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24 Seven: Jo's still got own brand of humour; Waterfront show will highlight her more mellow outlook on life.

Byline: with Joe Riley

HEN it came to branding, Jo Brand didn't have a problem. Back in the 80s, she launched herself on (or should it be at?) the London cabaret circuit in the guise of The Sea Monster: a straight-talking feminist in a shapeless black top, black leggings and black boots.

``It was a definite image and I did it because it was easy to just wear the same colour and style all the time, '' she tells me.

Eighteen years of jokes about fat, food, sex and men have lined the byways of Britain with sacrificial victims.

That sentiment works both ways: ``A lot of the time it has not been easy, '' confides Jo.

``I have sat down and cried into my beer with the rest of them, having had bad gigs and been worked over by an audience. ''

But television -- including an appearance on top political chat show Question Time -- have mellowed the Kent-born comedienne, who is about to revisit Liverpool for a council-backed waterfront show at the Pier Head.

``In television they treat you as if you're four years of age, get you something to wear, and do your hair for you.

``I admit that the clothes are a bit smarter and a bit cleaner than they used to be.

``I'm quite happy to go along with what people want -- unless I end up looking like Shirley Williams or Ann Widdecombe. ''

And she adds: ``I just don't like that image of women who wear smart working suits. I don't mean that in a nasty way. It's a style thing. ''

Comedy itself has changed too -- especially for women: ``When I started, there was little choice apart from competing with the blokes.

``Everyone said you weren't a proper stand-up unless you'd done the Comedy Store late show until two in the morning, putting down hecklers, and with everyone being sick over your feet.

``But these days, women have decided they no longer have to compete on those terms. We'll do it how we want to, and in the places we want to appear. '' Jo Brand, now married with two small daughters, has moved on: ``There's no point me doing the overgrown student set any more. I'm 47 and supposedly grown up, so I can't talk about a life I don't have any more. ''

Gone -- at least for the time being -- are the long and gruelling tours. The Pier Head show is a one-off.

``That means it will be a mixture, '' says Jo. ``Some current material, some about where I am in life, and some to do with the physical setting. ''

The prospect of sea breezes reminds Jo of the London Palladium benefit gig she took part in for the sacked Liverpool dockers during the 90s.

``I don't say yes to everything. It's important to think about each thing. Attaching yourself to left wing causes can be a bit of a minefield.

``But I felt strongly in the case of the dockers that they had been treated unfairly. ''

Wn Waterfront Comedy, Pier Head, September 5. Tel: 0870 881 5544.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 20, 2004
Words:518
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