Christmas Day is over and you’ve earned the right to live on leftovers and spend all day in your PJs. There’s no better time to binge on some brilliant female comedy so here’s a couple of our top picks from both sides of the Atlantic.
First off is The Marvellous Mrs Maisel which is essential comedy viewing for anybody taking their first tentative steps into the world of stand-up comedy.
Miriam “Midge” Maisel, is a comfortably middle-class 1950s Jewish housewife living in New York City. It is 1958 and she has everything she’s ever wanted: the perfect husband, two kids, an elegant Upper West Side apartment and her parents on hand for babysitting duties.
Her seemingly perfect life suddenly takes an unexpected turn when Midge discovers her own talent for comedy while supporting the stand-up ambitions of her husband, Joel. She accompanies him on gigs at the Gaslight Club armed with a home-made brisket to bribe the booker for Joel’s slots and a notebook to record the laughs and new ideas for gags.
When Joel ‘dies’ at a gig Midge gets the blame and he leaves her for a predictable relationship with an adoring secretary. Her revenge is taken out on stage at the Gaslight Club in a drunken impromptu set which leads to the start of her own career as a comic. Her sets are embellished with details of her marriage break up, living back with her hilariously repressed parents and the cultural angst of her New York Jewish lifestyle. Fabulous sets and costumes make this a feast on the eye as well as the ear.
Back on British soil and the BBC has treated us to another seasonal comedy essential with 300 Years of French and Saunders. This magical compendium of extracts is chosen from around 40 episodes of their show which ran from 1987 to 2004 with a retrospective show in 2007.
First aired on Christmas Day this is well worth a catch up on BBC iPlayer, reaffirming the brilliance of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders and their outstanding comedic chemistry, as they are reunited for their first TV show together in 10 years.
The BBC approached them to ask if they would approve a show made up of snippets from old episodes and they said yes, but only if they could pick the clips. This grew into them deciding to write scripts for the talking head commentators; then into them coming up with “a few new bits” for themselves.
The 25 minutes of new material includes encounters in the white room and an eye-wateringly funny sketch as screen-hogging television extras who take over the set of Poldark with the help of Eleanor Tomlinson’s ‘Demelza’ and Jack Farthing’s ‘George Warleggan’ in an attempt to find Aidan Turner in hope of a reprise of his topless scything scene. With a pithy script that references today’s objectification of women in the industry, this sketch isn’t just played for laughs.
The French and Saunders formula is irrepressible and stands the test of time. A masterclass in how to write great comedy.