Getting to know Jo Brand

Jo Brand is a British comedian, writer and actress. You’ve probably laughed your head off while watching her on popular TV shows like QI and Have I Got News for You.

But did you know that she’s also a long-time advocate for mental health, and she spent 10 years working as a psychiatric nurse? During this time, Jo worked at the Maudsley Hospital, part of King’s Health Partners and based at King’s Denmark Hill campus.

Jo shared a few of her favourite things and recommendations with us, so let’s take a look at what drives one of Britain best loved comedians.

Favourite music?

My favourite music includes Kate Bush, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg – artists who write brilliant tunes, but also have something to say in their lyrics. They are people who went their own way and represent something beyond selling their music to people.    

Favourite TV programme?

I love news programmes like Newsnight and Question Time because I feel a constant need to keep up with what is going on, but find news bulletins turgid and dull.

I also love upmarket Scandi noir. They do it so well and have an array of interesting characters that are not just grizzled men whose marriages have broken down or who have lost their wives in a big cupboard.

For comedy, I love Murder in Successville – silly, hilarious and spot on in terms of the slightly skewed impressions of celebrities.

Favourite place? 

The sea, anywhere. I was a teenager in Hastings and was thrown out of (or invited to leave) home at the age of 16. I lived in a bedsit in a small Victorian house that was a cross between a sitcom and a Hammer Horror film. Every night I went to sleep to the sound of the sea and I have loved it ever since. I particularly love it when it is wild.

Book that touched your soul?

Crikey, that’s a big ask. Let’s just say most things Susan Hill [English, 1963] has written – particularly In the Springtime of the Year, a beautifully written study of grief, or The Bird of Night, a story of a relationship in which one partner struggles to deal with the other’s mental health issues.

Best memory of King’s?

There is so much I loved about working at the Maudsley, I can’t possibly distil it into one memory… Camaraderie, nurses, doctors, doing some good, social workers, porters, clerical staff, supporting others, laughing, challenges, Christmas, people trusting us, dealing safely with some very risky situations, going out on the town at the weekend, staying up all night, long days, short days, working nights, the nurses’ home etc, ad infinitum.