Much of her humour is grounded in everyday life, and abounds with references to popular British media and even brand names of quintessentially British products. She is noted for her skills in observing culture, and in satirising social classes.
She started her career in 1974 by winning the ATV talent show New Faces. It wasn't until the 1980s though that she began to establish herself as a comedy star, with award-winning television series such as Victoria Wood As Seen On TV and becoming one of Britain's most popular stand-up comedians.
Recognising her talent, Eckersley offered Wood a sketch show, though Wood was unsure of the project; she only agreed to go ahead with the programme if Walters received equal billing. Eckersley came up with the obvious title Wood and Walters, and the dry run of the show (the pilot episode) was filmed. The programme was arranged to be made into a full series, and went onto co-star Duncan Preston and a cast of other supporting actors. However, in between the filming of the pilot and the series, Eckersley died. Wood cites Eckersley as giving her her first big break, and feels that Wood and Walters suffered due to his death. She was not impressed by Brian Armstrong, the emergency fill-in for Eckersley, and was of the opinion that he hired unsuitable supporting actors.
Wood left Granada in 1984 for the BBC, who promised Wood more creative control over projects. Later that year, Wood's sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV went into production. This time, Wood chose actors and actresses herself: her friend Julie Walters once again starred, as did Duncan Preston. Wood's friend Celia Imrie was also cast, as well as Susie Blake and Patricia Routledge. As Seen On TV was notable for featuring classic sketches such as Acorn Antiques, a spoof of low-budget soap opera and rumoured to be named after an antiques shop in her birthplace. Acorn Antiques became famous in its own right, and was celebrated for characters such as "Mrs Overall" (played by Walters), the deliberately bad camera angles and wobbling sets, as well as Celia Imrie's sarcastic tone as "Miss Babs". The sketches bore more than a passing resemblance to the production values held by ITV soap opera Crossroads in the 1970s. Wood's most popular comic song, "The Ballad of Barry and Freda (Let's Do It)" originated in this show. It tells the story of Freda (a woman eager for sex) and Barry (an introverted man terrified of sex), makes clever use of allusions to a multitude of risqué activities while avoiding all taboo words. There was a second series of Victoria Wood As Seen On TV in 1986, followed by a one-off 'special' in 1987.
Wood wrote her first musical, Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, which opened in 2005 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, for a limited period, directed by Trevor Nunn. It starred most of the original cast, with Sally Ann Triplett playing Miss Berta (played in the series by Wood). Wood played Julie Walters' character "Mrs. Overall" for matinee performances.
In November 2006, Wood directed a revival production of Acorn Antiques: The Musical! with a brand new cast. The musical opened at The Lowry in Salford in December and toured the United Kingdom from January to July 2007.
In January 2007, she appeared as herself in a series of new adverts featuring famous people working for supermarket chain ASDA. The adverts featured Wood working in the ASDA bakery and introduced a new catchphrase for the supermarket - "there's no place like ASDA". Wood was also the subject of an episode of The South Bank Show in early 2007 and is the only woman to be the subject of two South Bank programmes.
Wood appeared in her own travel documentary show on BBC One called Victoria's Empire, in which she travelled around the world in search of the history, cultural impact and customs which the British Empire placed on the parts of the world it ruled. She departed Victoria Station, London for:
In a tribute to Wood, the British television station UKTV Gold celebrated her works with a weekend marathon of programmes between 3 November and 4 November 2007. The weekend focused on programmes such as Victoria Wood Live and dinnerladies in addition to Victoria Wood As Seen On TV - this marked the first time it has been shown on British television since its last repeatings in 1995.
Wood returned to stand-up comedy with a special performance written for the celebratory show Happy Birthday BAFTA on 28 October 2007, alongside other household names. The programme was transmitted on ITV1 on Wednesday 7 November 2007. On Boxing Day 2007 she appeared as "Nana" in the Granada dramatisation of Noel Streatfeild's novel Ballet Shoes.
In December 2007, while guesting on the radio programme Desert Island Discs, Wood said that she was about to commence writing a movie, described as a contemporary comedy about a middle-aged person. This will mark Wood's first outing into film.
On Thursday 12 June 2008, Wood was part of the celebrity guest panel on the series The Apprentice: You're Fired! on BBC Two.
Her work has also been laden with awards, both by the public and her professional contemporaries.
In 2003, she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 Funniest Acts in British Comedy. In the 2005 Channel 4 poll The Comedian's Comedian, she was voted 27th out of the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. She was the highest-ranked woman on the list, beating French & Saunders, Joan Rivers and Joyce Grenfell.
Her sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV won BAFTA awards for its two series and Christmas Special. In 2007, she was nominated for and won the BAFTA awards for "Best Actress" and for "Best Single Drama" for her role in the British war-time drama Housewife, 49, in which she plays the part of an ordinary housewife dominated by her moody husband. Wood's character eventually stands up to him and helps the Women's Society in preparations for the British soldiers.
Her popularity with the British public has been confirmed when she won Best Stand-Up and Best Sketch Show by Radio Times readers in 2001. Wood was also voted Funniest Comedian by the readers of Readers' Digest in 2005 and came 8th in ITV's poll of the public's 50 Greatest Stars, four places behind fellow co-star Julie Walters.
She currently lives in Highgate, North London.
Wood is a vegetarian, and once said "I'm all for killing animals and turning them into handbags. I just don't want to have to eat them."