Brighton is full of funny women. Not least right now when the Brighton Comedy Festival (9-24 October) is in full swing, drenching the city in mirth. I meet comedian, actor and writer, Jane Postlethwaite as she prepares for a gig, for a green tea and a glimpse into the wonderful world of stand up.
“I’m originally from the Lake District, from a tiny little village where my family have lived for about 300 years,” says Jane in her soft Cumbrian burr as we sit outside Small Batch coffee shop in Hove. “I escaped when I was 19 to do an art degree in Winchester. I came to Brighton on a day trip and fell in love with the Royal Pavilion. I’ve lived here for ten years now, and I’m still in love with it,” she grins. “And living by the sea is so good for you. It’s very calming and really boosts your mental health.”
Disillusioned by the art scene “they just wanted me to draw flowers and that…”, five years ago Jane embarked on an acting diploma and through this found her calling in comedy. “Deep down it’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. But instead of enrolling on one of the many stand-up courses on offer, she learnt the art herself. “I watched hours and hours and hours of comedy. I found who I liked and why I liked them,” explains Jane, who also read books on how to write a good joke, and generally picked the whole comedy genre apart. “I really like Julia Davis and Julie Walters, and Victoria Wood’s stuff is very good. French and Saunders, of course. But I’m also a fan of US comedians like Sarah Silverman, Kristen Wiig, and Amy Poehler from Parks and Recreation.”
A fan of dark humour, Jane also admires the work of League of Gentlemen team “who’ve inspired me for about fifteen years now,” she says. “I think the Cumbrian sense of humour is quite dark, quite blunt and unapologetic. It sounds really cheesy but doing comedy has got me back to my northern roots.”
As part of her baptism into the world of stand up, Postlethwaite did a six-month stint on the Brighton circuit, playing gigs every week in places like the Caroline of Brunswick, the Marwood Cafe and the Laughing Horse nights at the Quadrant.
“I’ve played to an audience of two and I’ve gigged in front of 400,” she grins. “This year I got through to the finals of the Funny Women awards with one of my characters, Joy Hope, an unlikely children’s author,” says Jane. “And in May, I performed a show at the Brighton Fringe called Made in Cumbria, which featured various different characters all with a northern theme. I think it went down really well, so I want to do the Fringe again next year and then take them to Edinburgh.”
Along with working on a new radio project, the comic has launched a monthly event here in Brighton called the Bad Book Project, where she invites other local comedians, DJs and musicians to come and read from their favourite bad books. “Last month, I read from The Wanted’s annual, you know, the boy band. And my friend, Vicky Gold, another comedian, read from Peter Andre’s biography. She did all the voices, which was really, really funny.” (Next event – 29 October, Marwood Cafe – free)
Perhaps it’s the sea air, but Brighton’s comedy scene is booming right now and shows no sign of abating. “I met [fellow Brighton comics] Phil Lucas and his girlfriend, Julie Oliver after a really bad gig one night (yep, we all have ’em). We became friends and through them I became friends with everyone on the scene. My whole life is intertwined with comedy and these brilliantly funny people. Everyone is really supportive, we invite each other to do gigs and we just all want each other to do well. And I’m hoping, next year, when I take the show to Edinburgh, there’ll be a big Brighton contingency cheering me on.”