Film – Funny Cow

Film – Funny Cow

The story of a comic learning her craft in the sexist, racist working men’s clubs of the north in the 1970s is told with a side helping of an unmistakable soundtrack by Richard Hawley.

In a similar way to the other film about an abused daughter, I, Tonya, Funny Cow tells her story (almost) to camera and through scenes. Funny Cow is abused by both her father and subsequent partner, Bob and her mother takes to drink to get through living with her abusive husband, long after he dies, while when the kids are still young. She never left her husband but takes every opportunity to criticise her daughter off doing the same, through hurtful actions rather than words as she has very few lines.

Maybe Funny Cow (I didn’t hear her being referred to by a name) needed to go through all of these rough times to create her stories and jokes, ‘Are you angry Dad? You seem angry’.

Eventually she leaves Bob and walks uncharacteristically into the arms of the perfect-on-paper, suited, the-a-tar going Angus. He owns a book shop and a large home with ‘TWO BATHROOMS!’ but Funny Cow is more used to being loved by being told to ‘shut up’ – something Angus doesn’t have the capability of doing so.

The film is unapologetic in how it deals with depression, abuse and suicide and in allowing the comics to tell racist and sexist jokes of the time – including the ones Funny Cow eventually tells. Rightly, it does not hide away from the history that I remember, even if as a youngster, I was not offended by it. It was normal.

We have a sense of the eventual rags to riches story as we travel from 50s poverty to the 80s of her red leather clad figure with matching sports car. This is the outfit in which she visits her estranged brother, wife and children in one of the very few funny scenes of the film.

On stage is where her victory over her dad, Bob and everyone who told her women aren’t funny comes. It’s here where she shoots down her heckler as she takes the mike for the very first time, filling in at the very last-minute, winning over the mixed audience immediately with her own brand of racism and sexism.

If you get as much from watching films that are gritty rather than just heart-arming (A Touch of Honey rather than Billy Elliot) then this is for you.


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