British Comedy Icon Victoria Wood Dies at 62

"Seeing Victoria Wood on TV — working class, bookish, silly, clever, doing stand-up, singing, acting — made me think 'Girls can do this'"

Victoria Wood, a British comedian who found humor in everyday life and blazed a trail for other female comics, has died. She was 62.

Wood died Wednesday at her London home "after a short but brave battle with cancer," said her publicist, Neil Reading.

Born in Greater Manchester in 1953, Wood got her first break in 1974 winning the TV talent contest "New Faces." As a woman from northwest England she was an outsider in the world of British comedy, but became a well-known standup, and got her own TV show in the 1980s with "Victoria Wood as Seen on TV."

One recurring element was "Acorn Antiques," a spoof soap opera complete with wobbly sets and even wobblier acting that many consider a comic classic.

A versatile talent, Wood performed solo and in ensembles, played comic songs on the piano and wrote scripts for the stage and television. 

Her sharply observed comedy found humor in everyday British life — especially northern English life, with its strong strain of downbeat humor. Several commentators compared her to playwright Alan Bennett, another chronicler of class, self-consciousness and social awkwardness.

Mark Gatiss, co-creator of TV series "Sherlock" and member of comedy troupe the League of Gentlemen, tweeted that Wood "had a kindly yet savage eye for the ordinariness and the grotesquerie of life. 

Wood wrote sketch shows and one-off dramas for TV while continuing to perform live, often to sold-out crowds. She created and starred in the late-1990s sitcom "Dinnerladies," set in a factory canteen. It featured an exceptional, mostly female, cast including Julie Walters, Celia Imrie and Maxine Peake.

"She made it OK to be a woman and be funny in the U.K.," said former BBC chairman Michael Grade. "She blazed the trail."

Many female entertainers hailed Wood as an inspiration.

Writer Caitlin Moran tweeted: "Seeing Victoria Wood on TV — working class, bookish, silly, clever, doing stand-up, singing, acting — made me think 'Girls can do this.'"

"Absolutely Fabulous" creator Jennifer Saunders said "she was truly an inspiration and had so much left to give and we won't see it. "

At the same time, Wood's wit and warmth gave her an incredibly broad appeal. Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that Wood was "a national treasure loved by millions." Ricky Gervais called her "innovative, funny and down to earth," while Monty Python's John Cleese said she was "a superlative performer. 

Wood won four British Academy television awards, including acting and writing prizes for the 2006 drama "Housewife, 49." In 2008, she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Wood was divorced from magician Geoffrey Durham. She is survived by their two children, Grace and Henry.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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