In the midst of her ‘Better The Devil You Know’ comedy tour, TheGayUK’s Lewis Fellows, caught up with ‘Funniest Woman Of The Year’ – Jo Caulfield for a tickler of an interview to talk about drinking in Travelodge, the undercurrent of homophobia in Stand Up comedy and Joan Rivers.
TGUK: – So you’re currently touring the country! This is your 4th national tour, and by the look of the schedule, it’s been pretty hectic! How are you handling having to work such a tight schedule?
JC – I love hotels, someone cleans up after you and there is alcohol in your room! What’s not to like?
The driving is tiring but I genuinely enjoy visiting new places and exploring new towns. Even places that are sh**e (no offence Goole) are interesting because of their utter sh**eness. There are towns in Britain that haven’t been invested in for 40 years; you can’t get a latte but you can get heroin. Governments of all parties should be ashamed of themselves.
Often on tour I have what I call my ‘pensioners ‘day out. I go round the shops, stop in a teashop, and visit the local museum. Obviously I take crystal meth to liven things up.
TGUK: – Obviously. You got rave reviews at The Fringe this year with your new show “Thinking Bad Thoughts”, did you enjoy performing there?
JC – The Edinburgh Festival is a totally unique experience. You can walk into any bar and bump into either comedians you know or people who were in your audience – either is good as my main hobbies are drinking and gossiping.
I performed at The Stand which has a great clubby atmosphere. Edinburgh works a lot on word of mouth and loads of my audience said they had come through other people recommending the show. There’s an amazing mixture of people, young boys who’ve seen me on Mock the Week, Mums and teenage daughters, older people who aren’t the least bit shocked by anything I say, couples – gay and straight, drunk women (apparently my audience bought more wine than anyone else’s at The Stand) gay women (who also might be drunk) and of course – gay men (who are always drunk)!
TGUK: – Hell, I’m drunk right now! What preparations do you make for Fringe?
JC – Putting The Edinburgh Festival in your diary makes you have to write new material. There is nothing like a deadline to force the funny out.
TGUK: – So how did you get started in comedy, and what made the career appeal to you?
JC – I had no idea it was a career. When I started it wasn’t full of boys just out of University heading for a ‘career’ in Comedy. It was just drunk funny people who thought they might be able to make people laugh.
I was waitressing and had no plan in life at all. I’d been in a band, I’d run a vintage clothing stall, I was just drifting along having a good time, making enough money to pay for rent, beer and lipstick. A friend of a friend did an ‘open mic’ spot at The Comedy Store and that got me thinking about having a go. I signed up for an open mic slot and then got drunk and went on stage. I was instantly hooked, probably not instantly funny, but instantly hooked.
TGUK: – What have been the highs and lows of your career?
J.C – A high was Chris Rock stopping me and saying “Hey I saw you at The Comedy Store, you was funny”.
A low is every time I drink wine from a plastic tumbler in a Travelodge!
TGUK: – Your routines are often fuelled by cynical and sharp observations; do you find it easier to get a laugh out of the negative aspect of things?
JC – Of course. What’s funny about saying ‘Isn’t life great and I’m really happy and I love my husband who never does anything annoying”. People need a release, they want you to say the mean things they’d like to say. My motto is – I came. I saw. I criticized.
TGUK: – Do you have a different personality when performing, or are you as acid tongued off stage as you are on?
JC – I can be but I only do it to make my mates laugh. I hate bullies and wouldn’t be deliberately bitchy to someone in order to hurt them. I’m only bitchy to those I love!
TGUK: – You’ve wrote and worked with some big names, most notably Joan Rivers and Graham Norton. What was that like?
JC – Graham’s exactly how he is on TV. He’s naturally funny, likes a drink and great to work for.
Joan Rivers I have huge admiration for. She really paved the way for female comics and also created a style that a lot of male comics copied as well. She talks about real life and gossips about stars and TV shows the way we all do in real life. I was blown away the first time I saw her.
TGUK: – Who’s been your favourite person to work with?
JC – Graham Norton is my favourite person I have worked for. And also when Graham went to New York for 3 months I got to go as his writer. I had my own little studio apartment. I love New York – it looks just like it does in films. I lived in a ‘brownstone’ and had a ‘stoop’ where I could sit and smoke fags and pretend I was in Sex and The City.
TGUK: – What are you views on the recent Twitter outburst of Nick Griffin? Do you feel there is a relaxed attitude towards homophobia?JC – Nick Griffin is hugely in the minority, thankfully most people judge people as they find them not on their sexuality.
But I do think we are still we are ‘institutionally’ homophobic in this country. There are a lot of male comics who don’t think they’re homophobic but if the premise of your joke is that “it’s funny to be gay” or isn’t it funny if I do a “gay” voice; then you are homophobic. I find it incredible that supposedly intelligent, well-educated male comics will indulge in homophobic ‘banter’ amongst themselves or worse, with an audience. I know they don’t actually mean any harm but they are perpetuating the idea that being gay is something to be ridiculed. I have had many dressing room rows over it but I always win and then they have to buy me lots of wine!
TGUK:- You’re an inspiration for aspiring writers and comedians, what advice would you give to somebody starting out in the industry?
JC – I have a whole section on my website “Things I’ve learned as a comedian”. Here’s just a few ….
• Just because you make an audience laugh, it doesn’t mean they’ll buy you a drink after the show. No matter how long you hang around the bar looking ‘approachable’.
• New Comics – you’ve got to move to a city or big town where you can get up onstage every night of the week.
• You learn more from a bad gig than you do from a good gig.
• When the promoter/MC tells you “not to use bad language because this audience doesn’t like it” – they haven’t got a f**king clue what they’re talking about.
• New Comics – look at the audience. Let them see your face. Make eye contact with the audience.
• Don’t tell anyone you’re a Stand-up Comedian until that is your sole source of income. Seriously, if you spend 40 hours each week working as an accountant and only 20 minutes each week onstage, you’re an accountant!
• Always, always, A-L-W-A-Y-S refer to musical comics as prop comics. Especially if they are within earshot.
• No matter how well you do, the audience always want to tell you about another comedian they really, really like. Usually from a TV show you really, really hate.
• Start with a good joke, have several great jokes in the middle and end with a strong song. Sorry, did I say “song”? I meant “interpretive dance”.
• New Male Comics – just because every other act on the bill uses the term “a bit rape-y” or “rape-y eyes” doesn’t mean you have to. Obviously you’re going to but I’m sure you could do something more unique if you tried. Oh, wait a moment… no, you couldn’t.
• Try a new joke three times, if it still doesn’t work – throw away the audience.
• New Comics – stay and watch the headline act. Buy her a drink. she’ll be hanging around the bar, looking ‘approachable’.
TGUK: What are your plans for the future?JC – Buy more shoes.
Oh and I’m working on a book.
Oh and I’m on tour – check out www.jocaulfield.com
Oh and I would like Holly Willoughby to stop………just stop.
Oh and I have to write new things on twitter @jo_caulfield
LF – Oh and you’re fabulous!
Until next time darlings, go see Jo on tour, she will have you crying with laughter.
I’ve got my ticket… Have you got yours?