Janey Godley

Janey Godley

Date of birth: 20-01-1961
Janey Godley was brought up in the East End of Glasgow. Aged 19, she married into a gangster family. For 14 years, she and her husband ran a pub in the tough Calton area, a venue which saw the first performances by Jerry Sadowitz. In 1994, she turned to stand-up herself and has since played everywhere from the Glastonbury Festival to inmates at Scottish prisons. She was also a contenstant on the 2004 C4 reality show, Kings Of Comedy

In 2002, she won Best Show Concept at the New Zealand Comedy Festival and, in 2006 won the Spirit of The Festival Award. Also in 2006, she was a finalist for the 44th annual Scotswoman of the Year Award.

Her autobiography Handstands in the Dark, a top ten bestseller both as hardback (2005) and paperback (2006), covers her pre-showbiz life.

She writes non-comic features for The Scotsman newspaper, has written and performed a one-woman play The Point Of Yes, and continues to write a successful blog, which she started on Chortle in 2004.

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Janey Godley: Too Old For Telly

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Jay Richardson

Janey Godley maintains that at 51, she’s too old for television and too honest. Her late mother’s life lesson, preceded by ultra-violence towards the headmistress who dared assault the comic as a child, was to call a ‘cunt’ a ‘cunt’. It’s a lesson Godley recalled when she met Tony Blair.

So yes, we’re unlikely to find her on the Comedy Roadshow alongside ‘that floppy-haired fucker’. The Glaswegian’s biography is a bestselling memoir but it’s too spiky for television.

For those unfamiliar with the barbed tales Godley tells of poverty, abuse and meeting the great and good, this evening, April Fool’s, marks the anniversary of her murdered mother’s body being pulled from the River Clyde.

Remarks like, ‘I’ve had a gun held to my head in the Calton’ undoubtedly cement her authority. But more importantly, they legitimise her devil-may-care attitude towards causing offence. She retains an insider-outsider status, able to speak from the experience of a grim upbringing in Glasgow’s East End while unashamedly revealing that her daughter is privately educated.

There’s a funny, fond interplay between the two, with her daughter introducing her in less than flattering terms and Godley responding in kind by spilling all on her child’s sex life.

Godley is a proud Scottish woman who can lazily play to the gallery by suggesting that just four women from the Gorbals would have seen off Hitler, without anything in the way of a routine to support this claim. Yet she places the blame for female body insecurity squarely with women’s magazines rather than men.

Of course she damns domestic violence, but the condemnation emerges organically, even while she plays with the frisson of suggesting that she likes sex ‘rough, angry and fighty’. And that Contrary to society’s prevailing wisdom about mature women, she boasts that she’s currently ‘beating cock off with a stick’.

Despite the subject matter, and some lingering resentment, there’s a light, matter-of-factness to her yarn-spinning , exemplified by her amusing sectarian anecdote of performing to Irish-American republicans in Boston. They presumed she was Catholic, a fiction that she was in no hurry to correct.

At times of nervousness, she blurts out the inappropriate, squeaking out a gag that stops the bar dead. Rather brilliantly, she then turns her pariah branding into an immediate, cheeky riposte.

There are a couple of passages of established material. Like Billy Connolly, Godley long ago reached a point in her career when she can pick and choose from a bottomless well of stories according to whim and where the audience inspire her, making her interactions with them and segues into each routine appear seamless.

An interval after half an hour doesn’t serve her at all and she closed the first part uncertainly with a rushed tale of her mother receiving her comeuppance for mocking the disabled. Undeterred, she returns and resumes on the same theme, more specifically her mammy’s blunt political incorrectness.

This time round it’s a daring, skilfully woven narrative that allows her to have her cake and eat it – condemning the sort of misguided, liberal hand-wringing that allows disabled people carte-blanche to behave anti-socially and without censure, topped with a potent mix of horror and admiration at her mother’s snapping. A tricky balance, the truth of the account and the human behaviour expressed therein release floodgates of laughter tinged with teeth-sucking guilt.

Godley’s mother and her friends, embittered by alcohol and absent menfolk can seem like absolute gorgons. Yet so vividly are they portrayed that there’s a joyous empathy to be had with their foul-mouthed defiance.

If, as with Andrew Lawrence’s Too Ugly For TV tour, a show’s title can be used as passive-aggressive leverage to shame commissioners into offering airtime, then it won’t be before time for Godley. The real obscenity is that in a multi-channel universe, with broadcasters criticised for not employing more older women, a platform can’t be found for such a distinctive, opinionated performer.

Imagine her aping Kevin Bridges with a series tracing the origins of her routines and career, chewing the fat with Jerry Sadowitz and Glaswegian gangsters.

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Published: 2 Apr 2012


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