Great LezBritain: Bent Double

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"Great LezBritian" is a fortnightly stroll through the very best of British lesbo-centric entertainment and culture. Plus there will be some jolly good interviews with the top ladies who are waving the flag for gay UK.

Parading yourself around a comedy stage for all and sundry to judge is not considered the most stable of career paths. But chucking a well timed punch line right in the face of stability, are some rather hilarious lesbian comedians.

Zoe Lyons, Susan Calman and Jen Brister have all been making a name for themselves on the British comedy circuit over the last couple of years and Great LezBritain has pissed many a pair of pants in the front row of their gigs.

We caught up with all three to find out how Zoe felt to be named as one of 2009’s influential British gays, why a group of lesbians once tried to ban Jen from their women’s bar and why there is a naked video of Susan on the internet.

Once you’ve read the interviews, go check out the real thing and if you know of any other good British lesbian comedians, don’t be greedy, do share.

JEN BRISTER (LONDON)
AfterEllen.com: When did you start doing stand up?

Jen Brister: My very first gig came off the back of doing a comedy course at University. I was 21, at the time and completely obsessed with stand up, although it wasn’t something I had any real desire to do. I wanted to be a comedy actor, but soon realised that so did every man and his dog. I started trying out at open mic gigs and it snowballed from there. Really I just think I have a compulsion to be stared at blankly in pubs.

AE: The thought of standing on a stage trying to make people laugh would be terrifying for most, what made you do it?
JB: I’m a show off who needs an unnatural amount of attention from complete strangers as an affirmation that I have talent. It’s all very healthy.

Jen Brister

AE: Have you had any interesting heckling moments? How did you respond?
JB: Someone poured a pint of coke over me once because I had been "flirting" with his girlfriend which apparently had deeply offended her. A bloke shouted that I was frigid and needed a big hard c—, to which I replied that I had a big c— , thanks, but it’s just in the boil wash right now.

AE: You also often present radio shows for BBC6 Music how does broadcasting compare with stand up? 
JB: Radio is very different from stand up because you literally feel like you’re talking to yourself. The greatest thing about stand up is you have an immediate reaction from the audience telling you if it’s funny or not. But on radio, it’s only when you get a text message five minutes later that you remember that you have thousands of people listening to you up and down the country.

AE: You sometimes work as part of a duo with fellow comedian Clare Warde – is it better to have someone with you to hold your hand or do you resent sharing the glory?
JB: Clare who? I think I remember….oh yeah… the ginger one.  I do love working with Clare, she’s a very funny and talented writer and performer. We’ve been friends for 17 years and the reason we work so well together is that we make each other laugh. Obviously when she’s on stage with me I resent every single laugh she gets. I have had to gag her on more than one occasion and I’ll be honest with you, a couple of those times we weren’t even on stage.

AE: There are not many out lesbian comedians in the UK.  There is a stereotype that lesbians are just not that funny but what reasons would you give for so few of them getting into comedy?
JB: I genuinely think that some of the funniest women on TV and radio are gay. Look at Jane Lynch who stars in Glee. The woman is hands down the funniest and most engaging actor on that show. You’ve got Sandi Toksvig, Zoe Lyons, Sue Perkins, Rhona Cameron, Adams & Rea, Susan Calman, obviously Ellen [DeGeneres] and let’s not forget Clare Balding, some of her outfits are hilarious!

The truth is that there are plenty of women both gay and straight who are involved in comedy, it’s just that they don’t have a profile yet.

AE: You have said that lesbians tend not to like your stand up, why is that?
JB:
Well, I think I may have overstated that fact. I don’t think it’s strictly true. It’s just that I have managed to offend some gay women over the years. I’ll admit, sometimes intentionally because it amuses me.

A number of gay women signed a petition for me not to compere a comedy night at a "women’s bar" because I said the word "penis" on stage. Obviously once asked not to say "penis" I found myself literally talking about the male appendage all night. It didn’t help that I had also spent the entire evening calling one of the women who complained, "pregnant lady" only for her to tell me while I was on stage that she wasn’t pregnant.

AE: Is it true that when you told your mum you were gay she said, well, it’s better than being a vegetarian?
JB:
People don’t believe me but it’s absolutely 100% true.

AE: Can you share a new/your favourite joke with us?
JB:
I have written some material about pornography which I’m really enjoying performing but it’s not really appropriate. So I’ll tell you another "Mum" truism, which is when I told my Mum that my girlfriend and I were thinking of having kids, she replied, “I do hope you know you cannot get pregnant with two fingers…”

AE: Who are your own comedy heroes?
JB:
It is going to sound naff but as a woman I have to say any woman in comedy mainly because it’s been other female comics who have always inspired me, whether they’re stand up comics, or comedy actors, or writers.

AE: What is the best way for our readers to keep up to date with your movements?
JB:
I have a website www.jenbrister.co.uk and should I ever update it you’ll be able to see everything I’m up to!

AE: Where can they see you perform?
JB:
All over the shop. I gig up and down the country in pubs, clubs and theatres. I’m in the middle of writing a play and a new show for Edinburgh so I’ll be previewing both of those over the next few months. So why not come down and have a giggle or three.

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