Laughing pretty with Jo Brand

Michael Fotis 29 October 2009

Jo Brand’s sharp-tongue has made her one of Britain’s most successful comedians. After appearances on an endless variety of shows, Brand’s face is instantly recognisable. We grabbed a moment with Britain’s favourite “man-hating radical feminist lesbian” (her words, not mine).

Cambridge is the only university Jo is visiting during her “hideous fortnight of promotional stuff” –she has an autobiography to flog. Brand is happy to be in Cambridge and the Union in particular, because, she says, “I like to break in occasionally. I think it’s absolutely fascinating, I mean there is no point if you’re anti-establishment, and keeping away from it, because in a way, what good does that do. I like to try and preach.”

Brand is a well-known lefty, and tough-nut Labour supporter. However, she was disappointed by the recent expenses scandal. “To be honest, I expect Tory people to live in castles and have moats, but I was mighty disappointed about the Labour Party people, because I thought of all people they have to be shining white.” Brand is far from enthused by the prospect of a Conservative government. “I always fear the consequences of a Conservative government, regardless of the climate we are in now. Because with Cameron saying, you know, we care about poor people. That made me laugh hysterically because they patently don’t.”

“I used to think that I really wanted to go into politics as a teenager, but it’s such a cynical PR controlled world these days; I am not the right person.” Nevertheless, as a student at Brunel University, she ran for president of the students’ Union, but only received four votes. She reassures us that this was not really a disappointment. “My campaign was appalling. It wasn’t serious really, just one sad poster. I did hustings but in a very kind of desultory fashion really. “

Brand became a psychiatric nurse, after years of following her mother (a psychiatric social worker). “My mum used to take us to work with her sometimes, and most people really wouldn’t enjoy spending time in a Victorian asylum, but I used to love it.” Early exposure to this world would ensure that Brand never became “frightened of people with mental health problems.” Indeed her mother’s involvement extended a little further; “She slightly forced me into it (nursing). It was always a means to an end to be honest. I wanted to be a stand-up since a teenager. She said train for something, and then try comedy.

Brand isn’t keen on analysing what humour is all about. “I mean to me humour is something that makes someone laugh, and that’s all there is to it really.” Whereas in Britain, our humour is quite dark…

During our interview Brand would joke that Prime Minister may be next up. Ultimately, Brand is particularly endearing as she manages to instantly blend this high-absurdity, with an assured and genuine reality. “I’ve got two quite young children, so I build my work life around my family life, and it’s great. I am really lucky”

Jo Brand’s autobiography, Look Back In Hunger, is published by Headline.

Michael Fotis