THANKS to the remake of Ghostbusters with an all women cast, the world is being forced once again to listen to one of the most tired, insulting and wrong-headed statements ever made: women aren't funny.

Clearly, they are, though - and the proof is films like Ghostbusters, which show that now women are being given a chance to play the clown, they do it just as well - if not better - than men. The movie's stars - Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones - are all comic legends in their own right.

Comedy impresario Karen Koren, founder of Edinburgh's Guilded Balloon, thinks women do gags better than men. "What I love about the women in Ghostbusters," she says, "is that they are not afraid to make complete asses of themselves. Their comedy feels more real."

But while it may feel like we are suddenly in the middle of a new dawn for women comedians, the fact is that women have been making us laugh for a long, long time.

So, here's a Sunday Herald celebration of the 20 best funny women ever...

Phyllis Diller

Actress and comedian Phyllis Diller, born way back in 1917, was spotted as a contestant on a game show hosted by Groucho Marx. Known for her eccentric costumes, cackling laugh and a dry line in self-depreciating humour, she was first US female comedian to become a household name. In 1992, she received the American Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement and died in 2012 at the grand old age of 95.

Joan Rivers

"I've learned to have absolutely no regrets about any jokes I've ever done," said Joan Rivers of her controversial shoot-from-the-hip comedic style. "You can tune me out, you can click me off - it's ok." Rivers rose to fame in 1965 as a guest on The Tonight Show and became a legend. Two decades later she was the first woman to host a late night network television talk show, the Late Show with Joan Rivers. For her, nothing was sacred: as a Jewish woman even the Holocaust was fair game and just before her death in 2014 she was still causing controversy.

Roseanne Barr

The original in-your-face matriarch, Barr began her career in stand-up comedy clubs before gaining fame for her role in the classic sitcom Roseanne. The show was a hit and lasted nine seasons, from 1988 to 1997 and she won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for best actress. Her onscreen persona combined arch-bitch with an all-encompassing warmth that spawned legions of fans. In 2005 she returned to stand-up and continues to make hit shows.

Victoria Wood

The archetype of a very British type of comedy, Wood – who died earlier this year aged just 62 – eschewed catty jibes and snide remarks but was praised as "knicker-wettingly funny". Wood, who regularly collaborated with life-long friend Julie Walters, wrote and starred in sketches, plays, musicals, films and sitcoms, and her live comedy act incorporated her famous interludes on the piano. BBC sketch shows such as Victoria Wood as Seen on TV and later sitcom Dinnerladies took her into national treasure territory.

Whoopi Goldberg

Ghostbusters star Lesley James credits Whoopi Goldberg as her inspiration, recently remembering seeing her as a child and thinking "here's someone on TV who looks like me". She's an award-winning comedian, actress and human rights advocate who refuses to be categorised, moving from experimental theatre to one-woman comedy show, and into big mainstream films, both serious and comic. Indisputably funny, she even makes herself laugh onstage. And it's infectious.

Jo Brand

To anyone familiar with Brand's dour, caustic humour it comes as no surprise that she was a psychiatric nurse before finding her way into stand-up. In the eighties she was a mainstay of the UK's version of Saturday Night Live and established herself on the scene at a time when it was still acceptable to write women off. Her monotone-style and put-downs to heckles are joyous to watch but she has also made a move into the mainstream with regular appearances on panel shows.

Jennifer Saunders

Starring as shambolic and alcoholic PR Edina Monsoon - with her trusty side-kick Joanna Lumley's Patsy– in Ab Fab, which she also wrote, Saunders' comedy credentials are clear. She first found widespread attention in the 1980s when she became a member of the Comic Strip. With comedy partner Dawn French, she went on to co-create and star in their classic sketch show, French and Saunders, for which they received a BAFTA.

Tina Fey

Best friend of Amy Poehler, Fey is part of a new breed of American funny women, who are not not scared of putting it all out here. Like many of her contemporaries she worked on NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live from 1998 to 2006 and returned as a guest with the first of her impressions of former Alaska Governor and 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. She's also the women behind acclaimed series 30 Rock and comedy hit Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Sarah Silverman

It's fair to say Sarah Silverman is not scared of taboos. Another star of Saturday Night Live her stand-up routines tackle racism, sexism and religion. She's got herself into plenty of scrapes thanks to her take-no-prisoners style of comedy, but it never seems to bother her. She's a modern comedian with an old set of comic values - those values being that it is her job to say the unsayable, shock with truth, and make the audience gasp and laugh at the same time.

Amy Poehler

Another American stalwart of the Saturday Night Live stable, where she worked alongside friend Tina Fey, Poehler is known for her outrageously funny sketches and impressions as well as equally hilarious writing abilities. She's probably best known for her starring role in cult comedy hit Parks and Recreations. Though the first season got a somewhat mixed response, subsequent seasons were critically well-received and Poehler received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her role.

Kathyrn Hahn

An overlooked legend, Hahn has appeared as supporting actress in countless comedy films, including How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Step Brothers, Our Idiot Brother, and We're the Millers. It's been said that she can convey an entire life in one incredulous grimace or narrow-eyed smile. She recently remarked: "I don’t make any distinction between comedy and drama", and maybe there lies the secret of her genius. In her world real life is flat out funny.

Nina Conti

With a rather sinister and deadpan monkey as her sidekick, it's fair to say that Conti offers a fairly unique take on female comedy, which does not boast either a huge number of women ventriloquist or of those working with puppets. The daughter of Scottish actor Tom Conti she won the BBC New Comedy Awards in 2002 and is now a well-kent face on the London comedy scene. She regularly appears on panel shows and radio.

Shappi Khorsandi

The daughter of Iranian satirist Hadi Khorsandi, she and her family were forced to flee to London after the Islamic Revolution. Cultural and religious differences are a mainstay of her material, and Khorsandi became president of the British Humanist Association in January of this year. Family life also features. She says she only became a comedian to get her dad's attention. Now a darling of the circuit, and of Radio 4 shows, she got more than she bargained for.

Gina Yashere

She may be best known for appearing in the comedy series The Lenny Henry Show but Yashere, who was born in London but now lives in New York, has managed to take her brand of British humour stateside - not always an easy transition. In 2008, she became the first Briton to perform on Def Comedy Jamm. Since 2010 she has appeared semi-regularly on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and her comedy special, Skinny B*tch, premiered on US cable channel Showtime. She's also to be found on UK panel shows holding her own.

Susan Calman

The diminutive Calman - she is 4ft 11in - gave up a career in corporate law at 30, before turning to comedy. She's the daughter of Sir Kenneth Calman, who was convener of the Commission on Scottish devolution. For many years she was something of a bridesmaid rather than a bride, regularly providing services as compare rather than main draw. But all that has changed and she now stars in sitcoms and radio shows alike. When it comes to material her own life is fair game - she once joked that growing up gay in Glasgow "was as easy as being a vegan abattoir worker".

Ellie Kemper

American comedian Kemper kept the cringe factor at an all time high as Erin Hannon in the NBC series of the Office and went on to star as Kimmy Schmidt in the cult Netflix comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, created by Tina Fey and James Carlock, playing a woman adjusting to life in New York City after her rescue from a doomsday cult in Indiana. She has also had supporting roles in the films Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street.

Amy Schumer

Her subversive sketches have made her one of the cool girls of comedy. Classics such Milk, Milk, Lemonade – her hilarious take on the slickly produced sexualised pop video – got her lots of attention from fans and celebrities alike and led to her starring in blockbuster movies such as Trainwreck, a Judd Apatow directed romcom. But it's not all been plain sailing. Earlier this year she was accused of "stealing" jokes and her recent material has attracted mixed reviews. Regardless, she's one of the biggest names on the US scene.

Sarah Pascoe

Super-endearing, intelligent, disarmingly - and hilariously - honest: Pascoe is one of a vanguard of young British stand-ups, including Josie Long and Brigette Christie, who are not afraid to be simultaneously funny and very much themselves onstage. With jokes about body shaming, pubic hair and the death of socialism, it's all fair game. She began performing stand-up in 2007 and is now not only a regular at comedy festivals and on panel shows like Mock the Week.

Katherine Ryan

Not many feminist comedians can claim to have started their career working in US chain Hooters. But it was while waitressing there as a student she started taking part in open mic nights and by the time she graduated had a basic comedy routine under her belt. She moved to the UK where she won the Funny Women Award in 2008 at the Comedy Store. A panel show favourite she can be found on Channel 4's 8 Out of 10 Cats and Have I Got News for You and regularly tours her own show, which features an arch, often deadpan style.

Lena Dunham

The queen of confessional humour, New Yorker Dunham catapulted her way into our collective consciousness with Girls, a "real life" version of Sex and the City for twenty something New Yorkers that addressed everything from hook-up culture to body hang-ups. In 2014 she released her first book, Not That Kind of Girl and she's attracted plenty of controversy not least for her failure to portray New York's cultural diversity. Earlier this year she joined forces with Amy Schumer for a new Inside Amy Schumer sketch on body shamers. And there's sure to be much to come.