Some comedians make you laugh because as you sit in the audience, you can tell they are having a lot of fun performing their sets. Others make you laugh because they lost the audience a while back and are being soundly heckled. Still others just use dirty words and get laughs just because their audience is at a maturity level where they still giggle over the word “poo.” Finally, there’s the deadpan comedian, the one who barely smiles, the one who makes most of their jokes with a straight face, a bored voice and a lot of casual sarcasm.
Enter Miss June: Jo Brand. A woman who can tell a joke without a smile, Jo is someone who talks about the fact that she is a nice lipstick wearing feminist who has the unfortunate appearance of an angry dungaree wearing feminist and who constantly refers to numerous abuses inflicted upon her husband (generally by her). She has an ability to deliver some of the most macabre lines with just a smirk and tells some of the oddest stories about her friends that you could ever hear. Then again, she was a psychiatric nurse for ten years before getting into comedy, it’s entirely possible that the stories of some of the nuttier friends are in fact ones from patients. Brand once claimed that she would administer a firm slap to someone who came into her ward complaining of being a sad panda, so odds are good that the world is safer with her in comedy and not medicine.
With her monotone, almost bored voice, Jo Brand has the ability to place her audience in stitches even when she is simply returning fire on her hecklers or reading out and responding to text messages sent to her by the audience. She has warned texters in the past that offering to marry her and ensuring that she never has to leave the kitchen does constitute a legal contract. Like Mr. May (Jummy Carr), Brand doesn’t seem to consider any topic to be out of bounds, as she discusses controversial political party the BNP (she claims she signed her neighbor up for the BNP in the hopes that someone would poo on his doorstep, something that landed her in legal hot water) and her father getting ill (she won’t help him out because he didn’t let her go out when she was 15) and her reasons for marrying her husband (he loves her, she hates men and decided to pick one to hate in a more specific setting). In proper feminist fashion, she has even mourned her daughters’ love of Barbie, and lamented the lack of a proper useful doll, such as “Switchblade Barbie”, in favor of the more marketable “Rapunzel Barbie”. Feminist jokes and odd stories are not the only thing that she covers in her standup; you can learn a lot about contemporary news just by watching Brand claim to be John Sergeant, who caused a scandal by quitting Strictly Come Dancing (Picture Dancing with the Stars if you’re from North America). At the very least, you can watch her various television appearances and enjoy the fact that, even when she’s wrong, Jo Brand can still make you smile.
Along with her stand up, Brand makes numerous guest appearances on panel shows, often contributing her deadpan humor to QI: Quite Interesting, Mock the Week, and has provided interviews to a number of chat shows where she tells stories even more outrageous than those in her stand up performances. Her favorite television show, QI, has seen her on more times than any other celebrity, with the exception of Sean Lock, and has seen her offer up everything from sarcasm (which turns out to be right), obvious answers (which turn out to be wrong) and once, a story about a man doing his business on the side of a mountain in the middle of a snowstorm. As well, she’s appeared on What Not to Wear, learned to play an organ in just four months for Play it Again, and written several books, including two autobiographies.
Appearing as herself isn’t all Brand does; she also stars as Kim Wilde, a nurse who is returning to work and is learning to adapt to working in a modern NHS hospital in medical sitcom Getting On. Contrary to her normally deadpan and uncaring demeanor, Brand becomes the most patient-centered nurse in this darkly humorous comedy, which recently announced that will enjoy a third season. Getting On has resulted in Brand winning a number of awards, as she is not only a starring character, but also one of the writers, and has taken awards for Best Writing in Comedy from the Royal Television Society in 2010, the Best Comedy award from the Writer’s Guild, and was honored with a BAFTA nomination for Best Female Performance in a Comedy Role in 2010.
So head out and pick up a copy of her book Look Back in Hunger, or check out Getting On, QI: Quite Interesting or Barely Live to enjoy a little something from this talented, award-winning comedian. She’s one of the funniest out there, even when she never smiles.