd in it, too.

Jan Ravens is one of the mentors for this year's Funny Women awards alongside Sara Pascoe, Shazia Mirza, Zoe Lyons, Ellie Taylor and Tiff Stevenson. The finals are at Koko in Camden, North London, this Wednesday. She is also working on a series of online sketches.

Published: 26 Sep 2016

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