Comedy: McPhail at your peril

She's loud, proud and dangerous to heckle, Donna McPhail eats hostile audience members for breakfast - with the initials DM, she's well-equipped to give troublemakers a verbal kicking to remember

The Herald Sun in Australia whistled in reverence after a performance by Donna McPhail: "She makes Madonna look like a shrinking violet," it commented, with no little awe. Also described as "the bovver bird of comedy", McPhail has admitted that she looks like "a Home Counties lacrosse captain, but what comes out of my mouth is the complete opposite".

Acerbic could be her middle name. She has carved out a reputation on the circuit as someone not to tangle with; she may as well come on with a sign round her neck reading "heckle me at your peril". Those who are easily offended by swearing are also advised to give McPhail a wide berth.

"I am `in-your-face'," she told me. "Men in comedy can be laid-back, but for women, comedy is such a weird thing to get into that you have to have a strong personality. All the ones whose names you remember, do."

People certainly remember McPhail's name; indeed Time Out saw her as such a standard-bearer that it chose her as a Prospective Candidate for London at the General Election. After successful spells presenting Radio 1's Windbags with Jo Brand, The Sunday Show for BBC2, and After Hours on Radio 5 Live, McPhail recently road-tested her show at the Edinburgh Festival. She may have been around a while now - she won the Time Out Comedy Award as long ago as 1990 - but the critics were still impressed with the new material. The Scotsman raved that she was in "white-hot form".

Check her out on her 30-date national tour and see if you agree with the reviewer who dubbed her "British comedy's top bird".

Donna McPhail's Autumn Tour opens at the Hazlett Theatre, Maidstone (01622 758611) tomorrow, and continues at Norwich Arts Centre (01603 660352) Friday, and Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead (01442 242827) Saturday

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