The Funny Women Awards were launched in 2003, and last night, Contact in Manchester held one of the latest heats. Sponsored by Benefit Cosmetics, the awards offer women a chance to be mentored by past winners (including Sarah Millican and Sara Pascoe) as well as a whole host of exciting prizes. It also raises money for Refuge, a domestic violence charity and so it is all for a good cause. 

The venue for tonight’s acts was small to say the least. Perhaps ‘cosy’ is a better way of putting it, or even ‘intimate’, but either way, it was hardly the roaring crowd I was expecting. That said, it worked pretty well and if anything, it was a shame that there were not more people around to witness some of the hilarity that ensued on the small stage.

Our compere for the night was supply-teacher Ruth Cockburn who was wonderfully relatable, a pint-sized bundle of mischief and someone I would pay good money to watch. A great host in that she did not try to over shadow the other acts in-between times, but still had plenty of funnies to keep the crowd laughing. 

With over twenty acts on throughout the night, it would be impractical to mention each one, however, there were a few of note. 

Hannah Platt, is without a doubt, one of the best deadpan comedians since Jack Dee. Her take on her own mental health, was dark yet hilarious and her delivery and comedic timing was spot on. For me, she is a real contender for the grand prize and I would love to see more of her work.

American, Amanda Graham chose to go the route of one liners and clever puns, some of which were slow-burners, but all of which seemed to hit the spot. Quite often a form a comedy that can be reminiscent of a try-hard dad, Graham used her quirky facial expressions and precision timing to draw out some real belly laughs from the crowd. 

Interestingly, internet dating and sex (or lack thereof), was a common thread and despite this being a Funny Women event, there was really only one comedian who even touched on feminism. Lizzy Galbraith’s set moved seamlessly between Game of Thrones (thankfully relatable even to those of us who are yet to step foot into the world), and feminism, without coming across as ‘preachy’. In fact, she ended on a wonderful punchline about ‘feeling like a woman’ and the gender pay gap and it was refreshing to hear some clear feminist narrative in between the (admittedly hilarious) jokes about internet dating. 

Maxine Wade’s act, again based around mental health, but this time perhaps playing more of a character, evoked a lot of laughter with puns and dark observations, however when she broke out the spot on Michael McIntyre impression, there were hysterics.

Possibly one of the best pieces of physical comedy that I have seen in a long time, came in the shape of Nana Funk. Dancing (and cleaning) to Christina Aguilera, Nana Funk stripped right down to her emblazoned granny undies, all whilst gyrating around her cleaning implements. It is obvious that thought, planning and choreography had gone into this, rather than just an awkward improvised piece, and it really was the difference between something hilarious, and something that missed the mark. Thankfully it was the former. 

Despite there being a whole host of other comedians I would love to mention in detail (Lindsey Santoro, Cath Rice, Jo Darcy), the last act I’m going to reference, is Liverpool Bernie Clifton Tribute Act. Perhaps I just didn’t ‘get’ this brightly coloured character (although judging by the silence in the room, I may not have been alone), but I found the whole thing bizarre, and unfunny. There were no real ‘jokes’ to speak of, however it must be said that the costume had clearly had a lot of effort put into it. I for one, was just a little confused. 

All in all, it was a good night, with more impressive acts than not. I would like to think that somewhere among them is the next winner of the Funny Women Awards and that I’ll be able to say I was there when it all started. 

Reviewer: Codie Louise

Reviewed: 26th May 2016