Jo Brand in the cabaret tent at Glastonbury Festival 2019
|Birth name||Josephine Grace Brand|
|Born||23 July 1957|
|Spouse||Bernie Bourke (m. 1997)|
Josephine Grace Brand (born 23 July 1957) is an English comedian, writer, presenter and actress. Starting her entertainment career with a move from psychiatric nursing to the alternative comedy stand-up scene and early performances on Saturday Live, she went on to appear on The Brain Drain, Channel 4's Jo Brand Through the Cakehole, Getting On and various television appearances including as a regular guest on QI, Have I Got News for You and Would I Lie to You?. She also makes regular appearances on BBC Radio 4 in programmes such as The News Quiz and Just a Minute. From 2014 to 2018 she was the presenter of The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice. In 2003, Brand was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. In 2019, Brand became a contestant on Taskmaster.
Brand was born in Wandsworth, London and grew up in Hastings, East Sussex. Her mother was a social worker and her father was a structural engineer. Brand is the middle of three children, with two brothers. When she was about four, the family moved to the village of St Mary's Platt near Sevenoaks in Kent, and a year later, to Benenden. Brand was educated at St Mary's Platt Primary School, Benenden Village Primary School, Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School until the age of 16, Hastings High School for Girls and Bexhill College.
After working in a pub, for Barnardo's and as a nursing assistant in a residential unit for adults with learning disabilities she took a joint social science degree with a Registered Mental Nurse qualification at Brunel University. She then worked as a psychiatric nurse for ten years, at the South London Bethlem hospital, Cefn Coed Hospital in Swansea and Maudsley Hospital in south London.
When Brand began her career in comedy, she went by the stage name the "Sea Monster". She was part of the British alternative comedy movement, working in London alternative comedy clubs in the mid-1980s, and appearing initially on the Saturday Live television show. She shared a flat with fellow comic and comedy club owner Ivor Dembina.
Brand's early style involved her delivering jokes in a bored monotone, one line at a time, with pauses in between. It drew heavily from pop culture and the media, with many jokes containing references to celebrities and public figures. Brand has said that she drank heavily before her first gig, was heckled throughout, and received no applause at the end of the set. Her Doc Marten boots, large size and short hair led to false rumours that she was a lesbian.
Brand has written a feature-film adaptation to her novel The More You Ignore Me. She will also star in the film.
In 1993, Brand became a resident panellist, along with Tony Hawks, on BBC monologue show The Brain Drain. Her transition into mainstream television continued when she starred in her own series on Channel 4, Jo Brand Through the Cakehole, co-written with comedy writer Jim Miller, who was already her main stand-up writer. Brand has had several solo television series, and presented shows such as Jo Brand's Commercial Breakdown. She had a cameo appearance in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous entitled "New Best Friend" (1994), and also appeared on Star Spell, a spin-off from Hard Spell in 2004.
Her television success continued with guest appearances on shows such as Have I Got News for You and QI, to the extent where she became the most frequently appearing guest on the latter, appearing in a total of 34 episodes. As a fan of Countdown, Brand achieved an ambition when she was invited to appear in the show's "Dictionary Corner" as the celebrity guest. She later became a friend of the host, Richard Whiteley, and after his death in 2005 attended his memorial service at York Minster. She has appeared on Countdown as a Dictionary Corner guest 88 times.
On 25 March 2007, Brand appeared on Play It Again, where she was required to learn how to play the organ in just four months. This was in preparation to perform Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for an audience of 8,000 people at London's Royal Albert Hall on the second largest pipe organ in the United Kingdom. In order to practise her performance, she played Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, a favourite hymn of hers at a church service in her former village church in Benenden, Kent, and accompanied dancers at Blackpool Tower. Prior to this, her only experiences with musical instruments had been childhood piano and violin lessons.
Brand took part in the first celebrity version of Comic Relief Does Fame Academy. In 2007 she appeared as a celebrity contestant on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice. In 2009 she participated in Let's Dance for Comic Relief, another Comic Relief fundraiser, dancing as Britney Spears, reaching the final. She has also been a judge on the show. In January 2013 Brand took part in a special Comic Relief series of The Great British Bake Off.
Brand has been a fill-in host on The Paul O'Grady Show and The One Show. Brand co-created, co-wrote and co-starred in the BBC Four sitcom Getting On opposite Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine, for which she won the 2011 Best TV Comedy Actress BAFTA award. The series, directed by Peter Capaldi and Sue Tully, is a gritty and realistic satire on the current state of the NHS, set in a geriatric ward.
In 2011, Brand presented Jo Brand's Big Splash, a television programme where she performed a stand-up routine and visited people with a love of water and it was produced by her production company, What Larks! Productions.
On 14 January 2014, Brand presented an episode of The Great Sport Relief Bake Off on BBC Two, a charity version of The Great British Bake Off. In February 2015 she also presented an episode of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off.
On 28 January 2019, the BBC television series Imagine, presented by Alan Yentob, documented Jo's life and career, with contributions from many of her comedy peers, in a programme titled Jo Brand: No Holds Barred.
Brand delivered a guest lecture on the subject of psychiatric nursing for the University of Derby Psychology Society in 1997 in return for a donation to Derby Rape Crisis. Also in 1997, she opened, at Lambeth Hospital in South London, the first major exhibition of the Adamson Collection since the death of Edward Adamson, the pioneer of Art Therapy, in 1996.
On 28 January 2016, Brand completed a 150-mile walk across Britain, in aid of Sport Relief, in Liverpool. Brand crossed the finish line at the Albert Dock at 7.30pm, having set off from the banks of the River Humber on 22 January. Her efforts were shown in a 60-minute documentary, which aired on 17 March 2016, called Jo Brand's Hell of a Walk for Sport Relief.
Brand is a patron of the National Self Harm Network (NSHN), International Animal Rescue, and the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association, as well as London Nightline. She is the president of the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust.
Brand is an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society.
Brand introduced and spoke at the celebration of Michael Foot's life at London's Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, on 8 November 2010. She is also a republican. In January 2012, she gave the South Shields annual lecture at Harton Technology College alongside the MP for the town, David Miliband.
In June 2019, Brand was featured in the BBC Radio 4 comedy show Heresy, after a number of European election candidates had been doused with milkshakes during campaign walkabouts the previous month. Brand said "Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?" She later added: "That's just me, sorry, I'm not gonna do it, it's purely a fantasy, but I think milk shakes are pathetic, I honestly do. Sorry." The BBC later defended Brand, explaining "the jokes made on Heresy are deliberately provocative as the title implies" and that they were "not intended to be taken seriously." The Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May, said the BBC should explain why a joke about throwing battery acid was "appropriate content" for broadcast and the BBC later announced that the remark would be edited out of any future broadcasts. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that it had "received an allegation of incitement to violence that was reported to the MPS on 13 June". and that they were investigating the matter. Appearing at an event in Henley, Oxfordshire, on the same day, the comedian was said to have apologised for making the joke, saying "Looking back it probably was somewhat a crass and ill-judged joke that might upset people." It was understood that the allegation reported to the police was not made by Nigel Farage or the Brexit Party. Ofcom said it has received 65 complaints about the episode of Heresy. The police dropped the investigation two days later. On 29 August 2019, the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) partially upheld complaints about the joke, saying: 'Whilst the ECU recognised that the wider message from this episode is an argument for more civility in political discourse, not less, and Ms Brand's contribution is not intended to be taken as face value, the ECU felt that it went beyond what was appropriate for the show.'
On 17 July 2007 Brand was awarded an honorary doctorate for her work as a psychiatric nurse from the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales). Professor Donna Mead, Dean of the School of Health, Sport and Science, who read Brand up for the award commented, "Jo incorporates much of her experience working in the field of mental health into her current work as a comedian. This has increased awareness of the work done by nurses in the mental health field. She has also used her experiences of working with individuals with conditions such as Alzheimer's to promote awareness of and raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society."
In December 2007 she received a Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award, an award associated with the Eileen Skellern Memorial Lecture. At this event she was praised for making mental health nursing more visible to the general public.
In January 2014 Brand was awarded a second honorary doctorate from Canterbury Christ Church University, for her work in raising awareness of mental health issues and challenging the stigma surrounding such illnesses.
|1990||Up Yer News||Herself||2 episodes|
|1992-present||Have I Got News for You||Regular panellist/guest host|
|1994||Absolutely Fabulous||Carmen||1 episode|
|1993-1996||Jo Brand Through the Cakehole||Presenter|
|2003-present||QI||Regular panellist||37 appearances|
|2009, 2013||The Paul O'Grady Show||Stand-in presenter||2 episodes|
|2009-2012||Getting On||Kim Wilde||Also written by Brand|
|2010-2017||Let's Sing and Dance||Panellist|
|2011||Jo Brand's Big Splash||Presenter|
|Show Me the Funny||Guest judge||1 episode|
|2014-2015||The Great Sport Relief Bake Off||Presenter|
|2014||The One Show||Stand-in presenter||Two episodes|
|2014-present||The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice||Presenter||6 series|
|2016||Jo Brand's Hell of a Walk for Sport Relief||Herself||One-off episode|
|2016||Going Forward||Kim Wilde||Also written by Brand|
|2016-2017||Jo Brand's Cats & Kittens||Presenter|
|2018||Britain's Best Junior Doctors||Presenter||1 series|
|2011||Horrid Henry: The Movie||Greasy Greta/Demon Dinner Lady|
|2017||Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience||Mrs. Crocodile||Segment: The Zoo|
|2018||The More You Ignore Me||Sandra|
She turned down the Royal Variety Performance because she didn't want to be a hypocritical republican.