1. Kathy Burke
Harry Enfield’s crowd of merry '80s archetypes would have been nothing without their female sidekick who played both sexes. Whether she was perma-tracksuited chain-smoking Waynetta Slob or hormonally charged teenager Perry, she was superb. She even took the role to the movies in the hedonistic Kevin and Perry Go Large.
2. Hattie Jacques
Larger than life Hattie sparred memorably with Kenneth Williams in the unforgettable Carry on…films. Despite being a prolific television and radio performer she will be forever etched in the movie-lover’s mind as a no-nonsense matron.
3. Jenny Eclair
Due to be profiled in the October issue of Saga Magazine, the energetic Eclair became the first female solo winner of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival's Perrier Comedy Award in 1995. But it is as a Grumpy Old Woman that Eclair has really found her metier, musing on everything from the colour beige to class. And the Women are on tour next year.
4. Dawn French
Having first come to the public attention as part of the alternative comedy scene of the early '80s, Dawn French came to become part of the establishment with her role in The Vicar of Dibley. An audience of 12 million watched her final episode. But it was with fellow funny woman Jennifer Saunders that she will always be remembered. Here she is as one of the perennially naughty schoolgirls.
5. Caroline Aherne
She won the nation’s hearts as the faux naïve chat show host Mrs Merton who made guests squirm and laugh in equal measure with her questions but it was as the range of characters she played in The Fast Show that we like to remember her. Here she is forecasting the weather – a permanent scorchio – in a faraway mythical country.
6. Jo Brand
After foregoing a career as a psychiatric nurse, Jo Brand took to the stage for another demanding career. Under the pseudonym ‘The Sea Monster’ she delivered one liners in a bored monotone before going onto to appear in panel shows. After a rebellious start in comedy, she has now settled into the cosy world of presenting The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice.
7. Julie Walters
The popular Brummie rose to prominence as a sharp-talking scholar in Educating Rita and she also stripped off for Calendar Girls and mentored a young dancer in Billy Elliot but it is probably her collaborations with Victoria Wood and Celia Imrie that she has best loved. Here she is in the classic Two Soups sketch.
8. Joanna Lumley
The television actress and Bond girl was not really noted for comedy until she took the role of hard-drinking Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. As Edina’s blotto friend she came to dominate the show with her triumphant wig and narcissistic behaviour. A movie of the iconic show is due to start filming in October but if you can’t wait until then, watch this sketch.
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