An interview with…Jo Brand

Originally starting out working as a psychiatric nurse, Jo Brand made the leap to comedy in the 1980’s, and has grown to become one of the nation’s most successful female comedians.

Jo Brands unique style of comedy has endeared her to the country. While the thought of someone delivering deadpan jokes in a bored, monotone voice, doesn’t sound like the funniest thing in the world, Jo has found the perfect balance that is able to tickle the funny bone.

As one of the only women in British comedy, Jo has had a harder time reaching the top than other comedians. Because of how she looked and dressed when she first got into comedy she received abuse from her audiences. This never deterred her, and she has since made it part of her routine to poke fun at herself.

Jo is now a regular on the television, making numerous appearances as a guest panellist on comedy shows including QI and Have I Got News For You, as well as making appearances on Absolutely Fabulous and game show Countdown. She also recently co-wrote and starred in Getting On, a sitcom based in an NHS hospital.

Jo has authored several books including novels and two editions of her autobiography, and she has also been a guest presenter of Channel 4’s TV Book Club.  

I spoke to Jo and asked her some questions:

How did you first get into comedy?

How most people do: I called comedy clubs and went and did 5 minute unpaid guest spots until I started doing bookings.

What is it like being a female comedian in a mainly male dominated profession?

Socially, great! I think there is a lower expectation of funniness as far as women are concerned but if you can make people laugh you get on. I loved it right from the start.

How do you handle heckles? Are they as soul-destroying as I imagine?

It depends, they are a very varied group from too drunk to stand up, to good natured to vicious, and you have to react accordingly. It’s best to have a handful of put downs but better to respond in the moment. And if you think they are a murderous psychopath, you can always get off of the stage.

Who are your comedy inspirations?

Victoria Wood, French and Saunders, Beryl Reed and Billy Connolly.

What are the highlights of your career?

My main highlight was facing a really male dominated audience in a Bolton Working Mens Club who hated me and abused me and I won them round and got an encore. Then there’s doing Question Time without running off crying. And co-writing Getting On.

Are there any parts of your career that you regret?

In the early days I thought you had to say yes to everything so I regret spending time with tabloid journalists, doing what photographers asked and a couple of silly pointless shows when I first started.

Do you have a favourite joke…and if so what is it?

Always liked old circuit comic Johnny Immaterial’s joke (paraphrased due to poor memory): ‘My mum asked me what I wanted from the shop and I said, “An end to war, everyone to love each other, no more bullying…and a Curly Wurly.”‘

If you could have any other career, what would it be?

I’d like to be a violinist in a touring orchestra.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into comedy?

Don’t copy anyone else. Don’t show an audience you’re scared, upset, or thrown by them. And act confident. Do twenty gigs and if they’re all shit-give up.

Thanks very much.

You’re welcome.

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