I’ve never been a do­mes­tic god­dess!

Bake Off: An Ex­tra Slice host Jo Brand on her per­fect cake, the im­por­tance of talk­ing about men­tal health and what makes her belly laugh

Prima (UK) - - Contents -

Jo Brand con­fesses that she’s not a bril­liant baker

Co­me­dian, writer and ac­tress Jo Brand, 60, started out as a nurs­ing as­sis­tant in a res­i­den­tial unit for adults with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties be­fore spend­ing a decade as a psy­chi­atric nurse. Mov­ing into stand-up com­edy, she found TV fame on Satur­day Live and Through The Cake­hole. Now host of The Great Bri­tish Bake Off: An Ex­tra Slice, Jo lives in Lon­don with hus­band Bernie and daugh­ters Maisie, 17, and El­iza, 15.

LET’S TALK CAKE

I pre­fer savoury to cake; that’s

sac­ri­lege, isn’t it? I don’t like fancy cakes, I don’t like marzi­pan, I don’t like ic­ing. I do, how­ever, like a Vic­to­ria sponge. That’s a per­fect cake. Given a choice, if there was a bowl of crisps and a cake, I’d prob­a­bly have the crisps. Mind you, there’s me say­ing I don’t like cakes, but Se­lasi, one of the con­tes­tants from last year’s Bake Off, made me one for my 60th birth­day and that was a per­fect cake. An in­cred­i­ble choco­late cake, so melty in the mouth, with straw­ber­ries on top. Beau­ti­ful.

I’m a ter­ri­ble baker. If I had to make a cake, I’d make one out of a packet. I’ve pre­tended I’ve made Betty Crocker’s Devil’s Food cake my­self on oc­ca­sions. If I was asked to make a cake for the Bake Off judges, I’d use a mix and see if they re­alised. I know the bak­ing ba­sics but I’ve

never been a do­mes­tic god­dess. I al­ways eat far too much when I go for af­ter­noon tea. It’s all so lovely, I feel I have to stock up as if I’m not go­ing to eat for a week. I love those sand­wiches; there’s some­thing about cut­ting the crusts off the way they do in posh tea places. I only go once or twice a year, when peo­ple bid to have tea with me as a prize in a char­ity auc­tion. If I did it any more than that, I’d be at least 35 stone!

I love host­ing An Ex­tra Slice; the live au­di­ence are so ex­cited to be there. They’re gen­uine Bake Off fans and, when you see what bakes they’re pre­pared to bring on a train jour­ney from some­where like Aberdeen, it’s in­cred­i­ble – things like Wind­sor Cas­tle in melted sugar. The best I’ve tasted was choux pas­try with blue cheese. The worst was a cour­gette cake. It was like roast din­ner veg­eta­bles gone cold in a cake.

LET’S TALK MEN­TAL HEALTH

I ad­mire nurses tremen­dously. You don’t go into nurs­ing if you’re af­ter

good money. You have no idea what awaits you. You sim­ply can­not imag­ine the emo­tional im­pact, the hard work, the long days. The one thing I missed when I started do­ing com­edy was work­ing with a team. Stand-up is very soli­tary.

One in four peo­ple will have a men­tal­health is­sue in a year, but still there’s

a stigma. For­tu­nately, it is be­gin­ning to change. Younger peo­ple are talk­ing more openly. Beauty vlog­ger Zoella has anx­i­ety and talks very hon­estly about

‘The best thing I’ve tasted on An Ex­tra Slice? Choux pas­try with blue cheese. The worst? A cour­gette cake’

it. You’d never have got that 20 years ago. My father had de­pres­sion from the age of 13. He didn’t seek help un­til he was in his fifties. He was em­bar­rassed about them find­ing out at work. The more peo­ple who talk about it the bet­ter. Nurs­ing made me more em­pa­thetic… par­tic­u­larly with men­tal-health is­sues. Not that long ago, ev­ery­thing was sup­pressed – par­tic­u­larly for men in jobs like the po­lice or army where you’re sup­posed to do that stiff up­per lip thing. It’s in­cred­i­bly dam­ag­ing. There are prob­a­bly mil­lions of guys that came back from ser­vice trau­ma­tised and, rather than seek­ing help, took it out on their wife and kids. The more we ac­knowl­edge peo­ple in stress­ful en­vi­ron­ments po­ten­tially will suf­fer some emo­tional is­sue the bet­ter.

LET’S TALK AMAZ­ING WOMEN

I’ve al­ways ad­mired women who aren’t afraid to look silly to be funny. Some­body like Vic­to­ria Wood who did that sketch where she swam the chan­nel. She looked hideous, but it was so funny. Dawn French and Jen­nifer Saun­ders, the same. Women like that in­spire me; those pre­pared to go the ex­tra mile for a laugh. Mor­wenna Banks and Sarah Mil­li­can make me belly laugh nowa­days. Mor­wenna does the sketch show

Ab­so­lutely and we co-write the com­edy Damned. Sarah’s an or­di­nary per­son from an or­di­nary back­ground and, par­tic­u­larly as a woman, that’s re­ally hard. For a long time, TV was ruled by Oxbridge peo­ple. The fact she can com­mand huge arena-type au­di­ences shows how pop­u­lar and pop­ulist she is.

As a mum of teen daugh­ters, I’m hope­ful things are chang­ing in terms

of equal­ity. The way they in­ter­act with boys – well, they don’t put up with the rub­bish we did. They and their friends have strong views about their place in the world. Not to the point where men would go: ‘Oh, stri­dent fem­i­nists preach­ing…’ They don’t do any of that. Equal­ity is just ex­pected and ac­cepted.

My mum was al­ways a stand­out

fem­i­nist within her mi­lieu. She wouldn’t let me have a Bar­bie be­cause she thought that was an un­re­al­is­tic por­trayal of a woman. She wouldn’t let me read Jackie be­cause it was all about make-up and ap­peal­ing to men.

LET’S TALK MENOPAUSE

I re­ally like walk­ing – that de-stresses me… as long as I don’t have to talk to

any­one. I like to have a walk and a think and peo­ple come up and say: ‘Can you phone my mum?’ I know I should be gra­cious, but I’m quite anti-so­cial. I blame that on the menopause – for me, it was a long ses­sion of PMT. There’s a si­lence about what the menopause is like be­cause it’s con­nected to ladies’ in­ter­nal work­ings. If you men­tion pe­ri­ods once, men will pick it up and go: ‘That’s all you ever talk about!’ You can’t win.

I do feel lucky that I’m 60 and busier

than ever. I’m flat­tered and sur­prised. I didn’t ex­pect it. To still be of­fered work that I re­ally want to do is great. The Great Bri­tish Bake Off: An Ex­tra Slice is on Thurs­days at 10pm on Chan­nel 4

Jo on An Ex­tra Slice with Prue Leith, Richard Os­man and Roisin Conaty

‘If I was asked to make a cake for the Bake Off judges I’d use a mix and see if they re­alised,’ says Jo RIGHT With Bake Off’s Pe­ter

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