The comedian: Barunka O'Shaughnessy

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The Independent Culture

Barunka O'Shaughnessy once worked in a jam factory in order to make ends meet. It was mind-numbing work. "My job was to pick up any jam-jars that had fallen over," she recollects, "but one only fell over every five hours. I was going mad there!"

Her professional career certainly started quietly. In 1999, she played a drugged-up girl in Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson's much-loved sitcom, Spaced, "for about a minute". She went on to take parts such as Checkout Girl in The Mighty Boosh, Woman Extra in Extras and Waitress in Absolute Power.

Such anonymity, however, seems unlikely to befall O'Shaughnessy in the future. The performer, whose unusual name reflects her Czech and Irish parentage, looks set to break through to the major leagues in the coming year.

A graduate of Cambridge University, where she was friends with the double act of David Mitchell and Robert Webb, O'Shaughnessy has penned material for Jonathan Ross, Matt Lucas, Sally Phillips, Phill Jupitus and John Thomson. She is now writing for School of Comedy, a new Channel 4 series in which grown-up sketches are performed by youngsters.

But it's as a performer that O'Shaughnessy is really making her mark. After two well-received Edinburgh shows, she appeared on the Paramount Comedy Channel as an Eastern European prostitute and enjoyed a successful run in the much-lauded sketch troupe at Ealing Live!. She then landed a big break, appearing as Avid Merrion's (Leigh Francis) wife (and sister!), Sacha, on C4's cult-com Bo' Selecta.

O'Shaughnessy has since been a regular on C4's Bremner, Bird and Fortune and been reunited with her old university pals on BBC2's That Mitchell and Webb Look. In addition, she has starred as another Eastern European prostitute in Five's brothel-set sitcom, Respectable. "I was in danger of being typecast," she laughs.

Now she is one of four performers in E4's new all-female sketch show, Beehive, which has been compared to both Smack the Pony and French and Saunders. All in all, 2008 has been quite a year for O'Shaughnessy – and 2009 promises to be even better.