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Jo Caulfield is a comedian with balls. Emma Davies spoke to the self- proclaimed loudmouth ahead of her appearance at Cardiff Comedy Festival.


ou wouldn’t want to work with Jo Caulfield. Really, you wouldn’t – not in a nine-to-five job, anyway. “If I was working in an office, I’d just be a bitch, wouldn’t I?” laughs one of Britain’s rantiest comedians. “Be- cause you can’t talk about other people in the office like that. Well, you can – and I did – but you have to talk behind their backs.” Not that she’s repentant, of course. “It’s what people do, isn’t it? They have long and irrational arguments. It’s a great joy to slag off people.”

And that, so often, is at the heart of Caulfield’s comedy: the irrational argument. Actually, a better way of putting it might be the rational argument directed towards the seemingly-irrational target. Like Holly Willoughby, for example: “At first, people were going, ‘But why? She’s harmless,’ but then I started pointing out that that’s exactly why she shouldn’t be on television – because there’s no point to her at all.” Her new show, Cruel To Be Kind (which she’s bringing to Cardiff Comedy Festival on July 22 and 23) isn’t just cruelty, though. Though it’s still being

“If I was working in an office, I’d just be a bitch, wouldn’t I?”

developed, Caulfield describes it as “everything this year that’s happened to me, or I’ve had opinions about, or people that’ve annoyed me.” She admits that it features a few amusing anecdotes about her own uselessness with faces and the trouble it gets her into. Oh, and how not to behave in one of the world’s most upmarket department stores. “I had an American friend staying with me, so she wanted to go to Harrods,” Caulfield explains. “The staff in there were just so snotty that I lost my temper. Then I realised that they weren’t staff; they were just posh people...”


For someone who seems to have a knack for spinning the mundane into the hilarious, it’s interesting that Caulfield, by her own admission, wasn’t initially a natural at stand-up. “You have to learn who you are on stage; you can be a natural musician, but you still have to learn what you’re doing,” she says. “You think you’re funny with your mates, and then you get onstage and you have to learn how to do it: everybody does. It’s bizarre, really; you don’t realise at the time how bad you are.” Weaker characters might have shied away, but Caul- field took the opposite direction: she saved up tips from her waitressing job and set up her own weekly comedy club, which she compèred for five years. A terrifying experience? “It’s a case of putting yourself in a position where you can’t back out. I had an audi- ence that had paid, so I had to go onstage and just do it. Although I was nervous, I just had to ignore it. It’s a bit like having a party: you’re always worried that people won’t come.”

It seems, though, that people did come. And that they’ve been clamouring for Jo Caulfield’s caustic wit ever since, if her career to date has been anything to

base such assumptions upon. A renowned standup who cut her teeth writing gags for Graham Norton, with her own show on Radio 4 (the swearing and subject matter restrictions upon which she likens to “trying to find a way to be funny when you’ve got your arms and legs chopped off” and regular guest spots on the like of Mock The Week and Have I Got News For You. Indeed, Caulfield is a veritable mod- ern-day Rennaissance Woman of comedy. This isn’t, of course, to say that Caulfield should be pigeonholed in that irritating niche labelled ‘female comedians’. Is the debate over women in comedy one that she’s sick of? “I’m so sick of it, but at the same time there is a debate to be had. Nobody wants to be put in somewhere as a token gesture: you want to be put in because you’re good.” And good is just what Jo Caulfield is – provided you don’t fall foul of her bad side.

Jo Caulfield performs as part of Cardiff Comedy Festival, O’Neills (Trinity Street), Thurs 22 July, 8pm. Tickets: £12. Info: 029 2087 8500 /

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