Run time: 103 MINS,

Director: Adrian Shergold

Cast: Maxine Peake, Alun Armstrong, Paddy Considine, Stephen Graham, Lindsey Coulson, Tony Pitts, Hebe Beardsall, Christine Bottomley, Kevin Eldon, Diane Morgan, Hannah Walters, John Bishop, Vic Reeves, Corinne Bailey Rae, Richard Hawley, Kevin Rowland

Synopsis: A comedian uses her troubled past as material for her stand-up routine, trying to find success in the comedy circuit by playing Northern England’s working men’s clubs.


Directed by Adrian Shergold [Holding On (TV, 1997); Pierrepoint (2005); Mad Dogs (TV, 2011-13)] and written by Tony Pitts, Funny Cow stars Maxine Peake in the gritty eponymous title role. Told in an episodic manner, Funny Cow informs us that she doesn’t have a back- bone, but she has a ‘funny bone’.

Loosely based on the turbulent life of comedian Marti Caine, Funny Cow breaks through the glass ceiling of the all-male 1970s comedy circuit – where women are only expected to be singers or strippers to rise to stardom.

She uses the raw material of her life experiences, from her miserable childhood with a violent, abusive father (Stephen Graham) and incipient alcoholic mother (Lindsey Coulson and later Christine Bottomley) to her ambivalent brother (also played by Stephen Graham) and turbulent marriage with Bob (Tony Pitts), in order to bring her unique style of comedy to the dingy, sleazy, 1970s Northern English working men’s clubs.

Her mentor is Lenny (Alun Armstrong), a washed up stand up on his last legs on the circuit, who initially trots out the well-worn saw, “Women aren’t funny”, before helping her out.

When Funny Cow latches onto Angus (Paddy Considine) a cultured bookseller – whose shop looks like a public library – he takes her on a date to a screening of Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 classic Le Ballon Rouge.  This doesn’t impress her much and she exclaims, “I’m not Eliza fucking Doolittle!”  Later, when escaping her violent partner, she moves in with Angus and is seen wandering through his lavish, art-strewn, refined home to strains of Ebben! Ne Andro Lontana from Catalani’s La Wally.

With an absolutely excoriating and honest central performance from Peake, Funny Cow has cameo appearances from many well-known comedians, and a performance and original score from composer and musician Richard Hawley, who in one scene duets with Corinne Bailey Rae.

Funny Cow is both a love-letter to a bygone – and unmissed era – and the defiant story of a woman who refuses to give up her dreams, whilst delivering more tragedy than comedy.

Images courtesy of ENTERTAINMENT ONE UK