Theatre & Dance

Scottish stand-up Fern Brady: ‘Why are female comics always expected to speak out?’

Fern Brady was face down on a massage table last week when her masseuse started banging on about Russell Brand. “He was asking me if I think we’ve got rid of sexual predators on the circuit.” The comedian snorts in frustration. “I wasn’t there for one of your ‘luxury lady massages’, y’know. I was there because I have chronic back pain. I had to tell him: ‘You know what makes my shoulder tense right back up? TALKING ABOUT RUSSELL BRAND!’”

This is typical of Brady: the joy of the fiercely feminist Scot’s comedy lies in her snarling contempt for social absurdities and injustices. Little surprise, then, that she’s short of patience when it comes to conversations like these. She, along with fellow comedian Katherine Ryan, previously came under the spotlight for veiled comments about sexual predators in the comedy world. But she rolls her eyes at a culture that expects women to do the heavy lifting when it comes to calling out abusers, in an industry that’s long been skewed against them. “Why are FEMALE comics always expected to speak about this, do all the work?” she asks from her two-bed flat in south London. “Loads of us have just started to say: go and ask the male comedians about this. Go ask MEN what they’ve seen, what they can do…”

Brady has pulled no punches since she started her stand-up career in 2011, aged 25, coming third in Edinburgh Fringe’s annual So You Think You’re Funny competition (previous winners have included Peter Kay, Dylan Moran and Aisling Bea). From there she graduated to TV panel shows such as 8 Out of 10 Cats and, in 2022, joined the lineup for cult comedy show Taskmaster. She’s currently indulging her sillier side presenting podcast What A Combo (on which she tastes weird food combinations alongside fellow comedians) and her memoir about how her late diagnosed autism has often left her feeling at odds with the mainstream, Strong Female Character, has won glowing reviews and been shortlisted for the inaugural Nero Book Awards.

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