Is Katy Brand the New Catherine Tate? 1.seriously Funny: "I like the Gap between What Stars Are Really like and the Press Package," Says Brand 2.fashionable Targets: Brand Takes off Kate Moss (Centre) with Alice Lowe as Sadie Frost (Left) and Katherine Parkinson as Stella McCartney 3.size Doesn't Matter: Amy Winehouse (above) and Kate Winslet (Top Right) Get the Brand Treatment

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KATY Brand may be television's hottest new comic talent but she stopslaughing the moment I mention the recent re-eruption of the debate aboutwhether women can be funny or not. And specifically, why more of them are notbeing funny on television.

"Ah, the old 'gender glasses' problem," says the 24-year-old, rolling her eyes."I don't want to talk about it. The more you talk about it, the more it becomesa problem.

You end up giving women an excuse not to try. Comedy can be intimidating but itis intimidating for men, too." That's me told. And there is arguably a flotillaof budding female talent following in the wake of pioneers such as CatherineTate and Ronnie Ancona.

There is Sharon Horgan, who wrote and starred in the BBC sitcom Pulling, RuthJones, who co-stars with Steve Coogan in Saxondale, Shelley Longworth, who hasher own sketch show this autumn, and Brand's chum from her Oxford student days,Katherine Parkinson, who stars in The IT Crowd.

Then there is Katy Brand herself. You might think comedy would be all the moreintimidating if, like Brand, you are a lapsed "fundamentalist Christian" (herphrase) with a figure that could politely be described as Rubenesque.

But Brand's confidence in her own talent has led to a meteoric rise. Havingonly begun performing what she calls her "insane monologues"pinsharp take-offs of celebrities intercut with acutely observed characters ofher own creationin comedy clubs in 2004, she stars tonight in her own vehicle, Katy Brand's BigAss Show, and is being promoted as ITV's answer to Catherine Tate. "I tellpeople I'm Russell Brand's estranged wife, and I've gone into comedy to win himback," she deadpans.

"Or sometimes I tell taxi drivers that Jo Brand is my mum." Like Catherine Tateand the Little Britain boys, all of whom she admires, Brand delivers agloriously monstrous form of 21st-century satire.

In her view, this is a country obsessed with celebrity, body fascism andshopping, and she skewers it with a cruel wit that is part-Swift, part-Viz.

But it is her inspired spoofing of stars that sets her apart from the likes ofTate. There's Kate Moss as a naughty school bully, conspiring in the playgroundwith Sadie Frost and Stella McCartney. Or Kate Winslet as a neurotic housewife,vacuuming the walls and struggling to turn on the oven in an increasinglydesperate bid to appear "normal".

Best of all are her musical send-ups, such as Amy Winehouse slurring her newsingle, Booze on My Face, in a disgusting pub toilet, or the pop-reggae tuneBanal, which mercilessly punctures Lily Allen's aspirations to workingclasscred. "I can't help it if I grew up on a council estate ..." Brand trills,"well, I walked past one." She has a particular animus against Allen, it seems."I just have a bit of a thing about very posh kids pretending they aren't posh.Be fine as you are, stop pretending you are something else," she says. But sheis plainly delighted that when Radio 1 played Banal, many mistook it for thereal thing.

"Scott Mills played it without saying it 'I tell people Russell Brand'sestranged or that Jo is my mum' was me and more than 20,000 listeners texted inthinking it really was Lily Allen. One even said it was 'a return to form'.Louis Walsh loved it," Brand cackles.

She denies that her parodies are cruel, insisting that she lampoons only thewider, weirder fringes of celebrity life. "I just try to latch onto aparticular comic aspect. The thing I like is the gap between what stars areactually like and the constant press package being rammed down your throat. Soyou have Jennifer Aniston going 'I'm fine', and you want to say, 'Jennifer, howcan you possibly be fine, you were married to Brad Pitt and he ran off with aminx?' "Stars are constantly weaving a web of bullshit around themselves and ifyou keep building this web eventually the spider is gonna eat you." One of thedelights of her job, she says, is that she can read the likes of Heat andGrazia and claim it is research. …


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