Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Funniest People I Know Are Women. Maxine Peake Plays a Stand-Up Comedian Cutting Her Teeth in Northern Working Men's Clubs in the 1970s in Her New Film Funny Cow. She Talks to LAURA HARDING about Her Previous Aspirations in the Field and Destroying the Myth That Women Are Not Funny

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Funniest People I Know Are Women. Maxine Peake Plays a Stand-Up Comedian Cutting Her Teeth in Northern Working Men's Clubs in the 1970s in Her New Film Funny Cow. She Talks to LAURA HARDING about Her Previous Aspirations in the Field and Destroying the Myth That Women Are Not Funny

Article excerpt

Byline: LAURA HARDING

THERE are some actors who cannot wait to tell you how much they suffered for a role - the emotional agonies they bravely soldiered through, the physical and mental torment they endured.

Maxine Peake is not one of those actors. In fact, she is the charming opposite.

That is despite the fact her new role, as an aspiring stand-up comedian in northern drama Funny Cow, sees her character put through the wringer in numerous ways - from a troubled upbringing to brutal domestic abuse.

"It is only acting," she says matter-of-factly, in a broad Manchester accent.

"Sometimes those parts are fun to do, because you experience elements of life that maybe you don't, that are very different from my life experience or where I am now.

"I sort of maybe perversely enjoy those things. It is acting, it is playing."

The film charts the rise to stardom of the comedian, known only as Funny Cow, starting in the tough working men's clubs and the stand-up comedy circuit of the north of England in the 1970s.

It is not a spoiler to say that those kind of venues were not particularly receptive to a woman getting up on the stage.

In fact the film sets about dismantling the myth that women lack the knack for humour, famously voiced by writer Christopher Hitchens in a Vanity Fair article headlined Why Women Aren't Funny.

"The funniest people I know are women, they all are," Maxine says.

"We are just not given a chance. I think men are frightened.

"It's not all men, I don't want to make a sweeping statement, but there is this myth that goes around that women aren't funny and that is what Tony (Pitts, the writer and her co-star) wanted to tackle, and show that isn't the case."

ON " In fact Maxine, 43, once dreamed of a career in stand-up comedy before she turned her hand to acting.

BIG SCREEN "It is something that I initially wanted to do," she reveals.

"When I was younger, I thought, 'That's it, I want to be a stand-up' and then I got older and thought, 'Not on your nelly, that just looks absolutely petrifying'.

"You've got to have so much admiration for people who do stand-up.

"It was great to be able to delve in and pretend that is what my life choice was and that is the beauty of this job, that you get to have the experiences you might not have the guts to do."

Comedian John Bishop, who has a cameo in the film, is equally dismissive of aspersions that women don't have the funny bone.

THE "I think it's out of fashion (to say women aren't funny), because you're either funny or you're not.

"When you work on the comedy circuit, you walk on stage and that's it.

"Once you walk on, people go, 'Right, that's a man, that's a black man, a white man or it's a bald man or a woman in a dress or a woman in jeans' and after that it's gone and you're either funny or you're not funny and you have a minute to prove that. …

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