It made perfect sense for Jo Brand to get into comedy, because, back in the 80s, there were only about three other women in the stand-up circuit. Now some gals might have been put off by such wall-to-wall blokeyness, but Brand saw it as an opportunity. Like a shrewd entrepreneur (albeit one with mad hair and clumpy Doc Martens), she recognised a gap in the market and barged her way in.
So she gave up her 10 year long career as a psychiatric nurse and bravely took on the worst hecklers London could offer. She rose to fame as the "Sea Monster", because that was a comedy producer's nickname for her. She'd been looking for a stage name and thought "that would do" - and this same casual indifference to just about everything helped make her a star. (That same indifference led to her accepting "Through the Cakehole" as the title of her TV series. She thought it was a "hideous title", but hey, it would do.)
Her famous one liners, long pauses and seemingly total indifference to her audience and material made her one of the leading figures in British comedy. That and she didn't mind being stereotyped as a funny, lesbian-looking fat bird. In fact after tirelessly having to read media speculation that she was a lesbian, she started to almost believe it herself.
Around this time her flat on a run-down estate in Elephant and Castle became the party hotspot for comedians such as Mark Lamaar and Alan Davies where they would stay up all night playing drunken board games after finishing their slots at the Comedy Centre. Sounds like our idea of a great night, although that probably says more about how often us lot get out, really. She may have calmed down since then, giving up the fags and becoming all sweet and mumsy, but she still has a passion for comedy.
Her stand-up routine has definitely mellowed somewhat, but Jo continues to pepper her material with brilliant moments of vitriol. Not only has she completed the standard passage of appearing on panel shows such as QI and Have I Got News For You, but she also finally got to live her dream – she appeared as a celebrity guest in the dictionary corner of Countdown in 2004, and has been a regular ever since. She also appeared on What Not to Wear, where she took on the ruthless duo Trinny and Susannah in one of the show's most memorable episodes.
Of course underneath her sneering demeanour there's a heart of gold. Jo loves charity work and has starred in Sport Relief a number of times, along with Channel 4's Comedy Gala, deploying her withering wit for some very good causes indeed. She even dressed up as Britney Spears in a hilarious dance routine for charity - now that's dedication.
Most recently Jo has bagged herself a Bafta for Best TV Comedy Actress in her BBC Four sitcom Getting On, a gritty show about the declining state of the NHS, set in the old folks ward of a hospital. It's basically medicine's answer to The Thick of It, which is praise indeed. And this year she's starring in kids' flick Horrid Henry as a demon dinner lady. Looks like you can't keep a good sea monster down. And there we were saying she's gone all nice in her later years...