Jo Brand: ‘I’m 61… but some­times I feel about 95!’

Co­me­dian Jo Brand tells Woman’s Weekly how be­ing a mother to two teenage girls is wear­ing her out

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Hello! -

Life’s just ir­ri­tat­ing, isn’t it?’ That’s how Jo Brand jok­ingly be­gins our chat as we sit down to­gether (she’s 10 min­utes late as she’s been stuck in traf­fic) – and we wouldn’t have ex­pected any­thing less from the co­me­dian who’s a self-ti­tled Grumpy Old Woman.

Jo may have turned 61 in July, but she’s still do­ing the school run with her two daugh­ters with hus­band Bernie Bourke – Maisie, 17, and El­iza, 15. And she con­fesses it can take its toll.

‘Do I feel 61?’ she asks. ‘No! I feel about 95 to­day, and some days about 59.

A lot of the time, I have to do the sort of day where I wake up at half four, can’t get back to sleep, and then I get the kids ready for school, then I have meet­ings all day, go to Bris­tol in the evening to do a gig and I get home at two. And then it all starts again.

‘And I’m not quite as good at do­ing that as I used to be. I’m still do­ing it, but I’m not spring­ing joy­fully in quite the way I used to.’

Jo’s daugh­ters were the in­spi­ra­tion for her new book Born Lippy: How To Do Fe­male – which, she ex­plains, is tongue-in-cheek. ‘Its ma­jor aim is to be funny and en­ter­tain­ing, while slip­ping in a few bits of prob­a­bly un­called-for ad­vice with all the other waf­fle.’

By her own ad­mis­sion, Jo ‘did an aw­ful lot of bad things as a teenager’, and wants her daugh­ters to learn from her mis­takes – a ma­jor one be­ing that she doesn’t want them to drink so much that they be­come vul­ner­a­ble to men.

She says, ‘Let’s take one is­sue, and that’s women get­ting very drunk and get­ting sep­a­rated from their friends. That’s hap­pened to me loads of times in the past, and I’ve got into some scrapes.

‘It’s kind of im­por­tant to make the ef­fort to keep an eye on ev­ery­one as much as you pos­si­bly can, be­cause I think very drunk women are in­cred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble, and I think that’s when the aw­ful things hap­pen, be­cause they put them­selves in ar­eas of vul­ner­a­bil­ity to preda­tory men.

‘One thing I def­i­nitely would change from my past is I wouldn’t have hitch­hiked – I wouldn’t have got lifts home from the pub from some­one I’d only just met an hour ago.’

Jo mar­ried Bernie in 1997, but she doesn’t speak about him ro­man­ti­cally be­cause it’s just not in her na­ture.

‘What’s the se­cret to a happy mar­riage? I don’t know, I haven’t got one!’ she jokes, adding, ‘If you’re with some­one for ages, you just have to be pre­pared to ad­just and compromise. How of­ten do you see old peo­ple hold­ing hands with hearts com­ing out their heads like a car­toon? Those peo­ple make me queasy. I pre­fer when ev­ery­one’s at each other’s throats!’

All jokes aside, Jo is clearly very proud of her brood, ad­mit­ting that ‘hav­ing a lovely fam­ily and earn­ing enough to sup­port them’ is her great­est achieve­ment, aside from man­ag­ing to deal with the

heck­ling well enough to com­plete a stand-up gig in 1991 as an un­known at the Com­edy Store – some­thing she puts down in part to her pre­vi­ous work in men­tal health.

She ex­plains, ‘Hav­ing been a psy­chi­atric nurse, I’ve had a fair bit of ver­bal abuse, and you learn to not take it per­son­ally. All the women I’ve known who’ve given up do­ing stand-up didn’t seem to be able to do that, and I felt sorry for them, re­ally.’

Jo be­lieves there’s much less of an im­bal­ance be­tween male and fe­male co­me­di­ans than when she started out, but that there’s a way to go yet, and she puts it down to men hav­ing thicker skin.

‘I think they’re en­dued with self-con­fi­dence be­cause they’ve been brought up to feel like that,’ she says. ‘What’s good is that things have re­ally changed, and women have far more choice in com­edy, be­cause there’s enough of them now to be a char­ac­ter ac­tor, a dou­ble act or a sur­re­al­ist – or what­ever it might be. And I think that’s shown how they’ve re­ally got a foothold.’

In re­cent years, Jo has done more act­ing. She co-wrote and starred in Chan­nel 4’s Damned and she’ll be don­ning her act­ing cap again this Christ­mas as she stars in Na­tiv­ity! The Mu­si­cal along­side EastEn­ders star Danny Dyer and his daugh­ter, Love Is­land win­ner Dani – who she can’t wait to work with, hav­ing watched the ITV2 show with her daugh­ters ev­ery night.

She tells us, ‘I thought Dani was lovely, kind, self-ef­fac­ing, funny, gen­er­ous, sup­port­ive

– a re­ally nice woman – and I think if you’re in a lon­grun­ning thing like that, you can’t hide if you’re hor­ri­ble, so I’m hop­ing she doesn’t turn out to be an ab­so­lute mon­ster! And I’m very fond of Danny. It’ll be a right laugh.’

So is there any­thing left on Jo’s bucket list?

‘I just need to get a Nec­tar card from Sains­burys!’ she says, with­out miss­ing a beat.

✤ born Lippy: How to Do

Fe­male is out now (£20, HB, John Mur­ray)

Jo’s set to star with Danny Dyer in Na­tiv­ity! The Mu­si­cal

She’s a leg­end on the stand-up cir­cuit

‘I pre­fer when ev­ery­one’s at each other’sthroats!’

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