Funny Women Awards 2016 Regional Final
As the Greater Manchester Fringe comes to a close, The Lowry Studio plays host to the North West’s regional final of this year’s Funny Women Awards.
This competition has been running for over a decade and has exposed the likes of Bridget Christie, Sarah Millican and Katherine Ryan. The Salford-based event sees nine female comedians compete for a place in the contest’s grand final at prestigious London venue KOKO, where this year's Funny Woman will be crowned.
As an event, it’s unashamedly girly. One of the sponsors is make-up brand Benefit—audience members are given free samples of mascara and powder as they enter the venue—and the onstage banners feature pink sparkly trainers and Funny Women in pink neon writing. All ticket sales go towards domestic violence help charity Refuge, which brings a more serious tone to the event.
Comedy showcase nights—particularly those with little-known acts—often live or die on the strength of the compère. Fortunately for both the Funny Women contestants and the capacity Lowry audience, Ruth E Cockburn is an instantly likeable host, smiling and energetic but with a dark edge. She keeps up the pace between the acts and is arguably the funniest performance of the night.
The contestants do come thick and fast, with a dauntingly short time to impress the audience and judges. Many of them cover ground that is conventional—relationships, motherhood, jobs—or crude, with plenty of anecdotal gags revolving around booze, sex, swearing and fights.
These stage personas may be attention-grabbing and crowd-pleasing initially, but several in quick succession means the novelty soon wears off. There shouldn’t be any subjects that are taboo for female comedians whilst being permissible for men, but the overall trend amongst the Funny Women contestants suggests that female comedians should talk about stereotypically unladylike subjects for shock factor.
There is plenty of more original material, however, with gags about tattoos, morris dancing and comparing men to dolphins. Winner Rivka Uttley is reminiscent of Sarah Millican, reading out her own Rush Hour Crush composition and observing that single women should give their cats male names in order to sound like they are talking about their boyfriends. Contestants Amy Vreeke and Lindsey Santoro are named as wild cards, with the chance of appearing in the final in Camden alongside Uttley.
Competitions like the Funny Women Awards are so important both for the continual promotion of upcoming fringe talent, and for raising the stigmatised profile of female comedy. Long may they continue.
Reviewer: Georgina Wells