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Britain's Best Female Comedians

The world of stand-up comedy is tough, with difficult audiences that can be hard to please. But for a woman, it is nigh on impossible and it takes a special breed to succeed. One woman who has what it takes is Jo Brand and since her first gig as a part time act in 1986 she has become one of Britain’s most successful and best-loved female comedians.

Growing up in sleepy Kent, Jo had a happy childhood until she went away at the age of 16 to a sixth form college in Hastings, which she hated. To punish her parents, she took up with the wrong crowd and began a relationship with a heroin addict four years her senior that got her kicked out of the family home. She eventually earned a social science degree and qualified as a Registered Mental Nurse, and went on to work as a psychiatric nurse for 10 years.

Jo’s first gig stressed her out so much that she drank seven pints of lager before taking to the stage, only to be heckled and abused by at least one male member of the audience for the whole of her act. Despite the fact that she received no applause when she finished, Jo persevered. “The Sea Monster”, as she became known, became popular and eventually broke into television. Her distinctive bored, monotone delivery drawing from the media and pop culture proved a favourite and she is now a regular on television and has had several series of her own.

Jo Brand

But Jo still has concerns for the struggles faced by female comedians. Some men in the entertainment industry, she says, try to exploit young women while male audiences see them as “fair game” and behave inappropriately. She believes her background in psychiatric nursing has helped her through some of her own difficult experiences.

Jo is also a successful author, a supporter of the Labour Party and is passionate about raising awareness of mental health issues.

Jo, however, does not stand alone in the ranks of British female comedians. Others are also climbing the ladder of success, despite the challenges. Oxford-educated Josie Long has also made a name for herself in the tough world of stand-up comedy. She has been performing since the age of 14 and has toured Britain a number of times. She has also appeared at several comedy festivals around the world including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and festivals in Adelaide, Melbourne Montreal and Auckland. Like Jo, she struggled early on in her career because she is a woman but now she is a highly sought-after comic whose themes are usually about self-improvement and politics.

Another of Britain’s best female stand-up comedians is Lucy Porter. She has been entertaining sell-out audiences around the world since 2001 with her casual chatty style that addresses adult themes from a woman’s perspective. She says that she did her first stand-up gig as far away from home as she could just in case it went horribly wrong. It was, of course, a pre-cursor to a successful career as Lucy is now a regular at comedy festivals across the globe and is highly sought-after as a comedy writer. She also frequently appears on radio and television in panel shows and sitcoms.

Rob Hunt is a freelance writer who covers topics around sports, comedy and entertainment.

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