Comedy Festival 2008, San Francisco Bathhouse
April 22-26 | Reviewed by Kate Blackhurst

THE BRITISH press from The Financial Times to The Sun have referred to Janey Godley as ‘the female Billy Connolly’. It’s easy to see why. She is uncompromising; she came from a tough background in Shettleston, Glasgow, where life expectancy is 55 – it’s 65 in Baghdad – and she reveres the oddball, finding comedy in the darkest of situations.

Her childhood of sexual abuse; her brother’s cancer; abject poverty; all are a rich seam for Godley which she mines to reveal comedy gold. She tells of her drunken mammy and friends singing songs about no-good men, standing on the singing spot – a burnt hole in the linoleum from where the chip pan caught fire. Yet she speaks of her mother, who was murdered when Janey was 21, with a fierce passion. There is raw emotion in the description of her marching up to school to defend her daughter from bullying and abuse.

She tells comic anecdotes about her favourite Glaswegian characters. She touches on politics, and, although she says she doesn’t want to ram her opinion down anyone’s throat, she is unashamed about for her vitriol towards Tony Blair. She explains why she berated to him to his face – her father always told her, ‘When you see a c**t; call it.’ You know he would be proud of her.

Sometimes her material is more suited to British audiences – there is a routine about some of the more noxious WAGs of footballers that doesn’t really translate to New Zealand. Also, when she talks about last year’s terrorist attack on Glasgow airport, it is clear that most people didn’t even realise there was one. This is great material as she describes the way it was reported in the news, her feelings on watching it on television in a hotel room in Leeds, and her fond recall of the good old days of the IRA – civil terrorists who used to give you a phone call before they blew things up.

The audience relate better to her quips about Wellington; ‘Being as you’ve got an airport, wouldn’t it be nice to build a runway?’ As all polite visitors do, she says nice things about her host city and even meets people after the show to shake hands and thank them for coming. She just has one pointer to improve Wellington – get rid of grown men on skateboards – ‘There’s a word for men like that: paedophiles.’

She is not crude, although there is plenty of the swearing that is part of the vernacular of Scottish comics. The most ribald it gets is when explains that now she is 47, strange things have started to happen such as a little bit of wee comes out when she sneezes; the greatest feeling in the world is removing her bra at night; and she has developed an obsession with cushions.

Looking jet-lagged and slightly bewildered, Janey Godley was still on wonderful form. She teaches stand-up techniques to kids to improve their confidence; knowing the benefits of laughter. But it’s not all saintly martyrdom – she was nominated for Scotswoman of the Year and lost out to a Polish doctor. ‘She’s not even Scottish’. No, she’s not bitter, just a little bit twisted.