Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Jo Brand

Jo Brand Photo by Piers Allardyce

Jo Brand stands up for the pier

Jo Brand, one of the UK’s most highly regarded comedians and ex local resident, is coming to Hastings to help save the pier.  She’ll be performing at The White Rock Theatre on March 30th with support from fellow comedians, Doon Mackichan, Angela Barnes and Quincy.  HOT’s Zelly Restorick asked Jo some questions.

What’s your connection with Hastings ? [I’ve read conflicting stories.]

As a family we moved to Hastings when I was about 15, from Benenden in Kent and I was there for about four years

Pier on fire

Hastings Pier Photo from HPWRT

Why do you want to be involved with the Saving the Pier Campaign?

I spent many great nights on the Pier as a teenager, saw bands like T Rex and The Kinks, have very fond memories of it. Also, I think every seaside town has to have a pier and it isn’t a proper seaside town without one.

Do you have any personal experiences or memories of the pier you wouldn’t mind sharing with us?

When I went to see The Kinks, after the show, my friend Helen and I tried to get some cigarettes out of the machine (10 Number Six with our last 10p..yes, pathetic I know! Our money got stuck and we were thumping the machine in frustration when a voice behind us said, “Can I help ladies?” It was Ray Davies, the lead singer. He banged the machine and out came our fags. Our hero!

If you have any spare time in Hastings , what would you like to do?  Where would you like to go?

I like faffing about in the old town or swimming in the sea

A question suggested by a sponsor : Ask 3 people what they would do if they had £1,000,000 to spend for the benefit of Bexhill, Hastings and St Leonards?  You’re the first questee!  What would you do?

I would have boxes with flowers along the sea front.

I found this quote from you : “I tend to think the world is a bit of a miserable place, so anyone who can add to people’s optimistic, cheerful side is doing a good job, which is what I hope I’m doing.”  What makes you miserable – and what and who cheers you up?

Bullies make me miserable and telling them off cheers me up.

And here’s a quote about you from fellow comedian, Mark Steel : “She is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known. She’s somehow reached the point where no matter how vicious she is in her act she still retains her generosity of spirit.”  How do you feel about this quote?

Well, I think it’s lovely. And I hope it’s true because even though I come across as a man hating harridan, it’s all meant to be tongue in cheek.

Is it right you started performing in your late 20’s, under the name ‘The Sea Monster’, as you didn’t want your colleagues to know you were on the stand up circuit?  Why didn’t you want them to know?  And why The Sea Monster?

I didn’t want them to know because I wanted to develop my comedy skills a bit first. The Sea Monster, because that was a friend’s nickname for me, (charming, I know).

You’re now incredibly well known and successful.  However, I read about your first experience of stand-up and subsequent encounters with beer, spit and abuse.  It sounds extraordinarily challenging.  What gave you the determination and will to stay on stage that first night – and to then want to go up there again… and again?

First time, 6 pints of lager and that meant I’d forgotten how bad the gig was, so I went back. Also, as an ex psychiatric nurse in an Emergency Clinic in South London, I’d heard it all before and a lot worse!

I think this kind of audience response is outrageous.  What makes people believe they have the right to be so abusive to someone who’s endeavouring to make them laugh?

It’s the crowd mentality. Hecklers feel safe in the crowd and they’re normally very drunk.

On a recent TV interview about corporate stand-up comedy, you said how you might be booked for a gig and end up standing in front of a totally non-responsive, blank-faced audience – and that you like the challenge of winning them round. What is it that makes you able to deal with this situation, when most people would be running all the way home?

I try very hard, tend not to give up unless I absolutely have to and love the challenge.

Jo Brand and comedy partners

Stand Up for Hastings Pier

How would you describe your style of comedy?

Laid back.

Whose comedy and humour do you admire and find inspiring?

French and Saunders, Linda Smith, (sadly no longer with us) and any woman who’s managed to swim against the tide of abuse.

How have things changed on the comedy circuit since you first started in the 80s’?

I suppose the biggest change these days is that people see it as a step on the career ladder to doing telly. In my day it was more unfocused and generally chaotic.

You’re seen as someone who’s outspoken in your act.  Are there any taboo areas for you? Subject matters that you wouldn’t talk about?

I don’t think it’s  what  you talk about it’s  how  you talk about it, so therefore I wouldn’t rule out any topic. It’s all about your attitude to it.

Getting On.  I’ve cried a lot at the sheer sadness of the scenarios, as well as laughed. How true-to-life do you think the portrayal is?

I wouldn’t say it’s that true to life. The characters are exaggerated, but I hope we get the sense of the drudgery, the sadness, the humour, the work and the social relationships.

You worked in mental health as a psychiatric nurse.  How did this affect you and your life?

I think it’s something that will always be with me, I loved it.

How do you see ‘mental health’ and ‘mental health care’ now?

I think there is a little less stigma than there used to be, that the cuts will not help and we need to continue trying to be understanding, as a huge percentage of people suffer at one time or another from a mental health problem.

Out of all the things you do – writing, comedy, TV, radio, stand-up – what do you enjoy doing the most?

Stand up by a mile, it’s simple, the reaction is immediate and there’s nothing better than getting to know an audience and having a laugh with them.

I heard you were recently challenged to learn to play the organ in four months for a major performance.  Any new goals and challenges?

I’d like to be a bishop, but I believe that’s not possible at the moment!

Why are you here – on the planet – at this time?

I haven’t got the faintest idea.

Many thanks, Jo!  

Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust are also running a pier related poetry competition.  The winners will be announced at the Jo Brand event: two categories, 14 and under and adults. Entries to  Closing date 28 February.

HPWRT Lifebelt


Stand Up For Hastings Pier

With Jo Brand, Doon Mackichan, Angela Barnes and Quincy

White Rock Theatre

March 30th 2013 at 8pm

Hastings Pier website here





Posted 10:42 Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 In: Performance

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