Oh, make me over!

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m making a few ‘alternations’ to myself…

I’ve held off cutting my hair because people were aghast at the suggestion, thought I couldn’t get a tattoo because ‘what would it be like in your mid-thirties’. That I shouldn’t wear anything sheer or too bright or ‘out there’. I had a classic case of being a woman in a society where we’re held to a standard we see in shampoo and body lotion ads, filling out the costly pages of the free ES Magazine.

The last few months were tough, but now I’m about to start a new job, and being ‘on my own’ is just a social construct. I don’t need someone else to be a ‘whole person’. But I am interested in looking deeper into my own identity, and the surface changes are like a little contract to myself to remember be who I want to be.

I’m still working on it though; an unloved pile of clothes and shoes sits in a corner; it’s time for a clear out.

The first change was my hair. After months of holding the front high in front of my face to emulate Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, I finally got the courage to tell my hairdresser Salma that I really did want to go short and crazy – my hair grows quickly after all!

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Hair before #balayage with @bleachlondon

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I stepped out of Tigi’s Creative Studio at Boxpark Shoreditch with the biggest barnet I’ve ever rocked. Shockingly for me – someone who has always had to wash my hair if I wanted to leave the house to tame its frizzy self – I now don’t have to condition my hair every single morning. It’s great – I’m like a normal person who can get on with stuff and not have wet hair on the tube!

Later, I went even further. Going for DIY highlights (applied by my sister – which was, quite frankly, terrifying). I didn’t get them quite light enough to dye the ends with some of the fun temporary colours Bleach London makes, but their balayage kit was great – so I’d definitely recommend their range at Boots if you’re looking for a change.

I guess it’s the fact that the hair cut didn’t hurt that I decided to finally go for something that I knew actually would (at least in the short term). I’d been obsessively Instagramming tattoo artists and researching the best places to go when I stumbled across Emily Alice Johnston, who tattoos in black with that really cool style of deceptively simple looking line drawings that didn’t resemble anyone else’s work. In another daunting move, I headed to Into You Tattoo in Farringdon to place my cash deposit…

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#peroxide

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I knew I wanted something with a botanical theme and had been thinking about having forget-me-nots on my foot for a good few years, but in the couple of weeks before getting inked I swayed between thistles and poppy seed heads. Then, two days before, my mind finally settled; a dandelion clock.

When I met Emily she showed me her flash book (basically like a portfolio of signature designs) I saw some flowers I liked but really wanted something bespoke so mentioned my idea. After printing out a botanical drawing from the internet, she drew me what turned out to be more of a ‘lifecycle of a dandelion’, with different types of dandelion flowers and a very complex looking leaf! She asked me if I wanted it to be smaller, given that it was my first one, and I decided to go for it as it was!

For those of you wondering about the feeling of getting a tattoo, imagine the pain of an injection – say your BGC vaccine – and then imagine it being administered multiple times very quickly, whilst the scratching is simultaneously dragged across your skin. And yes, the foot is bony and therefore can’t cushion you from the pain of the needle as easily which means the pain is intensified.

And yet, despite this, getting tattooed was one of the most ‘zen-like’ experiences I’ve ever had. I had to focus so hard on breathing that I didn’t really think about anything else. Not that I recommend being in pain to meditate, but I think I learnt a lot about breathing in a short space of time… Also, there were some very cool people in that studio I did NOT want to embarrass myself in front of. Emily declared that I was one of the most silent people she’d ever tattooed – much to the amusement of anyone who’s ever been in the same room as me…

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Perfect #clogs for showing off my new #tattoo!

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Here’s the thing about tattoos – I’m not going to feel hugely different about it in my mid-thirties, or any other decade. I’m going to be able to look down at it and remember who I was when I got it – a reminder to never let myself go. Not physically, but (and I’d rarely use this word for myself) spiritually.

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Hey Tories, tax me – not my licence fee

Today George Osborne’s budget revealed that soon the BBC is to fund the cost of free licence-fees for over-75s.

This will apply to all and will not be means tested. It will eat up a fifth of the BBC’s budget – and don’t forget that the BBC is already cutting over 1,000 jobs to save £50 million (it has yet to announce how it will save a further £100 million currently needing to be found).

Here’s the thing; I understand the need to help people in need and I totally support social policies that do this. There are pensioners in this country who have very little money and are entitled to help. And this is one of the many reasons we have taxes – based on the income we earn and adjusted to reflect this. And these taxes are how this policy should be funded. You want to tax me more to fund this? Fine. I will pay £150 pounds in extra tax a year  – between 12 and 13 pounds a month – to fund someone in need to have access to the wide and varied communications services the BBC provides.

Another pledge the Tories promised during their election campaign was a further freeze of the licence fee. With this new plan announced, this would be disastrous for the BBC – but it looks like Director General Tony Hall has cut a deal that means a rise in line with inflation will be possible. Bear in mind that for many years annual BBC staff pay rises have been under the rate of inflation. This rise of the licence fee wouldn’t mean pay rises for its staff, but it will be vital to keep the BBC going. Again, however – why not means test people to see who should be eligible for a free licence, avoid eating up the budget and freeze the licence fee for another five years. Either way the BBC is negatively effected, but surely it’s preferable to a BBC that can’t afford to commission the dramas that BBC Worldwide can syndicate internationally in order to fund public service content for the nation.

To be honest, I’m surprised, shocked and saddened that this move today is even legal – surely we, as licence fee and tax payers, should have a say in how the product we pay for is deprecated. How our services are cut and whether we prefer to keep thousands of people in work – paying their taxes and the cost of their TV licences, no less. The BBC is vital to the growth of the indie production sector, to training the next generation in media, developing the digital ideas that will inspire the industry (iPlayer, for example), for entertaining and educating our children, from toddlers to teenagers (where they’ll use the BBC for revision and learning), to find recipes from the chefs they see on BBC channels (not imperialist Osbourne, but a common sense ‘digital 360’ approach to programming, making commissions go further for the audience), inspiring and informing the world with the hugely trusted World Service, making household names of British writers, actors and directors. Uncovering conspiracies and covering wars. Soundtracking our kitchens, bedrooms, cars and gardens with BBC Radio. Bringing culture – both live and recorded – to the masses. I simply can’t cover it all in this blog, but I do welcome you to mention your favourite BBC services in the comments below.

There’s a well-known routine in the journalism industry; everyone watches Sky News. They have a dedicated pot of money so they can publish stories as soon as they come in without necessarily knowing how watertight they are. They seek the viewers and cover their backs later. This doesn’t mean their coverage is usually inaccurate, but it’s why they can take risks and break stories before anyone else. The BBC, on the other hand, has to have anything it reports verified. In other words, everyone may watch Sky News, but they trust the BBC. They’re ying and yang and they balance each other out. There is absolutely room for both.

Osborne may say that BBC News is risking the stability of the national press, but I smell a rat. The BBC News website again publishes verifiable, unbiased news stories. The majority of the national press is right wing; they provide a loud, supportive voice for the Tories. They are essential to their plans come election season. The Tories need these outlets. Therefore they need to crush the alternative. And so they turn on the BBC and they attempt to tear it apart, before people decide they prefer their news to be news, and not an opinion published to sell papers.

To conclude, I repeat my earlier statement – tax my income, and not the culture I willingly pay for.

ASOS x Walls and the difficult decision

Ever since I saw pictures from the press launch of the ingenious Walls and ASOS collaboration I’ve been hungrily awaiting the collection’s release.

I even went to the lengths of tweeting the ASOS team about it, given that June had arrived and still no release. They first said to keep and eye on their site and then, that very same afternoon, tweeted me a link to the Twister lolly heels (£50)I’d be so desperately coveting.

I’ve not seen the amazing rocket lolly and Feast glittery clutch bags I also had my eye on posted on the site yet, but I couldn’t resist treating myself to a starship rocket dress (£40) too…

Naturally the heels are only available in a size 3 now, but the dress is still available in all sizes. I felt tentative to say the least about spending so much, but then I remembered it’s rare I find clothes I like so much – and screw it, it’s Summer.

Within a few days the pieces had arrived at work and I got so excited I ran to the loos to try them on. Thankfully my very obliging colleague Shabana took a photo for me…

To my mild horror the back of the dress is white and more revealing than you’d expect – I pretty much have to wear leggings with it or find the best white anti-VPL pants ever, because otherwise you’ll be able to see my pants through it. Not exactly ideal. The heels have no platform and are the same in height as the length of my iPhone 5C (to give you an idea). Wearing them is like trying to strut in ballet pointe shoes. Nigh on impossible.

I packed up the items and put the photos on Instagram explaining that I was going to have to return them and was pretty much flat out told by the very nice commenters that no, I couldn’t possibly return them Similarly Luke told me that the dress had to stay.

So that’s that. I’m going to watch telly in the shoes (so I don’t have to move) and buy some new pants; because you win, social media. You win.

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ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT! I'll keep the shoes!

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Skin salad

Excuse the icky title! I’ve not been eating skin, I promise!

I’ve just returned from visiting my boyfriend Luke in France (followed by my sister’s hen weekend in Wales) and I’ve over indulged in bread, wine and cake. Understandably I felt chubbier and my skin was ravaged by copious amounts of Lancome’s SPF 50 CC cream (I had to have SPF, but this isn’t a product I’ll be buying again – it’s an expensive break out in a bottle). To try and reward my body for keeping going I’ve been feeding it a rainbow every night for the past four days.

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Rainbow bright salad! #veggiemountain

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It’s pretty much a souped up tuna nicoise – although I’ve been having it with tinned salmon too. The salad in the picture above features olives, chopped gherkins, red pepper, celery, cucumber, grated carrot, mixed salad leaves, tinned salmon and a ‘just hard enough’ boiled egg. Oh, and a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing. It basically gets your jaw working double time and it’s properly refreshing and carb free (if that’s your bag).

I’m needing protein as I’m getting back into my circuit training and boxing post holiday and I’ve got a common ‘cranky knee’ condition called chondromalacia patellae which sometimes means bending my knees to get up is excruciating. However, if I eat fish I genuinely notice a difference – and fast. It doesn’t mean I don’t get a dodgy knee from jumping, but it does help me heal faster – essential given that I’m exercising at least five times a week.

The other benefit I’ve noticed is that my skin, which genuinely reached peak anger by the end of my week in France, has cleared up in double time. It’s also a combination of cutting out alcohol, swapping that evil CC cream for Garnier Moisture Match SPF 20 moisturiser and a discontinued Khiels tinted moisturiser, and using a couple of drops of Khiel’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate every other night (too much equals, yep you guessed it, breakouts). I’ve also gone back to Cetaphil skin cleanser, after using Nivea Refreshing Face Wash in France and finding it was probably increasing the skin problem, rather than helping! I geniunely think Cetaphil is brilliant – I read an article where Alexa Chung recommended it and tracked it down in the pharmacy section of Boots. (I’m now on my third bottle.)

So is the skin down to my routine or has the rainbow salad helped things along a bit? Well, I’m kind of convinced it has – usually my skin wouldn’t recover quite so fast (although the Khiel’s serum will definitely have helped). The hazard is that I’ll get stuck in a rut of the same thing every night, so if anyone has tips for skin friendly, guilt free recipes (preferably ones that feature cheap ingredients of convenience), please recommend away!

Roxanne de Bastion – live in London!

I am pleased to announce that I’ll be at Roxanne de Bastion’s single launch on Tuesday 28th…

… Ahem. Not that I’m playing or anything! I’ll be in the crowd cheering her on!

I used to play Roxanne’s music on my Amazing Radio show and we caught up over a glass of wine last week to chat about gigging in Europe and getting a band together in London – the former is great, the second is difficult!

It’ll be brilliant to finally see Roxanne perform live – she’s got a pure (but interesting) and her new song Rerun (video above) hints at a move into experiments with a larger sound beyond a traditional acoustic set up (but still with cello – gotta love a cello!)

You can get tickets and find out more here.

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See you there?

As seen on green screen

Since last year I’ve been working on a project which I can’t say much about – except that I’ll tweet vociferously about it once it’s live.

It involves me being on camera and possibly using green screen.

The majority of my experience on camera has been using an iPad leant against a stack of books. I’m tentative, nervous and excited and I wish I could say more, but as I probably should keep quiet (it might go awry, it might not happen, it’s probably not allowed as it’s with my employer)!

So instead, I’m going to focus on what really counts. What I’m wearing. And yes, that will definitely involve a shockingly bright lip…

LIPSTICK!

Shiny skirt!

… And a stunningly shiny skirt.

But that’s about it, inspiration-wise. So I need your help! Lend me your sartorial opinions – all I know is that I should avoid green. What should I wear on camera and what should I avoid?!? Comment below or send me a Tweet…

(Thanks in advance!)

Getting fit on YouTube

I’ve recently made a foray back into live blogging, starting with a video about my efforts to get fit.

I’ve been a devotee of Davina DVDs for a few years now, but I’ve decided to diversify and try and mix things up a bit! Oh, and to get my bum into gear and make myself get outside too…

Currently I do circuit training on Tuesdays (cardio based) and Fridays (toning focused), boxing on Thursdays and running on Saturday and Sunday, plus the occasional Tuesday dance class. My boyfriend Luke has become a sparring partner at weekends too…

It sounds knackering, but it’s all in the name of being active at least 5 – 6 times a week. I fit my classes into lunchtimes at work (30 minutes each) and I don’t tend to run more than twenty minutes at a time. So really, it adds up to less than four hours a week.

Here’s my thoughts on getting started in running…

Now, if only I could start cooking wider variety of foods…

Doug’s dinner

Today I headed to the Beard expedition at Somerset House with my friend Doug to see the brilliantly bushy (or occasionally selectively sparse) facial bristles captured by Mr Elbank.

Doug can’t eat dairy and I can’t eat a variety of stuff – meat and shellfish by choice, and lentils, pulses and onions (I’m still discovering the others) because they give me crippling stomach pains – or make me bloat for a week.

Our intolerances mean we struggle with the most convenient of foods – think pizza and curries (sigh), and on the plus side, it encourages culinary creativity. On the other hand, it’s quite difficult to make it down the greengrocer’s every day.

With this in mind, I’ve named this super quick and cheap tomato sauce, which can be created with your standard store cupboard staples after Doug! Serve it with tagliatelle and feta like I do, or as a sauce for fish. It could also be used for lasagne or a pasta bake. I tend to make extra each time I cook it so I can take it to work with some wholewheat fusilli.

For two servings, you will need…

  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • A couple of cloves of garlic (I often use three – I love garlic!)
  • Powdered or a fresh chopped red chilli, seeds discarded
  • One sugar cube
  • A splash of balsamic vinegar
  • A splash of olive oil
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Green olives (optional)
  • Fresh basil (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil for a minute in a large frying pan. Use medium – high heat – basically you don’t want to burn your garlic or oil. If you’re using fresh chilli, fry this at the same time
  2. Add the tomatoes, sugar, balsamic vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper and chilli powder if you’re using it.
  3. Cut the olives into slices with scissors, leaving some whole and add these to the sauce (optional)
  4. Heat for five minutes on a medium heat
  5. Serve with fresh, torn basil leaves or leave out to cool before storing in an airtight container in the fridge

Give it a go – and do let me know how you get on – @getfrank!

I sit at my computer to write…

…and I sit and I sit and I sit.

On the Radio, Trevor Nelson talks to Mary J. Blige and I like them both. The ‘desk’ I’m sat at is too high for my arms, and my chair is too low. I use cushions as a makeshift booster seat. Like a toddler having a driving lesson.

On Sunday I went to my boyfriend’s nephew’s first birthday and found myself surrounded by tiny people, who will one day have driving lessons as sit at computers that work faster and with far more grace than my dwindling five-year-old Mac Book. The perfect happy occasion to write about. But right now, as the dwarfed one in the room – albeit by an inanimate object – I feel lost.

I had 17 years without experiencing a death within my immediate family, which is extraordinary. The effect of this, however, is that I now don’t know how to feel, now it has suddenly reoccured and I am 25, rather than eight. The all-round brilliant woman Cariad Lloyd has recently written for the also brilliant Standard Issue magazine about how to talk to people who are grieving and I wonder if there is a guide for the grievers. I still blog – so I should be aware that of course there must be some great articles out there – but searching for them would require energy and admitting that I don’t know how to behave and so I keep writing this instead. It’s a stream of consciousness, but it’s something.

There is so much to do. And there is Christmas, and work, and the project I should really kickstart on YouTube. There are presents to buy, and frivolous blog posts to write. A guitar is gathering dust in the room I have spent months emptying for the purpose of playing it and writing on this much-neglected blog.

A song comes on the Radio. I double take; “I love it when you blow the flute.” And suddenly I am hysterical for the wrong reasons.

And I think; I can never feel as bad as this song sounds, surely? And I think; in time.

Let’s bust some myths about ‘female stand-ups’

Oh Guardian readers. Most of you are my kindred spirits. Some of you, however, are people who just want to write ungrounded, shortsighted comments that barely resemble a proper opinion, let alone a constructive one.

Predictably, Mark Logan’s favourable review of Bridget Christie’s highly anticipated return to The Stand, where she performed her Fosters Comedy Award-winning show A Bic for Her last year, has roused the ‘women aren’t funny’ brigade yet again – with the majority of these bemoaning the idea that feminism can be funny.

What these quick-to-judge figures don’t seem to understand, is that a huge part of the current feminism movement (or fourth wave, if you like), has spread on social media like wildfire for three particular reasons; feminism in this day and age is common, sexualised culture in the West and awareness of practices such as FGM outside of our more local bubble, and finally, humour – yes, feminists have found their voices, and we’ve been making each other laugh on the subject ever since.

(It’s tempting to say ‘women’s voices’ – and of course, that’s a large part of it – but actually there are some brilliant men who openly call themselves feminists, brilliant stand-ups among them including my boyfriend, musical double act Jonny & the Baptists and activist Chris Coltrane).

So let’s bust some of those FQAs (Frequently Quoted Assumptions) right now, shall we?

“Female comics’ topics are limited to hating men, periods and under-representation in comedy”

This year, if you make the wise decision to see the wickedly awesome, super duper, charismatic Lou Sanders in Lou Sanders in Another Great Show Again, you’ll be treated to the sight of Sanders tap dancing with a vagina on a stick. The vagina is not having a period. Or at least, it wasn’t during the preview I saw anyway. In fact, guys, I’m going to come out and say it now. Why aren’t women talking about periods onstage? I’ve seen a couple of semen jokes onstage – why not a bit of menstrual blood eh? WAIT, COME BACK, I’LL GET TO THE BLOODY POINT (geddit).

I’ve seen a lot of female stand ups in my time, but I’ve never seen a women target all men, joke about their ‘monthly visit’ in excruciating detail or say their aren’t enough women on the circuit as a joke. I’ve definitely had conversations with people about women stand-ups (I’m kind of having a one-sided type right now) and line-ups, but one of the biggest is still panel shows – where many fill their ‘woman quota’ with a female non-comic – Rachel Riley, I’m definitely talking about you (sorry) – and don’t feature female regulars or hosts (there’s Celebrity Juice and Viral Tap, both ITV2 – and very niche!).

The Guardian (yes, them again) wrote an article about the presence of more female comedy performers than ever before at this year’s Fringe. Although it didn’t explore this, I believe that the reason more women are going is because of stand-ups like Christie, whose success means that the stigma around ‘women not being funny’ is thankfully fading – in other words, it’s more economically viable to be a women performing at the Fringe, because people are less likely to be put off by seeing a female face on the poster.

“All the women comedians I’ve seen have been rubbish. Isn’t that Jo Brand awful?”

Firstly, I feel sorry for this hypothetical commenter. Comedy is subjective, so if you don’t find Jo Brand funny, that’s fine – just look elsewhere. Brand’s subject matter can veer to the domestic side, but that’s not a bad thing – and it often sharply dissects those expectations of perfection in relationships. And if you’re going to call Sarah Millican talentless, rather than accepting her stand-up isn’t for you, then there’s probably no hope for you.

“The women they’ve featured on Mock the Week have been rubbish”

Have you seen Mock the Week recently? It’s not just the women!

“Haven’t seen any Bridget Christie she might be great she might be terrible but she can’t be worse than her husband”

Ok – I’ve probably made some grammatical errors myself, but as I copied this comment verbatim from everyone’s favourite left leaning digital news website (ok, just mine), I’m resisting adding commas to the above quote. (NOTE TO SELF: STOP PROCRASTINATING!)

This wasn’t the worst comment on Brian Logan’s article, but it encapsulates the issue Christie must face in nearly every review, interview or article that features her as its subject; her husband. Onstage Christie does not refer to her actual comedian husband, but an invented ‘stage’ one. I don’t know a huge deal about Christie’s personal relationships, but what I do know is this – she’s hugely talented, she writes her own material, her material is distinct from his and her career is of her own making. End of. She may have featured on a show with him, but she’s also at the top of her game – if he wasn’t part of the show, she would still be involved. She’s not married to Harry Hill, Kevin Eldon or Kerry Godliman, but she featured on their respective sitcoms (Harry Hill’s Little Internet Show, It’s Kevin and Kerry’s List). And Fred MacAulay featured on her award-winning Radio 4 series Bridget Christie Minds the Gap – but they don’t have a romantic relationship either.

The thing about comedy – and it’s something I love – is that it’s a community. An industry with a performing circuit at its core, many performers know each other, share the same bill, organise gigs with each other and perform in the many new act competitions held each year. Essentially they help each other out – and they watch and enjoy each others’ sets. It’s supportive and refreshing. So therefore the idea of a leading alternative comic who won the most iconic prize in stand-up comedy last year appearing on a show about alternative comedy? Not that surprising is it?

“Women can’t do proper jokes”

Challenge your perceptions at the Fringe this year; if you think women can’t do one-liners or puns,check out Bec Hill, who started the hugely popular Pun Run night in London. If you think they can’t do near-the-knuckle rudeness, book a ticket to Katherine Ryan. It’s ingenious, borderline bonkers ideas you want? Lou Sanders is your woman. Friendly, funny and joyous? Go see Hatty Ashdown (and look out for Aisling Bea back in London). Political comedy with heart? Josie Long. Characters and/or improv? Cariad Lloyd and Pippa Evans are both doing laugh a minute shows this year. In the mood to see a panel show? Look out for Grainne Maguire’s What Has the News Ever Done for Me? (Check out Danielle Ward hosting her podcast panel show alongside team captain Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Do the Right Thing if you’d like to cheer up your commute.) Sketch comedy? Lazy Susan, of course! Sharp, hilarious and personal stand-up? Sarah Campbell.

“Feminism isn’t funny”

Sites like The Vagenda and writers such as Caitlin Moran aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they inject irresistible humour into the subject. And the art of good comedy is to always ‘punch up’ – unless you’re playing a character, such as Rachel Parris’s nightmare diva singer Felice in her show, Rachel Parris: Live in Las Vegas. Therefore, feminism is ripe for comedy – just as left wing, alternative comedy thrived in the eighties, feminism is fighting a absurd battle that needs to be had – and that means there’s humour to be mined.

Even if Bridget Christie’s comedy isn’t to your taste, if you were to analyse it, you’d surely have to appreciate the structure, the purpose and the commitment to the performance. She sends-ups perceptions of feminists, brings the ridiculous double standards of sexism to the fore, critiques her own bubbling anger and she also opens up a debate that will last with the audience once they leave the venue – last year it was through playing an inspiring recording of Malala Yousafzai talking about surviving the attempt on the life by the Taliban and the aftermath, and this year she’s making her intention to make a stand against FGM known.

“I don’t like ‘female comedy’. It’s my least favourite genre”

Well, luckily for you, it doesn’t exist!

In conclusion…

If you think women aren’t funny, you’re simply not looking hard enough. We don’t see enough of a variety of female acts on the TV for everyone to see someone to their taste, but the spectrum of acts around is so broad yet they don’t all get showcased on TV. Go out into clubs, go to the Fringe, make some effort – go on YouTube, or Chortle, or follow-up on tips from – yes, you guessed it – the flipping’ Guardian.

But whatever you do, don’t believe what you read in the comments, ok?