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Own Brand loyality

I manage to catch Jo Brand in between sorting through a massive pile of mail and jumping in the car to go and perform in Dartford, Kent.

This Is Lancashire:

One of Britain's most popular and successful comics, she did a 30-date tour before Christmas and has started 20 more dates, including Oxford's New Theatre on April 30. Life has got even more hectic for Jo in the past few years - largely because she has had two children.

Within minutes of talking to Jo, it's obvious that much of her brash stage persona is purely that - a stage persona.

She jokes and laughs a lot. But she also speaks surprisingly quietly and is so polite, it seems difficult to believe this is the woman who gained a cult following and left a trail of broken hecklers in her wake, under the guise of the Sea Monster'.

So has motherhood tamed the monster? I ask.

"Oh things are certainly pretty different now," she says.

"You just can't avoid it. But it's nice being at the stage I am now, things are much more flexible. I can say to the tour managers, this is when I'll be available to work and they work around me now."

Since begining her career on the London cabaret circuit Jo has established herself as one of the best female comics in Britain.

But despite her wealth of television work including her own shows - Jo Brand's Hot Potatoes (BBC1) and Channel 4's Through The Cakehole - she says she prefers performing live and feels that "nothing tops the thrill of the theatre".

So what are the hot potatoes awaiting audiences this time around? I ask.

"Well, things they'll hopefully find interesting," she says.

"London winning the Olympics, the mood since the London bombings, plus a lot of domestic stuff too. Stuff they read about in the papers and can relate to, really - hopefully I'll get a few laughs.

And what about pet hates, such as supermodels, sad blokes, politicians and thin people?

"Oh yeah, all that too," she laughs. "Plus family stuff."

I'm expecting my first baby at the moment I tell her - does she have any words of wisdom?

"Oh Debbie, I won't lie to you, it's absolutely appalling," she says with a chuckle. "There's a complete conspiracy surrounding having children and you don't realise that until you've given birth.

"All you'll want to do is get down the park, looking fabulous with your new baby and your new pram, but in reality, you'll just spend the first few months walking around the house in your dressing gown, eating pizza. All you can do is not be too shocked by the shock."

While she jokes about domestic nightmares, Jo is obviously devoted to family life. And much of this probably comes from her own, 'pretty idyllic' upbringing in Kent.

"So, any plans to move the family from London back to Kent and live the good life?'" I ask.

"Oh I don't know about that,"she says. "I think it's best not to try and recapture something like that, because you could be disappointed."

At her first gig - a benefit do, a heckler shouted abuse at her until she left the stage.

Surely this must hurt, no matter how thick skinned you get, I suggest.

"Oh yes, some of the things people shout can really hurt and some stay with you, but you just have to accept it's part of the job."

I ask how she is gearing up to deal with all the students who are likely to attend her Oxford gig.

"Actually I like students. I was one once and I find them pretty entertaining," she says. "Although the usual cliche among comics is how hard it is to keep them interested when all they want to do is get drunk and snog each other.

"But Oxford should be pretty different because I'm at the New Theatre, so maybe not so much snogging and drinking going on there."

"That's a shame" I say. "That could be a great story for the Oxford Mail."

"Of course - well, I'll see what I can do," she says, with another chuckle.

To book, call the box office on 0870 606 3500.

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