There's a tradition that American awards shows open with sketches either spoofing on, or starring actors from the year's most notable films and TV shows. Sunday night's Emmys featured a clip involving host Jimmy Fallon crying in a women's loo populated by Zooey Deschanel, Christina Hendricks and other Emmy-worthy actors. Its big laugh came with Connie Britton knocking on a stall door only to find an unruffled Lena Dunham, naked, eating a cake with a fork.
The gag, a play on Dunham's endearing willingness to use her body for laughs in her hit series Girls, was a good one but her prominence at the Emmys – she was up for four awards – just goes to show what an extraordinary year or so this has been for the 26-year-old. As well as writing numerous humour pieces for The New Yorker, releasing her own film (Tiny Furniture) and appearing in every US magazine worth appearing in, Dunham found herself in the extraordinary position of creating and running a show for HBO (home of The Sopranos et al). With only a few indie films and shorts to her name, Girls – the story of four twentysomething women's battles with love, money, work and ordinariness – emerged fully-formed, melding Dunham's real life and friends with fiction. It immediately earned her the albatrossian "voice of a generation" epithet. That might be praise too far, but she's certainly a very distinctive voice. Possibly the closest New York has had to a new Woody Allen since the actual Woody Allen.
Girls makes its long-awaited debut here on Sky Atlantic next month and Dunham is the driving force behind it. Although US comedy overlord Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Bridesmaids) lends a hand as executive producer, too. The two teamed up when Apatow saw Tiny Furniture and emailed Dunham a note saying: "If you ever want someone to give you a lot of money and screw everything up, we should talk."
Despite the Emmy nods and critical praise, Girls didn't floor everyone. Dunham was criticised for a lack of black characters in the world's most diverse city. While others were less-than-excited at the prospect of watching the struggles of young, privileged New Yorkers as portrayed by kids of the famous (the cast includes Allison Williams, daughter of NBC newsreader Brian, as well as David Mamet's daughter Zosia). But Dunham's writing has enough charm and smarts to soon make you forget all of that. Indeed, Girls has already resonated with millions of post-Generation X girls (and boys). Even those who've never eaten cake in the nip.