Acting is not my favourite thing
April 20, 2016 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Victoria Wood - comedian, actress, singer and songwriter, screenwriter and director - has passed away at 62 on 20 April 2016, after a short battle with cancer.

The youngest of 4 children, Wood was born in Prestwich, Lancashire and began her show business career in the early 1970s, also meeting her longtime collaborator Julie Walters during this time. Starting out on the TV talent show New Faces, her first break came on long-running consumer affairs programme That’s Life! in 1976.

A successful revue In at the Death in 1978 led to the commissioning of her first play Talent in the same year, which was seen by then head of drama at Granada Television Peter Eckersley who immediately requested a television adaptation.

A number of successful teleplays at Granada led to an offer of her first sketch show, which she insisted Walters receive equal billing on - hence the production of Wood and Walters first as a pilot then as a complete series. Unfortunately, Eckersley died during this period and after perceived poor results from his replacement, Wood eventually moved to the BBC who promised greater artistic control. Victoria Wood As Seen On TV was the result, running until 1987, spawning classic sketches such as Acorn Antiques and showcasing Wood’s talents as a comic songwriter with often bawdy but masked by innuendo songs such as "The Ballad of Barry and Freda (Let's Do It)". Wood would also begin her long term collaborations with fellow actors Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston during this time.

The show won Wood her first BAFTA in 1986, with further awards following in 1989 for An Audience With Victoria Wood and two for television film Housewife, 49 in 2007. As Seen On TV won its producer, Geoffrey Posner the Best Entertainment award three years in a row, and David Hillier the same award for An Audience With in 1989.

At end of the 80s and into the 90s, Wood moved to more self-contained bittersweet projects containing cleverly written short stories, alongside regular Christmas specials featuring her familiar variety and sketch formats. A television film Pat and Margaret was broadcast in 1994, again featuring Wood and Walters as the titular characters.

In 1997, Wood was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, receiving a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.

1998 saw Wood pen sitcom Dinnerladies, running for two series and winning a slew of awards including the 1999 Rose d'Or Press Award, as well as coming 28th in a BBC survey Britain’s Best Sitcom in 2004. The series was notable for featuring numerous guest stars and many actors who came from or went on to appear in long-running soap opera Coronation Street. The series was written entirely by Wood, with no editor or co-writers, and the theme was also composed and performed by Wood.

The new millennium saw another Christmas special, Victoria Wood with All The Trimmings, which would end up being Wood’s departure from comedy and her move towards more serious drama. Two documentaries about Wood’s comedy writings were broadcast in 2002 and 2005. The latter year also saw Wood’s first musical, Acorn Antiques: The Musical! performed in London, featuring the majority of the original cast.

In 2006, Housewife, 49 was broadcast on ITV - a serious drama adaptation of actual diaries of Nella Last, that Wood wrote and starred in.

Wood became the only woman to be the theme of two episodes of long-running arts programme The South Bank Show in 2007, her first appearance in 1996. Wood was also seen regularly during advertising breaks promoting Asda and working in the supermarket’s bakery. A miniseries and book entitled Victoria’s Empire was broadcast on BBC One where Wood travelled the world visiting former parts of the British Empire to investigate the history and culture of the regions.

More projects, mainly for the BBC, culminated in Wood’s first Christmas special in 9 years with Victoria Wood's Mid Life Christmas in 2009, followed by a look back at her career with documentary Victoria Wood: Seen On TV.

2011 saw Wood write and direct musical That Day We Sang. Apart from flashback segments set in 1929, Wood also scored the musical herself.

In 2012, a drama written by Wood, Loving Miss Hatto, was broadcast, her visualisation of a scandal over the authenticity of Hatto’s recordings and role in the supposed hoax. In 2013, Wood turned her attention to the nation’s favourite beverage in documentary Victoria Wood's Nice Cup of Tea.

Wood took part in the Comic Relief edition of The Great British Bake Off, winning the title of Star Baker in early 2015. Wood’s last appearance was in Sky miniseries Fungus the Bogeyman, alongside Timothy Spall in December 2015.

Wood married magician Geoffrey Durham (known as 'The Great Soprendo') in March 1980, until their separation in 2002. They had two children together, Grace (born 1988) and Henry (born 1992). Wood was extremely protective of her private life, refusing to publicly release the name of her son when he was born. In an interview for one of her last projects she said “It’s more to do with the work than the exposure, the fame or the money. Work is crucial to my life. My creativity is what defines me. I feel I can work as hard as I ever did.”
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics (42 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sad about this. She had a unique approach to comedy, just an entirely different angle to everyone else.
posted by w0mbat at 1:10 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


(lovely post)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:13 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

A worthy post, well done.

Very sad news that stopped me in my tracks earlier today. I am a Yorkshireman through and through but I have always had a fondness for the Lancastrian accent when wielded with humour, and it's largely thanks to her. I know a few women of similar background and upbringing from that area and they're all amongst the funniest people I know.

Dinnerladies remains near the top of my comfort viewing list.
posted by vbfg at 1:13 PM on April 20, 2016

Awful news. You take it for granted there'll be more, and then there isn't.
posted by Segundus at 1:15 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Her comedy is something I have always been able to share with my family, with my sister in particular.

I will never pass a Spudulike without wondering whether it should be pronounced "spud-oo-lic-ay", or a pair of Dr Scholl sandals without muttering "Oo they look comfy".

posted by howfar at 1:17 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

posted by AFII at 1:22 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by biffa at 1:23 PM on April 20, 2016

NordyneDefenceDynamics: thank you for the thoughtful, and copiously linked, post.
posted by Wordshore at 1:24 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by rhizome at 1:32 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by terretu at 1:33 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by colie at 1:33 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by PippinJack at 1:36 PM on April 20, 2016


(Great post - thanks)
posted by YAMWAK at 1:39 PM on April 20, 2016


Not Victoria Wood, too.


But, Victoria Wood? She was probably the funniest comedian since the late 80s. There simply was no-one like her.

I just. What.
posted by tel3path at 1:50 PM on April 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Like, seriously, please could nobody on here get too good at anything, or make any sort of outstanding contribution to the culture, because I want you all around for a long time and if you get too clever 2016 will kill you.
posted by tel3path at 1:58 PM on April 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

This one, out of all the deaths this year, has hit me really hard. Knew I loved her, didn't know how much.

posted by threetwentytwo at 2:00 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by ntk at 2:01 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by tilde at 2:05 PM on April 20, 2016

No idea how well known she was outside the UK but she was a true legend of comedy here. If you don't know her and only have time for one link I suggest The Ballad of Barry and Freda (also linked in the main post).
posted by tomcooke at 2:06 PM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Victoria Wood always reminded me of the best, smartest, funniest bits of my mum, and vice versa. It's not like a member of my family has died, but... also it feels a bit like it is.
posted by parm at 2:09 PM on April 20, 2016


A great obit, thank you. I grew up watching Dinnerladies. So sad to see her go so young. Fuck cancer.
posted by fight or flight at 2:11 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by crocomancer at 2:17 PM on April 20, 2016

Her comedy was that rare sort that highlights people's foibles without bringing malice or unkindness to it. Perceptive and grounded in liking people not laughing at them.

I'm off to youtube to stir some memories, thanks for that excellent post which among othet things gives me somewhere to start.
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 2:28 PM on April 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

Oh, this is heartbreaking news. What a lovely post. Thank you, you've done her proud.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 2:56 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by misfish at 3:39 PM on April 20, 2016

I thought she was funny, then I thought she was a bit naff, then I thought she was a bit played out, but then I watched Dinner Ladies and I thought she is actually still funny, then she kept going and going and I thought, she is never going to stop. She always did good work and it is a tragedy that she isn't still with us, I changed but she didn't ever stop being funny, interesting, kind and witty.

posted by asok at 3:47 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

She had the ability to slip in a line amongst the funny ones that was so sad and true that it made you gasp.
posted by hawthorne at 4:03 PM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

"My boyfriend had a sex manual but he was dyslexic. I was lying there and he was looking for my vinegar..."

When I came to Britain in the '90s, her work certainly helped me understand this strange culture that I'd immigrated into. Fare thee well, chuck.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:12 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

She was just so humanely funny, which is paradoxical I know but it was true - not mean or spiteful, just a very keen, very clever observer of humankind. And just screamingly funny on many occasions.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:15 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, dammit. Really? I heard her on episodes of ISIHAC, where I thought she was very funny, and I'd meant to watch some episodes of Dinnerladies, but haven't yet.

posted by droplet at 4:18 PM on April 20, 2016

Yet again I go to the BBC website and someone else is gone. I remember Victoria Wood from when I was young, and she just kept going. The "day we sang" thing was an interesting piece of work, well done and touching. Yet another sad day; I fear there will be many more of these over the next couple of years.

Nice FPP, NDS. I was going to make an FPP but I knew you'd do a better job.

posted by marienbad at 7:18 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by motty at 10:40 PM on April 20, 2016

posted by On the Corner at 12:14 AM on April 21, 2016

Great post.


posted by Mister Bijou at 12:28 AM on April 21, 2016

posted by Samarium at 12:57 AM on April 21, 2016


Great obituary.

Fucking shame it was necessary.

I got introduced to Wood's style of comedy through my late wife and always have had a soft spot for her ever since (also Linda Smith, who also died far too young).
posted by MartinWisse at 1:56 AM on April 21, 2016

posted by Faintdreams at 7:11 AM on April 21, 2016

posted by HypotheticalWoman at 1:18 PM on April 21, 2016

posted by lalochezia at 2:46 PM on April 21, 2016

This is a great post but I wholeheartedly wish it didn't exist. Far, far too young. Probably one of the reasons I never bought the "women aren't funny/good comedians" BS is because I grew up watching Victoria Wood. So funny and so sharp. And it's already been linked twice but "Come and melt the buttons on me flameproof nightie" from (Let's Do It) is the best line in any comedy song ever.

posted by billiebee at 12:42 PM on April 24, 2016

When she first approached the BBC over dinnerladies, apparently, she wanted to do it without an audience, on location, in the style of E.R. But it was before The Office and The Royle Family popularised non-traditional sitcom formats, and the Beeb wanted a loveable BBC1 Victoria Wood product, so it became what it was. But the E.R. version of dinnerladies would have been fantastic, and I think of it as a great lost television series, even though it can be sort of recreated in the mind's eye with a combination of the existing series, imagination and, possibly, alcohol.

Mark Simpson has posted a short interview he did with her: “I don’t inhabit my own tv series”
posted by Grangousier at 1:45 AM on May 1, 2016

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