Jo Brand: My father was violent towards me, but I'm over it | Undiagnosed depression led to a turbulent childhood

Jo Brand: My father was violent towards me, but I'm over it

Undiagnosed depression led to a turbulent childhood

Jo Brand has spoken about the difficult, occasionally violent relationship she had with her father – who threw her out of home when she was 16 and started going out with the local drug dealer.

The comedian says she is now ‘over’ the way he treated her while he had undiagnosed depression.

‘My dad suffered from quite severe depression,’ she told the Great Company podcast, ‘I think that was the big part of his temper and his violence. He was violent on occasions.’

‘Towards you?,’ host Jamie Laing asked her.

‘Yeah. I'm over it,’ Brand replied.

‘I did love him because he was my dad and even sensed when I was young that he was suffering in some way. So I did give him a bit of leeway, you know, because you could see that it was just not quite right. I could see he was very unhappy. I think my mum took the brunt of it , quite honestly.’

She also told how he knocked her drug-dealer boyfriend old cold before chucking her out of home.

The comic said: ‘My dad was  very left -wing when he was younger. And this boyfriend was extremely posh and he brought me home. home quite late one night. When [dad] said "what do you mean by bringing my daughter home at this time?" This guy said to him, "But my dear chap…" and my dad hated that sort of thing and thought it was patronising. 

‘He said, "don't say anything like that to me again, or I'm going to hit you". And so he went, "But my dear chap" – the fool! 

‘So my dad hit him and knocked him out.’

Brand said her father refused to get help for his depression, despite her mother’s best efforts, until he was in his mid-50s, when he was prescribed antidepressants.

’It absolutely changed his life,’ Brand said. ‘As an ex -mental health nurse, I wouldn't say antidepressants are the answer to every type of depression, but certainly with him, it was life changing. It was really interesting.

‘Someone said to me, "There are side effects to anti-depressants, but the side effects to depression is suicide, so why wouldn't you give them a try?" I really agree with that. 

"Ge dealt with life much easier from then and  was very different – much more relaxed, more humorous. It really made a huge difference to him. ‘

But she said learning to live with her dad helped make her deal with abusive hecklers when she became a stand-up.

She said: ‘I had a lot of issues with my dad, so I wasn't out of touch with people being horrible to me, and we'd had to all learn to live with that as kids. 

‘There was also working as a [psychiatric] nurse and in the emergency clinic people's emotions were very heightened so they would be quite abusive, particularly towards me because I was in charge, so I was the one who was always wheeled out to say "I'm sorry we're not going to admit you" or "I'm afraid we can't give you any valium" or " I'm sorry you're too drunk to be assessed you'll have to leave."

‘So I was used to really getting some much better abuse than I got when I was a comic, to be honest with you. Much more imaginative and much more cutting. So when someone just said, "Fuck off, you fat cow." It wasn't like I hadn't heard it before.’

That ‘fat cow’ heckle came at her first-ever gig – and from a fellow comic.

‘He was pissed and he just started shouting, "Fuck off, you fat cow, over and over again," until I fucked off,’ she recalled.

She later developed a putdown for heckles about her size, saying: ‘Oh, don't worry, I deliberately keep my weight up so a tosser like you won't fancy me.’

‘That would get a bigger laugh than the original heckle,’ she recalled. ‘And then the audience is on your side.’

‘I would always go on and try and be funnier about my weight than they were. And it was very easy because they weren't very funny about it, the audience, because they always used to say the same thing. They didn't sit at home and write really witty heckles, whereas I sat at home and tried to write heckle putdowns.’

• Great Company with Jamie Laing is available on all podcast platforms.

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Published: 3 Apr 2024

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