The news that comedian, actor, writer, singer, songwriter and goddamn hero, Victoria Wood, had passed away hit us both like a brick in the face. Her legacy is undeniable, adored by everyone, and she forms one of the squares in that great British patchwork of comedy heroes. Christmas isn’t Christmas without Morecambe & Wise, and Victoria Wood. But, as we're sure is the case for a lot of her fans (so beloved and important was she to all) there’s also a deep personal link for us with Victoria Wood because, you see, without her, Assorted Buffery might not have existed.
Back in 2008, we were but lowly first year English and American Literature students, meeting for the first time outside of our seminar group to put together a presentation on some literary theory or other that we didn't understand and now have no recollection of. Both of us were slightly awkward and nervous in that ‘enforced social situation’ way. We also happened to have northern accents in common, an affliction that felt like a rarity at our particular university. It shouldn’t matter, but it’s one of those little things you really notice when you’re anxious and in a new place.
It wasn’t until one or the other of us (neither can remember who) mentioned our Victoria that our friendship really began and within weeks of this meeting, we started writing together, something we’re still doing to this day (albeit more sporadically than we’d like). This blog is a product of that relationship. To quote someone offhand is such a little thing, but it changed our lives.
The 'little things' is a good way to describe Wood’s comedy. Her eye for details in everyday life, the banal and the ordinary defined her sense of humour and her wit. The infamous Let’s Do It (The Ballad of Barry and Freda) lyrics are a glorious mash of the everyday with the randiest housewife you’ve ever heard, each line thought through perfectly. The fact she can’t handle all of the tenors in a male voice choir, but only half, is the kind of detail you might miss when guffawing on first listen, but it adds to the richness that defines her brand of comedy. Because as someone once said, again we can't remember who*, she never just chose a word as her punchline, it was always the word. The perfect one. A genius, comic attention to detail.
However, none of it would’ve worked nearly as well without the extraordinary warmth that she brought to everything she did. Even when she was taking the mick out of daft soaps with wobbly sets in Acorn Antiques, period dramas in Lark Rise to Cranchesterford, or poor teenagers with ambitions of swimming the English Channel, whilst there was a cunning shadow of darkness lurking in every sketch, there was also a huge amount of affection for the material and her characters.
So we’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to you, Victoria, for giving two nervous freshers a conversation topic that so thoroughly distracted us from our seminar presentation that we can’t even remember what it was on. Thank you for being the catalyst for a great working and personal relationship. Thank you for all the times that you’ve made us laugh until we’ve cried and/or felt sick (Barry and Freda, we’re looking at you). Thank you for teaching us to find the humour in the tiniest, most ordinary of details. Thank you, most of all, for teaching two northern girls that they could be funny and clever and witty and nerdy and that anything was possible. We miss you already.
*we think it might have been Celia Imrie.
- Jen & Becky