11 funny and inspiring women who masterminded their own TV success

In honour of International Women's Day, here are some of TV's most successful females who created their own work — and took centre stage...

102506

Unless you’re from before the stone age or you just happen to live under a rock, you’ll know that humour has nothing to do with gender. Men can be funny, women can be funny, trans people can be funny and so on. The world has moved past the whole Can Women Be Funny? phase.

Advertisement

But, of course, that doesn’t mean women aren’t still struggling to get their work on-screen, or that there isn’t still plenty of gender bias in parts of the entertainment industry.

So in honour of International Women’s Day, RadioTimes.com is celebrating some of the especially hilarious women who are making their name by writing and starring in their own shows. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list but a tribute to nine women causing a stir — and making it happen for themselves…


Sharon Horgan

102452

Why she’s inspiring: A master of writing and playing real women who aren’t selfless and angelic — in fact, they’re quite the opposite. Horgan created 2006 BBC3 sitcom Pulling, one of the few comedies where women were at the centre of the story, not just playing someone’s girlfriend. And now she’s tackled the very bleakest, funniest aspects of relationships and parenthood with Channel 4’s Catastrophe, the sitcom she’s co-written with Rob Delaney. At this year’s Royal Television Society Awards, the show has been nominated in two categories; Scripted Comedy and Comedy Performance.

What she says: “I never used to see anything on TV where the man was in the weaker position. It was always the female showing emotion, breaking down, being emotionally torn apart by men. And I just thought, ‘Well, it’s not always like that.’ And I thought not only would it be good to show that, it would be funny.” The Guardian


Michaela Coel

102454

Why she’s inspiringFirstly, because she wrote this line for her character in E4’s Chewing Gum; “My mum was gonna name me Alyssa, which means sweet angel in Indian. But when I came out, she looked at me and called me Tracey.” This made RadioTimes.com laugh for hours. Secondly, because Coel has made a name for herself with a sitcom which is both funny and manages to sharply elbow away stereotypes about women and working class life.

What she says: Michaela told RadioTimes.com, “I do not sleep, I stay up and I stay upright and I type through the night. I am not an insomniac; I have got f****ng deadlines, man. I will watch waitresses come in and do their shift. I will go to a 24-hour café in Bloomsbury and watch them on Tottenham Court Road and I would write there. I have put a lot of work into this, a lot of fighting for creative control.”


Lena Dunham

102456

Why she’s inspiring: The Girls creator and star has been a sort of saviour for many twenty-something women who, for the first time ever, saw a show which revealed sex in all its possible grimness, non-conformist body types and the general sense of confusion that imbues millennial life. A proud feminist, Dunham has shown she’s not at all scared to say what she really thinks – and Girls will be missed when it comes to an end later this year.

What she says: “There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman. As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter. That personal writing by women is no more than an exercise in vanity and that we should appreciate this new world for women, sit down, and shut up.” ― from her book, Not That Kind of Girl


Phoebe Waller-Bridge

102457

Why she’s inspiring: Unafraid of being brash and feminist, Waller-Bridge has written unpredictable, rude and fascinating females into her first sitcom Crashing (on Channel 4) in which she also stars. But her breakout was undoubtedly Fleabag. Frustrated about the scarcity of good roles for women, she’d already written her BBC3 show as a one-woman show about an anti-heroine, winning an Olivier award nomination and the Stage award for best solo performance. But Fleabag created a critical splash when it was turned into a six-part series for the on-demand service, making Waller-Bridge’s name internationally and even propelling her towards a role in the new Han Solo spin-off.

What she says: In an interview with RadioTimes.com, she said; “I love doing both things [writing and acting] so much the idea of doing both at the same time bordered on a fantasy for ages,” she said. But shows like Pulling, Catastrophe and Drifters, which all featured the women who wrote them, made her realise it was possible. “Once I saw it as something that could really happen I was like, that has to happen now please.


Mindy Kaling

102458

Why she’s inspiring: The creator and star of The Mindy Project, Kaling is unapologetic, ambitious and passionate about writing good TV. And she’s invented a star character who is a successful medic in a male-dominated field, who isn’t instantly likeable or sweet — but rather flawed, funny and obsessed with sex.

Advertisement

What she says: “It’s very nice to have a show at a time when a woman who is not traditionally beautiful having her own comedy show and being openly pro-choice is commonplace. Right now, all my favourite shows star women who, if not producing it, created it themselves. I’m glad I’m coming up at this same time.” The Guardian