(As written for Huffington Post UK)
In 1981, the Chariots Of Fire screenwriter Colin Welland held aloft his Best Original Screenplay Oscar and famously declared: “The British are coming!”
As we all know, he was sadly mistaken.
But call it belief, call it over-excitement, call it both dumb and blind optimism: I am rather sharing Mr Welland’s view right now after the year 2011 has been. Not for Brits in movies, that is – but for women in comedy.
Bridesmaids, a comedy film written by two women, in which the protagonists – gasp! – just happen to be women, was the sleeper hit of of the year. It became not only Judd Apatow’s biggest hit, but also the highest grossing female R-rated comedy of all time.
Sarah Millican broke records, too, when her debut stand-up DVD became Britain’s biggest selling DVD by a female comedian (overtaking the 10-year record held by French And Saunders).
And Millican also won the coveted People’s Choice award at this year’s British Comedy Awards – a gong voted for by the public, who earlier in 2011 had chosen Miranda Hart (another female comic who’s had a great year, of course).
America’s First Lady of Comedy, meanwhile – or as she’s also known, Tina Fey – had the second best-selling book of the year on Amazon.com, with her brilliant memoir Bossypants. And if Steve Jobs hadn’t gone and died on us, she may well have gained the top spot.
A female comedy writer outselling all others. Two female comedians winning the popular vote over their male peers. A female-led comedy being taken to the heart by pretty much the entire comedy-loving, movie-going population.
Yes, 2011 was, dare I say it, an exceptional year for women in comedy – and my wish for 2012 is that TV, film and media executives are paying very close attention to these events. (Actually, I have no doubt that Hollywood – with its ‘nobody knows anything’ mantra and thus its desire to try to replicate successes as closely as possible – already is.)
Because as long as they do pay attention, and realise that the public actually really like funny women, then the success of Fey, Millican, Hart, Wiig, Mumolo and all the other women who have been doing their thing and doing it brilliantly in 2011 will not be an aberration. And so many other funny, talented women – along with young girls dreaming of such careers, in want and need of role models – will be inspired to emulate them.
Here’s to us, ladies. The women are coming! *raises a glass* *puts on Vangelis*