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Josephine "Jo" Grace Brand was born 3 May 1957 in Hastings, East Sussex and is a British stand-up comedian.
Brand's mother was a social worker, and Brand herself worked as a psychiatric nurse at the South London Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital until the mid-1980s. She was persuaded by agent Malcolm Hardee to begin a career in stand-up comedy, where she acquired the stage name, "The Sea Monster". She was central to the British alternative comedy movement, working London alternative comedy clubs, and appearing initially on the Saturday Live television show.
Brand's early style involved her delivering jokes in a bored monotone, one line at a time, with pauses in between. It drew heavily from pop culture and the media, with many jokes containing references to well-known celebrities and public figures. With her Doc Marten boots, her large size and short hair, her image (and comedic material) for most of the 1980s and 1990s was inspired at least in part by radicalised feminism. But most of the apparently feminist material was in the set-up of the jokes, and was punctured by the punchline. Her appearance and material led to rumours that she was a lesbian: this is not in fact the case. She has commented that "men are fantastic - as a concept". She has also said satirically that she was reading in the newspapers that she was a lesbian for so long, she started to believe it. She was for a while romantically involved with Malcolm Hardee, who had initially persuaded her to become a comedian.
In 1993 she became a resident panellist, along with Tony Hawks, on BBC monologue show The Brain Drain. Her transition into mainstream television continued when she obtained her own series on Channel 4, Jo Brand Through the Cakehole, co-written with comedy writer Jim Miller, who was already her main stand-up writer. Her television success continued with guest appearances on shows such as Have I Got News For You and QI. She has had several solo television series, and presented shows such as Jo Brand's Commercial Breakdown. She also appeared on Star Spell, a spin off from Hard Spell, during 2004, and in cameo in Absolutely Fabulous. As a fan of Countdown, she achieved an ambition when she was invited to appear in the show's "Dictionary Corner" as the celebrity guest. She later became a friend of the host, Richard Whiteley, and after his death in 2005 attended his memorial service at York Minster. She has since appeared on Countdown several more times.
In 2007, Brand narrated Laughter & Tears: The Les Dawson Story, a documentary tribute to Les Dawson. The programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 in October 2007.
Brand took part in the first celebrity version of Comic Relief does Fame Academy. In 2007, she appeared as a celebrity contestant on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice, again to raise money for Comic Relief. In 2009 she participated in Let's Dance for Comic Relief, another Comic Relief fundraiser, dancing as Britney Spears, reaching the final.
Brand appeared as a judge in the BBC2 series The Speaker in April 2009. She offered her advice, along with John Amaechi and Jeremy Stockwell, in the eight-part series charting the search for "Britain's Best Young Speaker".
A sitcom, Getting On, in which Brand starred along with co-writers Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine, had a short run (3 episodes) on BBC Four in July 2009. The series, set on a hospital's geriatric ward, was partly inspired by her earlier career in nursing.
Brand delivered a guest lecture on the subject of psychiatric nursing for the University of Derby Psychology Society in 1997 in return for a donation to Derby Rape Crisis.
In 2003, she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. In 2004, Brand appeared in a special episode of What Not to Wear, where fashion gurus Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine gave her a makeover. In March 2006, Jo appeared on Parkinson with Daniel Day-Lewis and Jane Fonda. Brand is known to be a big fan of Crystal Palace Football Club, and has sponsored the match ball for games in the past.
Brand appeared on the 25 March 2007 episode of Play It Again where she was required to learn how to play the organ in just four months. This was in preparation to perform Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for an audience of 8,000 people at London's Royal Albert Hall on the second largest pipe organ in the United Kingdom. In order to practise her performance, she played at a church wedding, and accompanied dancers at Blackpool Tower. Prior to this, her only experiences with musical instruments had been childhood piano and violin lessons.
In February 2009 Brand was among a group of British entertainers who wrote an open letter to The Times of London in support of the Bah√°'√≠ leaders then on trial in Iran.
Her current project is a BBC Four sitcom, Getting On, which she stars in and co-writes along with the other two main cast members. It is a gritty and realistic satire on the current state of the NHS, set in an old person's ward.
Brand wrote "Sorting out Billy" in 2005, a novel which among other themes deals with domestic violence.
Brand was educated at Helenswood School, Hastings, Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School and Bexhill College. She married Bernie Bourke, a psychiatric nurse, in 1997.She has two young daughters both under the age of 10.
She is a staunch supporter of the Labour Party (although that has not always been the case: she resigned from both the party and Barbara Follet's Labour women's group in the mid-nineties in protest at the Blair/Brown 'New Labour' hijack of the party).
April 2006, film for BBC One's This Week - "Patricia Hewitt heckled by the very mild-mannered RCN. The last time they got that riled was when Florence Nightingale ate all the Jammie Dodgers at the Christmas party. You can heckle all you like, but getting Patricia Hewitt out of her job isn't going to bring a magic cure."