How to keep the world smiling

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Jo Brand

Jo Brand is a BAFTA winning comedian, writer and actor with an international reputation for her individual 'brand' of humour and sardonic wit.


What’s your advice for being a successful nurse?

Don’t forget the actual nursing component. When you have a degree and you are very skilled in the knowledge of nursing, it’s very easy to forget that you also need to be a kind person and you also need to do the not so glamorous stuff as well. Read more

I had a brilliant time working as a nurse and working in the health profession. All I would say is just be good, kind people. Intervene if something worries you, and have lovely lives!

As an ex-nurse and as a comedian now, my favourite motto is ‘laughter is the best medicine.’

You can always present a picture of academic achievement, even if you’re not that academic. The way I’ve done that is by using a lot of big words and reading the newspapers thoroughly so I know what’s going on. That’s helped me out in a lot of circumstances. When I was at university in Uxbridge, I used to work as a barmaid in a truckers pub. Horrible truckers used to come in every night and be abusive. One night a trucker came in and asked me what I thought of a tattoo he had on his stomach of a naked woman. I said: “Well it’s a penetrative use of disparate archetypes, coupled with its emergent visceral power transcends a mere convergence of the visual and the tactile.” His mouth stayed open long enough for me to open the ash tray into it.


Have you got any other advice?

The other bit of advice I’ve always lived by is if you see something happening that you are uncomfortable about, if you think it’s not too dangerous or maybe even if you do, intervene. I was in Camden Market a few years ago and I saw a man and a woman arguing with each other very viciously and at one point the guy lifted his fist up as if he was going to hit her and I thought: “I can’t not do anything”. So in my best teacher-ly way I walked up to them and said: “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” He was so shocked, he looked at me and as he did that, the woman hit him on the head with an umbrella. So I kind of felt I’d done the right thing again there.

Top Tip

Be careful in your life not to jump to conclusions as far as appearances are concerned. When I was a student, we all carried an emergency bleep. It went off one day and six of us ran to the ward to see what we could do to help. One enthusiastic male student saw a woman shouting and waving her arms around so he immediately jumped on her, got her on the floor, banged her on the head and held her down by kneeling on top of her. And that woman was Senior Sister Mullett who was in charge of the ward. So just bear in mind that people might not be who you think they are.

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Comedian and former nurse

A bit of a reprobate in her youth, Jo finally succumbed to academia and achieved a degree in Psychology combined with RMN training at the Maudsley and Royal Bethlem Hospitals.

Her psychiatric nursing career was based at the Emergency Clinic of the Maudsley in South London where she led the Nurse Team as Senior Charge Nurse.

However, Jo had aspirations to at least try a second career and began the precarious journey on the alternative stand-up comedy scene. Sustained success made a career move possible and for some decades now she has remained at the heart of contemporary comedy with a strong following of loyal fans both young and old(er).

Jo’s list of credits is impressive. She has made several series for television, having a major success with 'Getting On' which she wrote and starred in as Nurse Kim Wilde. She is a regular panel member on 'QI', guest chairs 'Have I Got News For You' and, for a second year, brought delight to the nation with 'The Great British Bake Off - An Extra Slice'.

Jo gives a vast amount of her time to support a wide range of charities and deservedly received the Third Sector Award - Celebrity Charity Champion in 2014. She values her home life with close family bonds and long-term friendships away from the whirl of 'celebrity'.