Born on the 19th May 1953 in Lancashire, the woman who would be Britain's first female stand-up comic and the biggest live draw in the country, began life as the daughter of a failed entertainer living in isolation near Ramsbottom. In a 1996 Southbank Show documentary she described her childhood: "We all lived in separate rooms in this big house on a windswept hill on the moors. And I had a room with a piano and television in it. And I either watched the television or played the piano or read or ate sweets, and I just did those four things, usually all at the same time. And I've based my career on at least three of them."
At 15 she joined a Youth Theatre Group in Rochdale which encouraged her talent, particularly her affinity for the piano. In 1971 she studied drama at Birmingham University, but intimidated and shy, she preferred to stick with music rather than straight acting. In 1974 she competed on the popular TV talent show New Faces, singing songs at the piano, and made it to the finals only to lose to up-and-coming Lenny Henry. But even national exposure didn't help her career as nobody knew how to employ her talents, saying she did "sophisticated cabaret" which there was no market for at the time. She did sing songs on That's Life in 1976, at the time one of the most popular shows in Britain, but again, it didn't lead to any offers, and Wood couldn't even get an agent.
She met her husband, Geoffrey Durham, a comic and magician, and they made the career-dampening move of settling in Morecambe, a small resort town in the North. Appearing in a West End revue, she wrote a short play, Sex, that she got to perform with Julie Walters, her most frequent collaborator. Good notices got her commissioned for a full play, Talent, again with Walters, which toured in 1978 and filmed for Granada television the following year. Granada, knowing they had a good thing, signed her up for a sketch series, Wood & Walters, but poor regional studio audiences couldn't understand her humor and the show failed.
Wood decided to concentrate on stand-up comedy, an entirely male-dominated field at the time, although her trademark look of a tweed jacket and tie gave her an androgynous appearance. After two years of touring and building up audiences, the BBC came calling and her first big television success came with Victoria Wood As Seen On T.V. Surrounding herself with the same performers she would continue to use through dinnerladies, the sketch series was best known for a hilarious parody of soap operas, Acorn Antiques, which sent up the cheapness of the long-running Crossroads. Patricia Routledge (Keeping Up Appearances) as "Kitty" was also featured on the series.
Although her success was now sealed, including winning a BAFTA for Best Light Entertainer, Wood veered off in a different direction again, stopping production on As Seen On T.V. after only two years and a Christmas special, this time to concentrate on An Audience With Victoria Wood, an ITV special with a celebrity audience. Now touring regularly (and able to consistently fill the largest venue in Britain - a feat equaled only by Shirley Bassey and Ken Dodd), filmed versions of her shows would become a regular TV staple including Live In Your Own Home, Sold Out, and We'd Quite Like To Apologise.
In 1994 for the BBC she wrote a TV movie to reunite her with Julie Walters, Pat and Margaret, about two sisters, one common, the other an international star. Some thought the two characters were really a representation of the two sides of herself, the "famous" Victoria Wood (though surely not as nasty as played by Julie Walters), and the "ordinary" Victoria Wood, wife and mother of two. A 1996 Southbank Show profile of her tour culminating at the Royal Albert Hall (the only comedian to sell out 15 nights in a row there), demonstrated the seeming simplicity of her act and all the hard work that goes into it.
In 1998 she wrote her first full-fledged sitcom, Dinnerladies, about cafeteria workers in a Manchester company. Filled with many familiar faces from her earlier shows, the show was a big success in Britain and has now been shown on BBC America, giving U.S. audiences their first glimpse at this great talent.
Victoria was back on the road again with her 2001 tour "At It Again". The tour received rave reviews, and sold out wherever she went. The tour was postponed for a few months because of an emergency operation that Victoria needed. She is now fully recovered and milking every last drop of comedy out of the experience in the show.
Victoria was awarded the OBE in 1997.