Salute Queen Victoria's reign of laughter

How swiftly bad news can turn blue skies to grey; a truth asserted again, forcefully, Wednesday just gone, as news of Victoria Wood's death came through.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 25th April 2016, 7:27 am
Updated Monday, 25th April 2016, 9:28 am
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman

Seldom has the unique spring in one’s step imparted by a spell of glorious sunshine given way so swiftly to a leaden tramp.

Then again, nothing brings quite the same depth of sadness as the demise of a great comedian, and Victoria Wood was certainly that.

Our sorrow is threefold.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The swift sympathy for family and friends of an individual you have held in esteem (my first thought was for Julie Walters, Wood’s great friend and muse), the immediate sense of gratitude for all the laughter their talent has brought into your life, and finally the grief at losing out on the years of mirth they still had to share.

Many more years, in Wood’s case. What kind of age is 62? That great sleepless scoundrel cancer robbed us of a precious jewel there.

Away from both telly and computer on the evening I heard the news, my reflections on her work fell to simple human (and I am nothing if not simple) memory.

It is a mark of her talent that so many of her best sketches, quips, lines, images were stored away there, and that the simple act of recollection could prompt so many guffaws.

Still, was good to sit and hoot and periodically sigh heavily watching the excellent BBC tribute broadcast the following evening.

Comedy of the highest standard. Never cruel or mocking, yet frequently barbed and bleak, always sympathetic to the human condition, meticulously observed and crafted.

Over a career of 30 plus years this is what we came to expect – and were consistently served.

Half of one of Britain’s funniest double acts, a peer of Ronnie Barker in the realm of penning and performing sketches, a hilarious stand-up comedian in her own right, perhaps the only person since Billy Connolly (other than AKA the Bard of Birkenhead and one of four lads who shook up the Wirral, Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit) to write songs which consistently make you roar out loud, an accomplished BAFTA-winning straight actor and dramatist...

All this packaged up in an obvious humanity and humility, too. Her wildly premature loss is proof positive that if there is a God, He or She has no sense of humour.