Written by Hannah Dunleavy


Backstage natter

Last Monday, nine of the country’s best standups appeared at Standard Issue Stands Up For Comic Relief. Hannah Dunleavy had a chat with them backstage. When she could get a word in edgeways. Last but by no means least, she spoke to Sarah Millican, Jo Caulfield and Jo Brand.

Jo Caulfield, Sarah Millican, SIM's Hannah Dunleavy and Jo Brand. All photos by Debbie Toksvig.

Jo Caulfield, Sarah Millican, SIM’s Hannah Dunleavy and Jo Brand. All photos by Debbie Toksvig.

Can you guys remember the first time you gigged together?

Jo Brand: I can’t, but I have got Alzheimer’s.

Jo Caulfield: I can remember the first time I saw Jo. It was the Cartoon in Clapham and I had an open spot. You were very funny but you were cross as you left; maybe you were going to another gig.

JB: Was it the menopause?

JC: I was genuinely very excited you were there but you came by like ‘I’m out of here’.

JB: Oh dear.

JC: I thought, “She’s really funny but she was really cross and I’m going to be really unfunny but deliriously happy.”

Sarah Millican: It wasn’t the Rape Crisis gig in Newcastle that we met, was it Jo [Brand]? I think we’d met before that.

JB: I think we had.

SM: That gig in Newcastle was great.

JB: It was. I went up to South Shields with David Miliband, the nice brother – well, depending on your point of view – and he said to me, “While you’re up here can you do a few more visits?” – I’d gone to a local comprehensive, which has a speech from comic every year.

SM: That’s funny; it’s my hometown and I’ve never been asked to do that!

JB: So I went to Rape Crisis, I went to a drug unit; I gave some awards out at a travel agent. That was my favourite. And that’s what that gig sprung from. Rape Crisis said, “We haven’t got any money” and then just looked at me for quite a long time. And I was so pleased Sarah did it, because she pulled everyone in.

SM: I was nervous because you’d given yourself a middle spot and made me close. So I texted my sister after you’d been on – for some moral support, because I was bricking it closing after you. She’s normally really supportive, but she just texted back, “Jo was amazing!”

JB: I did Have I Got News For You the other day and I asked my daughter what she thought and she said, “Romesh [Ranganathan] was brilliant.” You’ve got to suck that up. I also got a lot of messages about my hair. “Lovely hair.”

JC: I get a lot of comments on what I look like. Where I’ve got my clothes from. Never anything about my material, but lots of “I love those earrings.”

Jo CaulfieldSM: Somebody the other day said, “I don’t know where you get your dresses but I’m about the same size as you and I’d like to know.”

JB: My Dad, before he’d been to see me, he asked what I wore on stage. And I said: “What I normally wear.” And he said: “Don’t you wear a hat?”

*Much laughter*

SM: I can remember the first time I saw Jo [Caulfield] was in Edinburgh. I got divorced…

JB: Were you cited Jo?

SM: I decided to go to the Fringe having never been before and I booked the only hotels that were left, which were miles and miles out, so I’d go in at 10am and stay ‘til 11pm. I wanted to be a playwright and I didn’t have any interest in standup at all, but I went to see Jo and Chris Addison. I’d also seen Jack Dee and Sean Hughes, so you were the only four comics I’d seen before I started doing comedy, so you must’ve been doing something right.

JC: I remember seeing Sarah at Funny Women. Your divorce material was hilarious.

JB: I think I was at the final that year. I don’t know, I can’t remember anything before last week.

110515_3781It must be quite rare to all be on a bill together?

JB: Yeah, we don’t really see each other much. When I was on the circuit I was never on with another woman. I remember, we did an all-woman gig at the Comedy Store one night and it was hilarious because all the male comics came down. They obviously thought it was going to be a fiasco and they were all at the back with their arms folded just waiting for it to be awful and it was great.

JC: Of course.

JB: It was so lovely to go *makes rude gesture*.

JC: I remember once, by accident, at East Dulwich Tavern, it just happened. Someone dropped out and they already had three women on, and they booked another woman and it was a great night. The audience didn’t panic and say, “oh no, another one”. That was such a good night.

Sarah Millican, Hannah Dunleavy & Jo BrandSM: The audience just decide when you get up there. If you tell them it’s going to be all female…

JB: They start to lose a bit of confidence.

SM: I was on The One Show and I asked if I could mention this gig. I started to list a few of the people who were on and James Martin said, “So, it’s a ladies’ night.”

JB: Fuck’s sake.

SM: I said, “No, it’s just a night of brilliant comedy. Gender is irrelevant.”

So, theres not a stripper coming later?

SM: No.

If you havent already, have a read of Backstage natter part I with Sara Pascoe, Zoe Lyons and Katherine Ryan and part II with Susan Calman, Holly Walsh and Jess Fostekew.

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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.