Jo Brand: I’m still a man-eating radical feminist

The comedian and actress on why The X Factor makes her cringe, Getting On's US remake and her first crush on Blue Peter's John Noakes

What was your favourite TV programme as a child?


I loved Follyfoot [an ITV drama set around a horse stable]. I always wanted to be Dora, because she had a mullet and no eyebrows and that’s what we all wanted in the 70s.

Who was your first crush?

John Noakes on Blue Peter. I don’t like traditionally good-looking blokes because I think they suffer from the same snootiness that beautiful women do. What I liked about John Noakes was his massive enthusiasm: he was always talking 19 to the dozen, hair all over the place, and falling into things.

What makes you cringe?

The X Factor. There are people who – although they might not have an overt mental health problem – are struggling emotionally and have a skewed idea of their chances and the reality of the situation. They should be nurtured not slagged off, so I find it too sad to watch.

What would you bring back?

Pulling, which was a very dark, very funny sitcom with Sharon Horgan. Women are often used as an addendum to male characters; they don’t tend to have as much independence or intellectual weight. Pulling gave the women in it free rein to be like the women I know – to have a filthy sense of humour and behave appallingly.

How did you manage to make series three of your dark NHS sitcom Getting On so topical?

We were in a difficult position because the health service bill hadn’t gone through when we filmed but we’d written in all the things that would be happening if it did. So I had this weird situation where, as an individual, I was hoping it would be blocked; but, as I writer, I was hoping it wouldn’t.

When RT interviewed you for series two, you said you didn’t think you could act. You’ve since scooped a Bafta…

 There’s what I call “EastEnders acting” where the characters are just a version of themselves and at the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve tremendous West End actors like Simon Russell Beale who are very different every time you see them. I’m a Ross Kemp: I can only play a version of someone very similar to me.

So who would you choose to play you in the forthcoming American remake?

Gwyneth Paltrow. Or, more realistically, Roseanne Barr.

What’s next?

I’m going back to stand-up because I haven’t toured for ages and my material is getting slightly tired and jaded; and I’m writing a book about what it’s like as a woman to become middle-aged.

Has your comedy changed over the years?

The topics have changed, but I don’t think inside I’ve changed as a person. Everybody thinks I’ve mellowed and I’m not a man-eating radical feminist any more; I still am.

What would you delete from your CV?

The only thing I’d delete is something I did years ago called Only Fools and Turkeys where I was dressed up as a Christmas fairy doing a monologue to camera in a café in west London, which was kept open as a constant stream of builders went past and took the piss out of me. Mark Lamarr teased me relentlessly for weeks.


1. EastEnders or Corrie?

2. Have I Got News for You or News at Ten?

3. Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton?
That’s really hard… Both.

4. Downton Abbey or Homeland?

5. The Thick of It or repeats of Friends?
Definitely The Thick of It


Getting On returns tonight at 10:00pm on BBC4