Review: ‘The What The Frock! Book of Funny Women’ by Jane Duffus

WTFrockWhat The Frock! is one of just three all-female comedy nights held in the UK. Based in Bristol, WTF! was founded in 2012 to prove a point about the abundance of funny women (and the abundance of people eager to see them perform), and recently celebrated its third birthday.

Despite its relative infancy, WTF! is a seriously passionate, ambitious brand, committed to promoting women in comedy. After just three years, WTF! has already expanded beyond Bristol, hosting shows in nearby Bath, appearing as part of the Women In Comedy Festival in Manchester, and even putting on a show at the Southbank Centre’s iconic three-day Women of the World Festival. The WTF! Newcomer Award is now in its third year, and WTF! has been featured by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, as well as ITV, and BBC TV and radio.

So, obviously, a book was the next natural step.

I should confess at this point that Jane Duffus, the woman who single handedly runs What The Frock! and the author of this book, has been a friend since we met through feminist circles on Twitter back in 2010. I’ve been a WTF! supporter and (occasional) audience member ever since she founded it, as well as doing odd bits of content writing and social media management for the brand. So I write this not without bias, as someone who really loves and believes in what Jane is doing for women’s comedy in the UK (and who has the tote bag, car sticker, badges, fridge magnets, bookmark, but not yet the T-shirt, to prove it!)

The [amazon_textlink asin=’0957127502′ text=’The What The Frock! Book of Funny Women’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’saragrah0e-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’76eb081b-0a82-11e7-ba40-5b6907741360′] is a relatively skinny book, smaller than I’d expected, but it packs a punch. Jane writes on the assumption that her reader already knows women are funny – there’s no time wasted on debating ‘are they or aren’t they?’ because this book is all about letting the funny women’s work speak for itself. After briefly running through the histories both of women in comedy and the WTF! brand, Jane gets straight to the women.

With a little help from contributors including Viv Groskop, James Mullinger and Kate Smurthwaite, Jane profiles a diverse array of funny women from the last century-and-a-bit, curating their achievements and career highlights in a way that makes you go ‘god, I really want to spend the rest of the day watching French and Saunders on YouTube’. Not brilliant for your afternoon productivity if you happen to be reading it during your lunch break (as I was), but great inspiration if you’re in need of a laugh and bored of the same old men on Mock The Week.

The book’s aim is to celebrate the funniest women ever to have made us laugh, and features 71 funny women in total, in what Jane admits is far from a comprehensive list. But with highlights including everyone from novelists Jane Austen and Helen Fielding to US superstars Tina Fey, Ellen Degeneres and Sarah Silverman – with British legends Victoria Wood, Julie Walters, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, and so many more in between – it’s difficult to dispute the fact that Jane has made a pretty impressive start.

Besides the obvious choices, the book also features many women I’d never heard of, including Hollywood icons and music hall stars. It’s not just a perfect antidote with which to silence the tedious ‘women aren’t funny’ brigade, but also a great resource for discovering women of comedy history and lesser known funny women of today.

It’s probably not a book to read all in one go, so save something else for the beach, but the bite size chunks celebrating each of the 71 women make it ideal for dipping in and out of – you’ll be binge watching Dinner Ladies and Ab Fab in between anyway, or buying tickets for Sarah Millican’s next tour.

[amazon_textlink asin=’0957127502′ text=’You can buy the What The Frock! Book of Funny Women here.’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’saragrah0e-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’9069d30b-0a82-11e7-a52e-41845a7378e1′]

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