Victoria Wood RIP – aka, why she was my Bowie

by Stephen Tall on April 20, 2016

Was Victoria Wood my Bowie? I guess in some ways she was. Bear with me on this.

After all, I was about 15 when the BBC repeated her breakthrough series, As Seen On TV. And I loved it. Still do. Acorn Antiques with Julie Walters’ Mrs Overall and Celia Imrie’s Miss Babs, Patricia Routledge’s self-righteous Kitty, Susie Blake’s superior continuity announcer, Duncan Preston as token male. Her songs, her stand-up, her sketches. They made their impression on me. Most of the jokes I got; some I didn’t (usually to do with ladies’ things) so I made sure I found out so I could.

And like all my generation, I remember her big gig, An Audience With, probably the sharpest, funniest 50 minutes ITV has ever knowingly broadcast. She played the old favourites, including the Ballad of Barry and Freda with its immortal line, “Beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly”. The camera cut-away to Emma Freud rupturing with laughter, triggering a teenage crush which has never faded (though I’ve always tried to be happy, actually for Richard Curtis).

When I got my first paid job (waitering), the biggest joy I got was being able to buy my own ticket to go and see her perform at the Oxford Apollo. I didn’t know anyone else who’d be up for going so I went alone. I sat next to an old-ish bloke who left before the second half: it was the set which included some earthy language not to his taste. I even bought a programme, probably still have it somewhere — I recall its dedication to her then husband, Geoffrey Durham: “I could have done it without him. But it would have been crap.” That was her.

It sealed the deal. I watched all her live shows, bought the videotapes, later upgraded to the DVDs. Even Dinnerladies (which, truthfully, wasn’t quite as funny as I wanted it to be; though that didn’t stop my tearing-up at its final episode).

Her Christmas specials remained my highlight — All The Trimmings showcased her at her very best: the spoof of Brief Encounter, the Anne Widdecombe ear-worm, even a cameo by my other teenage comedy fave, Bob Monkhouse. Throughout today, I’ve been recalling half-forgotten lines (“Have you met my friend, Kim-ber-ley?”, “I’ve given gallons of blood and I can’t stomach whelks, so that’s me for you”, “Wendy comes to us from the Geneva school of sterilised blackhead-popping”), admiring again her deft, light touch — ridiculing, but with affection never contempt.

Her later departure into drama I admired and respected (Housewife 49), though it wasn’t what first inspired me. Perhaps, like Bowie, her best was behind her. We’ll never know now. For me, she wasn’t just the best female comedian I’ve seen: she was the best comedian. A writer, a stand-up, an actor, a musician. Slapstick, one-liners, pathos, satire. She could do it all. But, above all, there was always warmth. You didn’t just laugh: you smiled.

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2 comments

[…] this week saw the loss of Victoria Wood. Stephen Tall explains his long-standing appreciation of her humour: “She could do it all. But, above all, there was always warmth. You didn’t just laugh: you […]

by Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #456 on April 24, 2016 at 7:01 pm. Reply #

[…] this week saw the loss of Victoria Wood. Stephen Tall explains his long-standing appreciation of her humour: “She could do it all. But, above all, there was always warmth. You didn’t just laugh: […]

by Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #456 – Hub Politic on April 24, 2016 at 7:21 pm. Reply #

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