DAWN French spent four weeks talking to some of the funniest women in Britain and America.
The result is Dawn French’s Girls Who Do Comedy, a three-part series which starts on BBC1 at 10.15pm a week tomorrow.
It begins with a dazzling number of talking heads but develops into something rather interesting and, at times, revealing.
The series is dedicated to comedienne and broadcaster Linda Smith, who was interviewed before her death from ovarian cancer in February at the age of 48.
Others taking part include Bury-raised Victoria Wood and University of Manchester graduate Meera Syal, who begin by talking about their childhoods.
Meera recalls: “A big part of the family get together was the kids doing their turn. Being Indian kids, a lot of them would do maths long division or, ‘This is how I do a tracheotemy with a pen, because I want to be a surgeon.’ But me? I did Paper Roses on the guitar.”
London-raised Gina Yashere, whose I Don’t Think So tour visits The Lowry on Sept 13, told Dawn about growing up in the capital with Nigerian parents. “I’ve got an aunty – she’s my mum’s cousin. As a kid, I used to think her name was Aunty Imbalam. But it wasn’t. I found out years later that her name isn’t Imbalam. Her name was Aunty in Balham, because she used to live in Balham.”
Some critics have described Gina as a British Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi herself – failing to hide behind Dawn (above) – admits to being shy. “That’s why I live in the middle of nowhere – but I can handle things in certain contexts,” she reveals. “That’s why I’m happy to perform. I can do that, and that’s my social time. I can meet a lot of people at one time and then I don’t have to see anybody for nine months.”
It’s perfect viewing to round off the weekend and I’ll be writing about it for the MEN next week. You want more names? OK, take a deep breath.
Among others who sat down to chat with Dawn are: Catherine Tate, Julie Walters, Sandra Bernhard, Kathy Burke, Eleanor Bron, Laura Solon, Jo Brand, Phyllis Diller, Jenny Éclair, Miriam Margolyes, Jessica Stevenson, Tracey Ullman, Rita Rudner, Joan Rivers, Sarah Silverman, Ruby Wax, Denise Caffey, Kathy and Mo, Penny Marshall, Wanda Sykes, Jennifer Saunders, Liza Tarbuck, Mel and Sue, Helen Lederer, Sheila Hancock and Morwenna Banks.