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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Dawn French calls for successors
Dawn French
French found fame with Jennifer Saunders in the late 1980s
Dawn French has expressed concern at what she sees as a lack of women performers breaking through in comedy.

She told the Radio Times that she was surprised she and peers like Victoria Wood had not been "overtaken by a new wave of younger women comedians".

But Time Out comedy editor Malcolm Hay said there were more women than ever coming through on the live circuit.

A survey of more than 4,000 people on Radiotimes.com voted Wood the funniest woman, with French second.

French interviewed 38 women comedians for a forthcoming series, Dawn French's Girls Who Do Comedy, and said Wood had shared her concern.

"We sat there saying how surprised we both were that we hadn't been overtaken by a new wave of younger women comedians," said French.

"We both thought that once the way had been opened up, there'd be a new breed of female stand-ups playing all the big venues."

There are more and more women coming through, and if you look down at the open mic level the proportion is even bigger there
Malcolm Hay
Time Out comedy editor
She added: "You've got established people like Jo Brand and Meera Syal, and there's no longer anything wildly unusual about, say, an all-female sketch show.

"So we've arrived; I'd just like to see more of us."

But Time Out's Malcolm Hay told the BBC News website: "It's ridiculous to say they aren't out there - she should just get out and see them.

"Of course there will be others following in their footsteps," he said.

"It's a slow process achieving prominence through live work and then making the transition to TV, but they are out there.

"Who will come through is a matter of complete guesswork at this stage."

Future stars

Hay highlighted as possible future stars Australian comedienne Sarah Kendall, who was nominated for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2004, and Natalie Haynes.

Victoria Wood
1. Victoria Wood
2. Dawn French
3. Kathy Burke
4. Julie Walters
5. Jennifer Saunders
6. Jo Brand
7. Joyce Grenfell
8. Joan Rivers
9. Catherine Tate
10. Lucille Ball
Source: Radiotimes.com
"And there are a slightly younger bunch of female comics behind them as well," he said.

"There are more and more women coming through, and if you look down at the open mic level the proportion is even bigger there."

The Radio Times website had users vote for their top 10 Queens of Comedy from a list of 40 performers who broke through in stand-up or sketch shows, or were known for performing their own material.

People could also nominate their own choice.

Kathy Burke, best known for her sketch work with Harry Enfield, placed third, followed by Julie Walters and Jennifer Saunders.

The list was completed by Jo Brand, Joyce Grenfell, Joan Rivers, Catherine Tate and Lucille Ball.

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