INTERVIEW: Jojo Sutherland, comedian
‘Humour keeps you going when things look bleak’
She was married to a violent and alcoholic partner, had her home repossessed, and thought she was going to die after suffering a brain haemorrhage.
Such events had a life-changing effect on her, as did a 10-week course in stand-up comedy that she signed up for at Strathclyde university some 15 years ago.
At the time Jojo was a penniless single parent with three children. The course helped get her back on her feet following her illness and reinstate her self-esteem. After a successful first series of shows at Blackfriars in Glasgow she never looked back.
These days she lectures on comedy to those troubled by various personality and medical issues alongside her regular touring which has taken her around the world and made her one of the most sought after females on the circuit.
“I play to all sorts of people – corporates, tourists, often to students, half of whom are thinking ‘thank God she’s not my mum’ and the other half thinking ‘I wish she was my mum’.”
Now 49, she is settled in South Queensferry with her second husband, the brother of her first husband who was constantly fighting his own demons.
It was a turbulent marriage and being left homeless sharply contrasted to her early years growing up in a Perthshire castle. Even so, they only got by because of her late father Douglas’s gift of the gab. “We barely had a bean,” she says, giggling at the memory.
However, it was his career as a Fleet Street writer and author that meant she lived in a world surrounded by celebrity. He was the William Hickey columnist in the Daily Express and it was not unusual for other writers such as the novelist Jilly Cooper to call by.
“I am incredibly proud of him,” she says of her dad about whom she presented a one-woman show.
Her initial career path took her into acting and she also worked as wedding co-ordinator at Dundas Castle. “Yes, I like irony,” she says, reflecting on her troubled married life. It was a yearning to get back on stage after her illness that led her to answer an advert for Strathclyde’s magazine comedy course.
“I never set out to be a comedian.” she says, “but I love it. Some people are sick before they go on stage but I don’t get nervous. It’s probably because of what happened to me.”
Her comedy heroes include the Canadian Tom Stade, currently appearing at the Assembly Rooms and whose wife Trudie has become a close pal. Jojo is also performing at the Fringe and is working with Stade and young Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss in an internet sitcom called M.U.F.F Productions, a satirical take on television.
There is a degree of reality about the programme as she is critical of television commissioning editors, whom she says have “lost their ability to innovate and challenge”.
Comedy has been a huge release for the emotional turbulence she has experienced. “Humour breaks down barriers about things other people feel uncomfortable about,” she says. “It keeps you going when things look bleak. It worked for me.”
Jojo Sutherland is appearing at the Daily Business Summer Party on Wednesday, 26th August at the Jam House. Booking details here: http://dailybusinessgroup.co.uk/shop/