Victoria Wood’s first joke

Here’s the story of how one of Britain’s greatest comics wrote her first joke, as recounted in Victoria Wood: The Biography, by Neil Brandwood. It’s the summer of 1978, and a young Victoria Wood is appearing in a revue at London’s Bush Theatre called In At The Death.

The revue was too short, and because she could not find any more deaths to write songs about, she tentatively asked [Dusty] Hughes if she could pen a comedy sketch instead. He agreed and during one lunchtime Victoria wrote ‘Sex’. During the writing process she discovered her true voice. ’It was the first thing I’d written with proper jokes and I thought, “aha”,’ she said. I’d suddenly found something I could do. It was a blinding flash, like learning a new language.’

Victoria Wood looks back at the same incident in more detail during a 2001 interview with Richard E. Grant:

REG: Can you actually pinpoint when ‘Victoria Wood’ emerged?

VW: I can pinpoint when I realized how you wrote a joke. And that was unfortunate, because I’d been in comedy for seven years already! The first ever sketch I wrote, when I was at The Bush Theatre in 1978, when I first realized I could actually form a joke on a piece of paper, was just a fantastic day. I wrote a sketch for me and Julie. And just a voice and a way of talking came into my head, and a way of phrasing, and all the things that an outside would say that’s very Victoria Wood, just came out. And it was like when you strike a gong and it’s true. And I thought, that’s it, that’s it then. I pity the poor people who saw me before then!

REG: And you knew it at that time?

VW: I did, I did, really. It used to be like a rocket, this sketch. It was called ‘Sex’ – Julie was a librarian, and I was a woman getting a book out. Alison Fiske, who played a sort of hippyish, middle aged woman, comes in and this girl says, ‘I think I’m pregnant,’ and she says, ‘Where are you in the menstrual cycle?’ And she says, ‘Taurus.’ And that was the first – that was like a proper joke, boom boom, it’s a joke, you know.

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