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September 14 2019
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New Woman and English rose: contradiction visible at a glance.

Roseanne used to end her stand-up act this way: “People say to me, ‘You’re not very feminine.’ Well, they can suck my dick.” Phallic fun used to be the province of men—a mission broadcast by the totemic Fool in cap and bells, whose scepter is actually a penis, that emblem of transgression, the source of panic and elation. In earlier, primmer days, the great American comediennes—Fanny Brice, Judy Holiday, Lucille Ball—got away with mischief by ditzy indirection; nowadays, in our unabashed, newly liberated times that echo with the impudence of independence, when facing down the male gaze, comediennes increasingly prefer the headbutt to the velvet glove.

The latest recruit to the bumptious tribe of phallic women is Britain’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who tonight brings the curtain down on her sold-out limited engagement at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre, based on the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe one-woman show from which her now internationally famous TV series was minted.

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