“I’m so sorry I’m late.”
Jen Brister has a lot on her mind. With twin sons at home, plus a burgeoning career, 2018 might just be her busiest year yet – and she’s keen to go into detail. It started with her Live at the Apollo debut late last year, which was followed by a barrage of activity: in the first twenty days of June alone, Jen is performing 20 shows across Brighton, London, Bristol and Bath, including a compere slot at Live at Brighton Dome, numerous Edinburgh Fringe previews and supporting Frankie Boyle on his tour, as well as the regular Bring Your Own Baby daytime slot she runs at Komedia each month.
It’s of no surprise then, that she forgot about our interview, leaving her house ten minutes before we were due to meet. Fortunately, Brighton is a small place, and it’s not long before she skids around the corner of Kensington Gardens on her bicycle (child seat attached) to meet me at Black Mocha in Brighton. She tells me it’s not just her shows she has going on at the moment, but there’s also a lot in motion behind the scenes, including a book deal and an opportunity writing on an upcoming Channel 4 pilot. “It’s just mental at the moment. Somebody said to me after I filmed Live At The Apollo that I would find that in six months time, stuff would start to roll in – things that have never been offered to me before. And I said, ‘hmm, well, we’ll see’. It’s feast or famine in this job. But it’s all happening. I have lots of projects on at the moment and I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about all of them – which is a shame as it’s really exciting.”
What she does tell us is that she’s been signed up to be on the writing team for a Channel 4 pilot with The Guilty Feminist’s Deborah Frances-White called Next Week’s News – set to be released in September. Does this mean the much-loved podcast is hitting the small screen? At the moment, it’s unclear, but it seems the format will be similar. “Every guest is going to be a woman, with Deborah hosting it, and a team of female writers behind the scenes. It’s the thing I’m most excited about. Will have to see if the big boss gives it the green light, so fingers crossed.”
Along with a busy period for her stand-up, and what will hopefully see the launch of a career in television, Jen has also been given the go-ahead to write a book for Penguin Random House, for which the beginning chapter is due at the end of this month. It’s the latest ploy of Jen’s in trying to travel less than she used to, limiting the time she spends in her car or trawling up and down the country to shows on the train, as suggested by her friend Francesca Martinez, author of What the **** is Normal?.She tells me: “I’m always moaning about travelling to her, and she said, ‘if you write a book, you can stay at home’.The book details Jen’s experience as ‘the other mum’ – a topic she touched on in a series of articles written for Standard Issue magazine in 2015, in which she details the highs and lows of being a mum in a non-traditional family. “When my partner was pregnant, there was nothing really available for the ‘other’ parent – the one that isn’t carrying the baby. Nothing that mirrored my experience – or even dads’ experiences – where the connection you have with the child takes time to cement.”
It’s a little-talked about subject, but then Jen’s always brought her life experiences to the stage – and why should it be any different when writing it down on paper? However, Jen is quick to highlight contrasts between writing for the two – and suggests that sometimes, what she writes and what ends up being performed can be two completely separate things altogether. “It’s very different writing for stand-up as you can’t afford to be so verbose, but one does definitely feed the other. Eight times out of ten I can work out my stand up on stage according to the rhythm – there’s a musicality to comedy.”
Whether it’s improvised or planned, the result of Jen’s work is the same: a thoroughly enjoyable experience regardless of the media upon which it’s released. Jen’s book won’t be released until next year, and the pilot of Next Week’s News won’t arrive until autumn. Fortunately, she’s got plenty going on around town to tide us over – at least for now. “There’s always a bit of me who says ‘it won’t last – it’ll all be over soon’, so I’m trying to enjoy it. Maybe I’ll plan a holiday at some point though.”
Jen Brister comperes Live at Brighton Dome on Sat 16 June, with David O’Doherty, Reginald D. Hunter and Sofie Hagen.