Comedy: Brand of gold

Jo Brand is a mistress of the put-down, leaving her adoring but nervous audience in no doubt who's in charge

Over Christmas, the slow news period was enlivened no end by the reports that veteran man-hater Jo Brand had just got married. That's about as likely as long-time non-marrier Helen Mirren getting hitched, people thought, until they discovered that she too had tied the knot during the festive season.

Sadly, gags about the union have not percolated through into her act yet, but fans of Brand's brand of uniquely male-mauling humour will be relieved to hear that marriage has not dulled her sharpness. Sad blokes still rank alongside keep-fit, supermodels, football songs, Wonderbras and thin people as targets for a tongue-lashing.

Brand still takes a perverse delight, too, in shocking her audiences. During a gig in genteel Guildford last year, she warned the well-heeled punters to put their fingers in their ears before running through a routine about maggots too rude to print in a family newspaper (and censored by Channel 4). At the end of it, she advised the stunned audience with evident glee: "do tell that to as many people, as possible over dinner."

Perhaps her most appealing trait, though, is self-deprecation, which she has turned into something of an art-form. This is the woman, after all, who used to go under the stage-name of The Sea Monster. She said at one point that she had just returned from Norway, where whaling has not yet been banned: "so I couldn't go swimming, obviously."

She then said she was quite happy with her appearance - "I quite like looking like this because at least I don't have to drink Martini every time I go to a party" - before going on to mock the audience's preconceptions: "I know you think I'm a lesbian, but I'm heterosexual. So, men, be very scared because I want to shag you."

Hecklers should also be apprehensive of trying to take on Brand. She is a past mistress at putting them down. It is a skill she ascribes to her former career as a psychiatric nurse looking after some of the most challenging people in society. She was not in the slightest bit put off, for example, when she was booed off stage at her very first gig in a Soho disco. "After being a psychiatric nurse and having a machete waved in your face," she laughs, "comedy is a piece of piss really."

Jo Brand plays Aylesbury Civic Hall (01296 486 009) tonight and Colchester Mercury Theatre (01206 573 948) tomorrow

EXTRA

Canadian former advertising copywriter Glen Foster's stage persona is of a middle-aged middle-manager bamboozled by technology and political correctness. He is at Aylesbury Civic Centre (01296 486009) Wed; Luton Artezium (01582 707100) Thur; and Jongleurs Battersea (0171-564 2500) Fri & Sat

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