The 10 funniest comedy TV series written by women

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The best TV comedy series written by women to provide some much-needed humour during these difficult times.

Some people turn to sci-fi or fantasy to distract themselves from the real world; others find comfort in reality TV or period dramas. I, however, have always found comedy the most reliable way to switch off after a stressful day. Laughter truly is the best medicine – proven to reduce stress, release endorphins and even protect your heart.

On a normal (read: pre-coronavirus) day, laughing at a silly sitcom or surreal sketch show can help me forget my worries. And, right now, we’re all turning to comfort viewing more than ever.

So, it feels like an appropriate time to revisit some classic comedy shows, as we could all do with a little lightness in our lives at the moment. And, despite being underrepresented in comedy and TV writing in general (just 14% of primetime TV is written by women), some of the funniest shows of all time have brilliant talented women at the helm.

Here are 10 to devour over the next few weeks.

Charlie and Daisy May Cooper in This Country
Charlie and Daisy May Cooper in This Country

This Country

It may have only just left our screens for good (sob), but the three series of this mockumentary following the lives of cousins Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe in a sleepy Cotswolds village is one of the best comedies of recent times – seriously funny but with a big old heart too. Created by Daisy May Cooper (Kerry) with her brother Charlie (Kurtan), This Country perfectly skewers the monotony of living in a small town and the curious characters who live there – from the terrifying Big Mandy and her obsession with Compare The Meerkat to the put-upon-but-still-smiling local vicar.

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag
Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag

Fleabag

How could we list the best female-written comedies without mentioning the genius that is Phoebe Waller-Bridge? In two, all too brief series, she managed to flip the comedy world on its head, showing a young woman in all her messy, relatable glory and giving us all a massive crush on Andrew Scott (aka the hot priest). The role propelled Waller-Bridge to global superstardom, winning two Golden Globes and a clutch of other awards in the process, and teaching us how to nail the most withering side-eye.

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer

The cast of Smack The Pony
The cast of Smack The Pony

Smack The Pony

Back in the late 90s, Sally Phillips, Doon MacKichan and Fiona Allen paved the way with Smack The Pony – proving that sketch shows weren’t just a boys’ game. From astutely observed skits about body hair and office politics, to more absurd pastiches, and a popular series of dating videos, it changed the game for female-written comedy and still stands up 20 years later. Rumour is, there’s a reunion coming soon. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Where to watch: Now TV

Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney in Catastrophe
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney in Catastrophe

Catastrophe

Sharon Horgan (voted Woman Of The Year at Stylist’s Remarkable Women Awards 2020) co-wrote this masterpiece of a sitcom with Rob Delaney about a couple who decided to make a go of it after conceiving a baby while American Rob is in London on a business trip. A quick-witted script, relatable storylines and laugh-out-loud silliness – plus actual Carrie Fisher – is balanced by its genuine warmth, and the final episode of the last season was one of the greatest in recent memory.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

New on Netflix UK: Derry Girls
The cast of Derry Girls

Catastrophe

The chokers, the scrunch-dried hair, the double denim: ticks off all the 90s key trends – and the soundtrack is perfect inspiration for a nostalgia-fuelled socially distanced party right now. Following teenagers Orla, Clare, Michelle and Erin (as well as The Wee English Fella) navigating school, family and friendship during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, writer Lisa McGee calls on her own experiences of growing up in Derry to give the show its authenticity and humour.

Where to watch: All 4

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer from Broad City
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer from Broad City

Broad City

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer – the co-creators and stars of Broad City – are total friendship goals. They pick each other up when they’re down, share endless in-jokes, and always, always have each other’s back. This New York-set comedy puts female friendship, in all its unfiltered glory, front and centre, following stoner best friends Abbi and Ilana as they navigate dead-end jobs, useless boyfriends and irritating flatmates. From humble beginnings as a web series, it was executive produced by Amy Poehler and ran for five series – with Hillary Clinton even making a cameo.

Where to watch: Now TV

The cast of Gavin & Stacey
The cast of Gavin & Stacey

Gavin & Stacey

Exactly the sort of soothing TV we need right now (clearly, as BBC One will be rerunning episodes of the Ruth Jones and James Corden comedy in a primetime Saturday slot from 4 April), if you didn’t rewatch it all in anticipation of last year’s Christmas special, now is the time to get reacquainted with the residents of Billericay and Barry Island. Plus, Gwen’s ham and cheese omelettes have come into their own as inspiration for our lockdown dinners.

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer

Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum
Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum

Chewing Gum 

The hugely talented Michaela Coel won two Baftas for Chewing Gum, which tells the story of 24-year-old Tracey who lives on an estate in East London and undergoes a sexual awakening after growing up in a very religious family (fun fact: Tracey has a picture of Jesus and Beyoncé side by side above her bed). Frank, fearless and seriously funny – it’s a window into a world that is rarely given a platform, and Coel’s is a vital voice in British comedy.

Where to watch: All 4

Jennifer Saunders Joanna Lumley in absolutley fabulous

Absolutely Fabulous

Sweetie darling, how could Ab Fab not feature in this list? Written by comedy legend Jennifer Saunders, the hilarious 90s sitcom about hard-drinking, chain-smoking PR executive Edina Monsoon and her power-suited fashion editor friend Patsy Stone is ridiculous, over-the-top and just brilliant fun. Plus, having a self-restocking fridge full of Bolly is a serious self-isolating mood right now.

Where to watch: Netflix

Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji in Insecure
Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji in Insecure

Insecure

Back for its fourth season on 12 April on HBO, Insecure is the brainchild of Issa Rae, the creator of popular web series Awkward Black Girl. The show follows Issa, a young black woman living in LA in an unfulfilling relationship, dealing with the worries and pressures that dominate our late 20s. Her writing is razor-sharp, original and very, very funny. Catch up now before the next series hits.

Where to watch: Now TV

Images: BBC, Channel 4, Netflix, HBO, Getty Images

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Jenny Tregoning

Jenny Tregoning is deputy production editor and food editor at Stylist, where she combines her love of grammar with lusting over images of food

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