Dawn French’s Girls Who Do Comedy, BBC1

by | Aug 13, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

This series of interviews with Dawn French’s favourite female comedians and comic actors was an entertaining half hour of television, with some pleasingly innovative ideas that helped raise it above the average talking-head series.

What was good about it?

• Dawn French herself rarely fails to please and here she did an excellent job as an interviewer. Her subjects were clearly at ease with her and consequently they spoke openly, with passion and with great humour.

• This wasn’t simply a show thrown together with Dawn and her mates as the shockingly excellent booking of Whoopi Goldberg proved. Cunningly, however, the programme-makers followed Goldberg’s first comments by possibly the only woman alive who could trump her: Miss Piggy.

• Whoopi Goldberg admitting she didn’t perform comedy for her family, just Oscar acceptance speeches where she would just stand there thanking everyone.

• Tracey Ullman describing herself as a spin-off of her sister.

• Phillis Diller expressing grateful surprise that her parents didn’t “drown (her) along with the cats”.

• The wonderfully wild-haired Miriam Margolyes; the gorgeous Jessica Stevenson; the exciteable Julie Walters; the brilliant Kathy Burke.

• The brief clip of the superb Beryl Reid.

• Miriam Margolyes’ hilarious impression of her convent teacher asking her to bring in old newspapers to pack her sanitary towels in as they didn’t have the correct facilities on offer at the school.

• Helen Lederer’s recollection of starting the Anti Golf Association when she was 10, which involved her and her friends singing Nelly the Elephant at golfers while they teed off.

• When asked to reminisce and talk about themselves, many male comedians tend to become morose, depressed and introspective. Some might even say dull. But this was the exact opposite. The women on view clearly loved being involved in comedy.

• Watching Dawn French cry with laughter.

• The original style employed by the programme-makers. There was no formal introduction; no irritating, wise-cracking narration; and no countdowns. There weren’t even any captions (these were saved for the end credits). The interviewees were frequently allowed to talk for more then the three seconds usually allotted to people in talking head shows made by producers and commissioners who believe the whole country has an attention span of 0.5 seconds. And because French was presenting, we were allowed to hear her questions, negating the need for the interviewees to reply by incorporating an unheard question into their answer. Encouragingly, BBC4 will be screening some of the interviews in full, which should be fascinating.

What was bad about it?

• We can but nit-pick. Of course, some funny women will be left out, but we would have loved to have seen the regal Penelope Keith in the programme.

• For some reason, Jennifer Saunders seemed slightly ill-at-ease being interviewed by French. Hopefully her contributions will be more telling in the future episodes

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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