The Glasgow Guardian spoke to trailblazing comedian Janey Godley about the Fringe and working-class women in comedy
You may know Janey Godley as a trailblazing Glaswegian comedian, or otherwise as the woman that famously welcomed the current US President to Turnberry Golf Course with a “TRUMP IS A CUNT” banner. If you haven’t heard of her, then you seriously need to catch up now – she’s genuinely hilarious, and one of the few mainstream faces in British comedy that doesn’t have a pasty white male complexion.
Between performing a series of shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, I managed to steal ten minutes of Janey’s time to discuss working-class women in comedy and the Fringe.
Glasgow Guardian: Your show is free – you said you don’t think anyone should have to pay to watch comedy at one of the most expensive festivals in one of the most expensive cities –
Janey Godley:“Poor people – poor people shouldn’t have to. I think people should pay, but for people who are struggling during austerity and are skint, the arts shouldn’t exclude those people. These people should still be able to come and see comedy at the richest festival in the most expensive city. And if they want to take money out of the bucket they can [Janey encourages audiences that can afford it to throw some money – however much they want – into a bucket rather than pay for admittance]. They can go buy a pizza, or a beer, or a pair of fucking tights – I don’t care.”
GG: Is the Fringe an encouraging environment for up-and-coming acts, especially working-class acts?
JG:“I think it’s expensive for everybody. And I think if you’re rich enough to be able to have somebody help you afford it then it’s okay. So it’s expensive for working-class people and it’s expensive for rich people, it’s just rich people can afford it better. For instance, it’s four thousand to rent a flat for a month and it’s three thousand for PR – at a stretch. And then there’s the cost of your posters and designing and printing the posters, and then you’re paying flyerers every day – I pay mine ten pounds an hour and I pay them sick pay as well. So unless you’ve got a really good mum and dad or a really good job that can fund that, or parents who already have flat in Edinburgh, then you’ve cracked it. But if you’ve got nae money you’re fucked.
But let’s step back a minute – instead of criticising just the Fringe for not being accessible to working-class female comedians: there hasn’t been a working-class female comedian on any of the big network shows. You couldn’t name me a working-class female Scottish comedian at, say, Live at the Apollo. They don’t get access to that either.
So if you’re a young working-class female in Scotland, there is no place for you in comedy. Or at the [Fringe] Festival. It’s a double-whammy. Working-class boys can aspire to Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle, they’ve seen them on the telly.”
GG: Do you have any advice for female working-class comedians?
JG:“Just keep doing it and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. The good news is if you’re a working-class female wanting to do stand up, then you’re gonna do it really fucking good because you’re gonna have to be determined to do it. It’s not like the plethora of skinny white boys with privilege – there’s a million of them. And that makes [working-class women] stand out and be more interesting because there’s so little of us.”
GG: Female comedy heroes?
JG:“Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders. Lynne Ferguson – who was the only woman I saw doing what I did. Scottish ones are hard because there wasn’t really anybody before me – none of them did stand up. Joan Rivers, she was great.”
GG: Do you feel that the Glasgow Comedy Festival is more accessible than the Fringe regarding up-and-coming performers?
JG:“It’s cheaper than the Fringe. Not just because I live there, but they are so much more accessible. They are so supportive.”