jo brand's week

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The Independent Online
I have spent half this week in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, at the Angles Theatre, performing a play written with my friend, actress Helen Griffin. We did it in Wisbech because the bloke that runs the theatre is a friend and also it's nice to get out of London and avoid the beady eyes of the London critic fraternity. I have had some lovely encounters with the residents of Wisbech, including an approach the other day from a very respectable middle-aged man who came up to me and said, "Jo Brand, I think you are a marvellous comedienne, and I say this as a man of the cloth." Good Lord, this is a bit of a turn up for the books. I have spent my entire comedy career assuming that I am persona non grata with the clergy and now I discover I've got a fan with a dog collar. Time for a rethink on my assimilation into the establishment I think.

It makes a refreshing change to see someone speaking out against the sickening commercialisation that has overtaken huge companies like the Disney Corporation. The ferocious marketing approach they take these days results in parents being put under pressure to buy everything that these companies produce. And the links with other big organisations to push the product even more, mean we are saturated with the latest gimmick.

Well, the family of Victor Hugo in France have had enough. They have seen the fruits of the great writer's imagination turned into pure commercialism by McDonald's and the supermarket chain, Monoprix. Esmerelda has become a Demi Moore lookalike and Quasimodo a rather Hobbit-like cuddly thing. In the days that we watched Disney as kids, the films were not accompanied by a whole range of crappy plastic toys. I am sure the protests of the Hugo family will fall on deaf ears as the great money-making machine moves on to the next venture, but at least someone is making a little stand.

Fat Germans are not happy and have got themselves organised enough to have their own congress. They have again asked Chancellor Helmut Kohl to become their patron after he turned down the offer last year. Fat people in Germany are demanding bigger seats on trains and planes and bigger car interiors. According to my brother, who lives in Germany, Helmut Kohl's nickname is Birne, which means "pear", because of his shape, although his name actually means "cabbage". I don't suppose even normal-sized people would mind bigger seats on planes and airline companies would have to enlarge them all, because it would be a nightmare if people such as myself were led to the fatties seats at the back of the plane like lepers. Still, at least we might get extra portions at meal times.

Every time we have an election in this country, commentators tend to remark that it is the dirtiest one ever. Despite this, with each approaching election, new ideas pop up to ensure that ever more scummy weapons with which to fell the opposition are available. This year it seems a new idea has flown round the world from Australia to help put the boot into prospective parliamentary candidates. The basic idea seems to be that the electorate are interviewed on the phone with what appears to be a straightforward questionnaire and then at the end are thrown a few unsavoury facts about a candidate under the auspices of an objective call. This is known as "push polling" and originated in America. Which party do you think is planning to use push polling in Britain? Yep, funnily enough it's the Tories. This smacks of a certain desperation and one wonders whether the voters will fall for it. I like to think that we are politically slightly more literate than the Aussies, but given the whole Blair hair furore I have my doubts.

I am looking forward to this fly-on-the-wall documentary in a few weeks, which portrays a group of your average Tory supporters having dinner, unashamedly slagging off gays and black people, and happily denying that there is such a thing as poverty. Apparently, these diners do not hold back and I wonder why. Weren't they embarrassed by how horrible they would look? Stupidity may be an explanation for their bravado, I suppose, and easier to stomach perhaps, than the fact that these people are actually proud of having these views. The programme was filmed in East Anglia where there are very few black people and doubtless few openly gay people. I did ask the audience in Wisbech how many black people there were in the town. Two, apparently. Having seen this documentary, one assumes they might well want to move.

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