Read Can't Stand Up for Sitting Down Online

Authors: Jo Brand

Tags: #Biography

Can't Stand Up for Sitting Down

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To my
family, for shoring me up during the process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d like to thank my
family for being a great big lovely bolster separating me from the more chilly
parts of the outside world, and for putting up with me while I was trying to
write this as I was a right grump. I’d also like to thank my friend and agent
Vivienne for being supportive, honest, and reading each bit that I sent her
straight away, rather than pretending her email wasn’t working. And of course
I’m contractually obliged to thank Martin my editor … I’m sure we’ll be
speaking again soon. Thanks too to Alan Davies and Mark Kelly who filled in the
gaps of my fading memory. And finally I’d like to thank you for buying it — or
running the risk of nicking it, if that is what you did — and I truly hope it’s
a good read with some laughs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, readers — and
welcome to Part 2 of my memoirs, covering the period from my first gig as a
professional comic through to the present day.

I’ve
called them ‘memoirs’ because, rather than being a chronological account of my
life, they’re a collection of the bits and pieces of my existence that I can
remember — and believe you me, I’m stunned I have recalled so much, given that
my memory has been shot to pieces since I had children, and it wasn’t that
great before either. I imagine that, at some point, some scientist or other has
said that we only remember the exciting bits in our lives, and let’s hope
that’s true, because you certainly don’t want to know about the great cup of
tea I had in April 1994 in a café in Wisbech or my favourite episode of
Casualty.

So I
hope this hotchpotch of musings is to your taste, and I can assure you they are
certainly not as intellectually challenging as Proust (in case you are a bit
weird and actually thought they might be). And if you start reading and think,
God,
this is dull,
you can always pass it on to someone you don’t like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s April 1988, and I am
on Channel Four live on
Friday Night Live.
I’m on a raised platform in
front of a crowd of the thinnest, youngest, most attractive people I’ve ever
seen who are staring quizzically at me. This may well be because TV directors
of live shows tend to put the chubby, not so attractive ones at the back. A
part of me feels slightly smug that for once I am not at the back … I’m in
the front, so bollocks to them.

My
first couple of lines work well and there is some laughter and the crowd starts
to relax a bit. I’m beginning to relax too despite the fact that my arm is
going up and down in a chicken-flapping-its-wings style with nervousness. I
drone on in my monotone voice …

Then a
voice cuts through the crowd. ‘Get off!’

My
first feeling is one of indignation. I’m actually doing all right, so what’s
that all about?

Because
it’s live TM the fear is multiplied a hundred. fold. Any mistake you make, a
small fluff or whether you spectacularly and waterfall-like actually wet
yourself, will be captured for eternity — and so the pressure on you is huge.
There will not be the comforting thought of a film editor whooshing away your
moment of humiliation. This is it.

What do
I do? It is a male voice heckling me, surprise surprise, and it is my natural
inclination to get into a slanging match with him. After all, this is what we
comics are supposed to do best. However, this is live telly and my set is timed
to the second. If I start getting stuck into a heckler, that will eat up my
time and the whole thing will be thrown out of kilter. I stare in the general
direction of the heckler and say, ‘Thank you,’ and move on. Afterwards,
however, I’m really pissed off and want to get the heckler into a corner and
lamp him. My first-ever appearance on TV and he nearly ruined the whole thing.

I hear
through the grapevine that some staff from LWT have been sacked that day and he
is among the disgruntled sackees. I feel slightly less homicidal towards him. I
suppose at least it wasn’t that personal.

In a
strange karmic twist, some years later I meet the heckler at a TV studio in
Southampton. He is now the presenter of a live magazine show on which I am
appearing.

‘I was
the one who heckled you on
Friday Night Live,’
he says, with a smug grin
on his face.

‘And
now you’re presenting a live show, how would
you
like to be heckled?’ I
enquire.

And I
rather meanly leave it at that, implying that I am going to heckle him back,
but not bothering, hoping the anticipatory fear will be enough to ruin his day.

 

Having taken the plunge in
early 1988 and left my job as Senior Sister at the Maudsley Hospital — my
little safety net, though I suppose most people wouldn’t see a twenty-four-hour
Psychiatric Emergency Clinic quite in this way — I am suddenly out on my own.

Obviously
it’s a bit of a risk, to leave a secure job which I liked and strike out into
the murky waters of possible nothingness. Although a nurse’s salary wasn’t much
to write home about, at least it was regular and there was always the
possibility that my burgeoning comedy career could take a nose-dive before it
had even begun. I had been a nurse for the last ten years, six of those years
full-time in the Emergency Clinic dealing with every possible psychiatric
crisis you could imagine, from extreme psychosis to drug withdrawal to
personality disorders. I had a mortgage to pay on a flat and plenty of
outgoings.

Comedy,
by contrast, was a hand-to-mouth existence in which, at the end of every show,
you got a little brown envelope with cash in it or just a handful of notes. I wasn’t
sure there would be enough bookings to justify my leaving a secure job, so I
asked my mum and dad what they thought about it, and they were pretty positive.
They could see I’d done my time in a stable job, and to some extent were there
as a safety net. They weren’t loaded, but they would ensure that I wasn’t on
the street in a sleeping bag eating out of skips round the back of Sainsbury’s.

Friends
were also very supportive and thought it was hugely exciting. One particular
mate had encouraged me right at the beginning by reminding me that I was never
going to do it if I didn’t take the plunge, and this next stage, of sloughing
off my job, was something most of my friends urged me to do.

Added
to that, I was bloody knackered and I really wanted some lie-ins. Given that
most of the jobs I had done up until that point had involved shift work, I
fancied a bit of staying in bed till midday with nothing to do until the
evening. Comedy also seemed to me to have a built-in social life, and comics
seemed like interesting people. I was aware of the dearth of women and wanted
to get out there and do some material for the female audience. It wasn’t a
particularly difficult decision. I’ve always been somewhat of a gambler because
I don’t think those huge decisions are irreversible: you can always go back. So
while many people are lying awake at night turning a problem over and over in
their mind, I am one of the lucky ones who snores their head off, happily
oblivious of life’s possible pitfalls.

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