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
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!’