FEISTY comedian JO CAULFIELD is on the road with her Better The Devil You Know tour, and coming to Arlington Arts on Friday, November 1. CATRIONA REEVES gets her to pull in at a service station in the West Country to talk about why she still loves a live audience.
CATRIONA REEVES: Right - this is only going to get in the paper a couple of days before your Newbury date: we need to sell the show quickly. You can start persuading our readers.... now.
JO CAULFIELD: My husband and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary - we’d got married in New York because we just wanted a holiday, and didn’t want to pay for other people to have a good time. I was talking to someone else who had also got married over there, and they mentioned the hassle of completing all the paperwork to register the marriage when they got back. Now, we never did that, so I started to wonder if we were actually legally married at all.
That got me thinking about what it would be like to be single, and after 10 years it seemed a good time to have an appraisal of my marriage - focussing on him, of course, not me as I’m perfect. Obviously, after so long together, I’ve pretty much got him behaving as I want him to, but there’s some traits that can’t be changed, and I had to decide if it’s “better the devil you know”, compared to the single life, which to be honest, looks rather exhausting. I don’t think I’ve got the energy for that.
The show seems to strike a chord with a lot of couples - men come up after the show and say that it explains so much, and women ask if I’ve been following their husbands with a camera. It’s really interesting talking to couples during and after the show, particularly those who have been married a really long time. It seems that after 40 years or so, the men give up and do what they’re told, so it looks like they can be tamed... eventually.
It’s great to have couples in the audience who are prepared to offer themselves up for sacrifice, but singles are also very welcome, as it’s a good reminder that they’re not really missing much by not being in a relationship.
CR: You’ve had a healthy career away from the world of stand up, not least as a comedy writer. The lure of the road must be strong for you to go on tour again.
JC: My time as a writer for the likes of Graham Norton taught me a lot about writing jokes. When you’re live on stage, and you’re coming up to a new joke, the test is whether you tell it or back out - if that happens, you know it’s not that good. It’s different on television, where it needs to be decided beforehand if the joke is worth telling. Graham is excellent at that - he says “I’m not hearing laughter, I’m hearing smiles...”.
But stand-up comedy is something you can’t take a break from for too long if you want to return to it. It’s easy to get rusty, so you have to keep on at it, and you can’t do that if you’re busy writing for someone else. So I’ve made the decision to start writing mainly for myself again now. I really enjoy touring. It doesn’t suit everyone, certainly not all women - but then there’s lots of male comedians that it doesn’t suit either.
CR: The Times described your show as “like a sociology textbook, but with jokes”. Were you chuffed with that?
JC: It made me sound very clever! I wouldn’t say that the show has an intentional message as such, bu if you’re talking about day-to-day life, it does in itself become a social commentary. It’s not so much my aim, as a happy outcome. But people come up to me after the show and tell me that they really relate to it, which is lovely, as it means that I’m on the right track.
* Tickets for Jo Caulfield at Arlington Arts on Friday, November 1, cost £13, available from www. arlingtonarts.co.uk or 01635 244246.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, October 31, 2013